Frontline workers are backbone of many industries, but often they are the ones to face challenges that can impede their productivity and communication. According to a recent study, poor communication among frontline workers can result in a loss of up to $37 million for US-based companies. Additionally, a lack of digitization among frontline workers can lead to low machine downtime and decreased productivity, which can cost companies millions of dollars per year. In order to meet the rising demand in industries, it’s more important than ever for companies to find ways to augment and digitally empower their frontline workers.
In this article, we will learn how to augment and digitally empower frontline workers in the times of recession. We will understand what augmented workers are and how can companies transform their frontline employees to augmented workers.
Without further ado, let’s first understand the term ‘Augmented Worker’.
What exactly is an Augmented Worker?
An “augmented worker” is a worker/operator who uses technology to enhance their skill & knowledge through which they can perform more specialized tasks efficiently, safely, and in a better way. This can include tools such as augmented reality (AR) glasses, smartphones, tablets, or other devices that provide real-time information and guidance. This technology can be used to overlay virtual images on the real world, providing workers with access to information that would otherwise be hidden or difficult to view. It can also provide access to remote experts who can provide assistance and guidance, as well as real-time alerts and notifications.
With the use of Augmented technologies, an augmented operator can access right information at the right time, which leads to better decision making and reduced downtime, and improves the overall productivity. This can also help workers to overcome their failures.
What are some Augmented Worker Technologies?
Augmented technologies are integrated as well as assistive. Here integrated means that they are the seamless part of a worker’s environment. And assistive means that they reduce complexity or exert control over some of the factors influencing poor human performance. Moreover, augmentative technologies allow frontline workers to perform more complex tasks with utmost care. Augmented technologies carry a great great potential with themselves, but still, they are not being adopted by organizations and industries alike. Thus, even at a time of digital transformation, paper-based instructions are frequently found in the workplace. According to a recent Deloitte article, 41% of companies have either fully adopted or made substantial advancements in integrating cognitive and AI technologies into their workforce, indicating that AI is currently being implemented in workplaces globally.
Here’s a list of augmented worker technologies that can transform frontline workers and turn them into augmented workers:
AR is an enhanced version of the real physical world that delivers visual elements, sound, and other sensory information by using a smartphone, tablet, or AR glasses. It is a growing trend generally seen in industries like automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, defense, and many more.
As organizations are adopting augmented reality for training and development, they are also exploring more ways to use AR for real-time learner support. By adding digital elements to the real world, organizations can draw workers’ attention to what they actually need to learn.
AI (Augmented Intelligence)
Augmented intelligence is created to keep people involved in the problem-solving process while using AI technology. Artificial intelligence is used to automate processes, conduct in-depth data analysis for better insights, and to operate freely. Here AI is used in augmented intelligence, but in a different way where humans are kept in the loop and also play an important role in making decisions.
Augmented intelligence is intended to work with humans to improve their skills. It mainly focuses on machine learning that can be used by humans to make important decisions and take necessary actions.
So, in simple terms, there are many different technologies and artificial intelligence is one of those. And augmented intelligence is the result of how you implement those artificial intelligence technologies.
The majority of augmentative techniques are effective because they allow human-machine collaboration in intelligent ways. They respond in real-time to machine outputs and situations and provide operators with signals in a way that enables them to make wise decisions. Such a network of connected machines, systems, devices, and humans is only possible with an IoT connection.
Nowadays, robotic devices are entering a number of industrial markets. The use of robotics applications has increased protection, quality and sustainability for organizations. With the emergence of Industry 4.0, robotics is beneficial to organizations in various ways, such as accuracy, efficiency, and resistance to hazardous conditions. It also makes it possible to collaborate between several data platforms, which can make production effective and reliable. These intelligent robots work with great precision and speed.
One of the main traits of modern augmentative technologies is the seamless integration of manufacturing processes. The reason behind this is that the size of sensors is decreased while increasing potential. These sensors can be inserted in clothes, the body, or even at several points in a production unit to analyze the surroundings and record events as they take place. Moreover, these sensors are becoming one of the cutting-edge technologies. In a factory where people and objects are constantly in talk, the data collected by sensors is transmitted through IoT. For those industries seeking flexibility, these sensors can be helpful as they accurately measure human and machine performance.
How do you Augment Frontline Workers with Digital Technologies?
Organizations can utilize technologies and transform their frontline workers digitally. Following are some ways to augment frontline workers with digital technologies:
Connect frontline workers with remote experts: Digital technologies can be used to connect workers with remote experts who can provide assistance and guidance. For example, workers can use video conferencing to connect with experts who can provide real-time support and training.
Provide training and development: Digital technologies can be used to provide workers with training and development opportunities, such as online courses and simulations, to help them develop new skills and improve their performance.
Automate repetitive tasks: Digital technologies can be used to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up workers to focus on higher-value activities. For example, using robotics, machine learning and AI to automate routine tasks such as data entry, inventory management, and monitoring.
Monitor and track performance: Digital technologies can be used to monitor and track worker performance, providing managers with real-time data on worker productivity, efficiency and safety.
In the context of the augmented workforce, companies typically observe employees taking on one or more of the following four roles: contributors, creators, coordinators, and consumers. Understanding these roles and their significance in supporting the transition to greater automation can greatly contribute to the success of a transformation initiative. Here’s an expanded explanation of each role:
Contributors: These employees are closest to the processes and operations within the organization. They possess valuable insights on how these processes can be improved. Recognizing their expertise, successful transformation initiatives reward contributors with incentives, support, and recognition. Although they may not always be aware of the root causes of problems, their ability to identify symptoms helps process specialists map out end-to-end improvement opportunities.
Creators: Similar to “citizen developers,” creators have the ability to build simple automations that enhance existing processes. They are often the individuals within departments who possess knowledge and skills in utilizing tools like Excel macros or other automation platforms. With the right support, training, and governance, they can take on more complex automation tasks and become pivotal contributors to the overall transformation program.
Coordinators: Coordinators are specialists responsible for providing tools, education, support, and ongoing monitoring for employees whose roles are impacted by new automation. They play a crucial role in facilitating the smooth implementation and maintenance of automation initiatives. Additionally, coordinators adapt to regulatory changes, market conditions, strategy shifts, and technology upgrades to ensure continuous learning, process improvement, and effective utilization of automation across the organization.
Consumers: Virtually all employees fall into the consumer category as automation touches almost every role within a company. Employees in this role experience automation in two primary ways. First, scheduled automation provides them with valuable information and insights to support decision-making. Second, on-demand automation triggers employee actions. The goal is to develop a system where automation manages repetitive and rules-based tasks, enabling employees to focus on work that adds genuine value to the organization.
How Augmented Reality can benefit Augment Frontline Workers?
About 7 to 8 years ago, manufacturers started looking for ways to support frontline workers in delivering more timely, accurate information so they can perform their tasks better and with high efficiency. And now, many of them have already started using technologies like augmented reality to assist, instruct, and train workers.
Here are some ways in which Augmented Reality can help Augment Frontline Workforce:
AR Augments Frontline Workforce with ‘See What I See’ based Remote Visual Assistance
In many organizations, workers usually are not able to communicate and share necessary information with other field workers. With AR-based remote assistance, the workers are able to collaborate and get visual assistance by connecting remotely. Through this, you can solve your issues quickly without waiting for an expert to come on-site, no matter where you are. Besides, it significantly reduces the costs of truck rolls and machine replacement.
Moreover, it reduces unnecessary machine downtime, especially in a pandemic-like situation. AR remote assistance shares all necessary data and instructions with technicians in real-time. This eliminates unnecessary errors and misinterpretations. AR helps augmented workers to streamline the field service process and enhance productivity. This makes their work more simplified and effective.
AR helps Workforce work more Proactively with Digital Work Instructions
Repetitive and manual tasks are now being performed by automated solutions; hence operators are left with tasks that are complex or variable for automation. This trend will continue as long as the demand for customization, less product cycles, and high mix low volume remains the norm. Hence, workers who are facing these challenges can easily assist through creating effective digital work instructions. Moreover, adding photos and videos assists in understanding the task instructions more clearly. Each step here is clearly highlighted so that workers can carry out their tasks more effectively.
AR Improve Operator’s Decision-making Processes using Digital Checklists
Through a quality control checklist, workers will get step-by-step instructions for the smooth functioning of the process. Many manufacturers use this checklist at different production levels to identify defects and prevent them from contaminating. Checklist ensures that the products meet the necessary criteria. Ultimately, these step-by-step instructions reduce waste, save operators’ time, improve production efficiency, and improve decision-making processes.
AR can be Used to Simplify Training & Development Programs
New workers have much to learn before effectively carrying out their tasks. Most of the industry often develops offline instructions like complicated processes, safety measures and equipment for workers. The drawback of off-site training is that they are time-consuming & expensive. However, the solution to this problem is augmented reality training which provides training experiences to workers which can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Many organizations are using augmented reality (AR) to display crucial elements like instructions, safety measures and equipment processes using mobile devices and smart glasses. This helps in reducing operational costs and simplifying onboarding programs.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Augmented Workforce?
By harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) alongside human capabilities, organizations can unlock higher levels of productivity, safety, and equipment uptime. Embracing the integration of technology and human expertise has become a strategic imperative for enterprises seeking to optimize their workforce and overcome the challenges posed by conventional labor systems. The key objective is to establish a symbiotic relationship between human workers and machines. This necessitates a fundamental reimagining of business processes and employee roles to foster collaboration between individuals and AI. Termed as an “Augmented Workforce,” this seamless fusion of human talent and advanced technologies holds the key to achieving unprecedented levels of operational excellence.
A shining example can be found in Amazon’s deployment of cutting-edge warehouse technologies, where robotics, flexible workforce strategies, and cognitive computing converge to drive efficiency and elevate productivity. This demonstrates the immense potential of leveraging an augmented workforce to revolutionize industries and achieve new heights of success. By embracing this paradigm shift, businesses can effectively harness the collective capabilities of humans and machines to unleash a new era of productivity and innovation.
Augment your Frontline into Smart Workers with Plutomen
With Plutomen’s Frontline Operations Platform, you can overcome many problems that front-line factory operators usually experience. This frontline operations suite is specially designed & developed for all types of frontliners, whether they are field technicians, technical experts, or a customer service agent. Our frontline operation tools respond and resolve issues in real-time with visual assistance from experts, digitized workflows and AR training sessions. Let’s see these tools in detail:
Plutomen Connect: One can receive expert guidance anytime, anywhere with Plutomen Connect. It is specially designed to solve errors instantly and remotely with AR-powered remote assistance. With just a smartphone, tablet, or browser, augmented remote assistance enables field technicians or factory operators to collaborate with experts and resolve issues.
Plutomen Workflow: With digital work instruction solutions, one can create effective work instructions, checklists, and SOPs to simplify industrial operations. These step-by-step SOPs and manuals help your frontline work to perform tasks better and more smoothly.
Plutomen Assist: It is one of the most dynamic tools that can elevate the performance of your frontline workers. You can access and import contextual 3D data of the machine, parts, tools, or instructions, which helps workers to make better decisions and reduces workload.
So, why to wait more? Book your demo and empower your frontline workforce today!
An augmented workforce refers to a collaborative environment where humans and advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and automation, work together to enhance productivity and performance.
The augmented workforce goes beyond traditional automation by focusing on integrating human capabilities with advanced technologies. It aims to augment human abilities and enable employees to focus on complex problem-solving, creativity, and strategic decision-making, rather than simply automating repetitive tasks.
Adopting an augmented workforce brings several benefits, including increased productivity, improved efficiency, enhanced innovation, reduced errors, and better customer experiences. By leveraging the unique strengths of both humans and machines, businesses can achieve higher levels of performance and competitiveness.
Various industries can benefit from an augmented workforce. Examples include manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, finance, customer service, and information technology. Any sector that combines human expertise with technological advancements can harness the potential of an augmented workforce.
Examples of augmented workforce technologies include robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), chatbots, virtual assistants, and data analytics platforms. These technologies automate tasks, provide real-time insights, and support decision-making processes.
Businesses can prepare their workforce for the augmented workforce by investing in training programs that develop digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, creating opportunities for collaboration between humans and machines, and effectively communicating the benefits and goals of the augmented workforce transformation. Additionally, organizations should ensure they have robust cybersecurity measures in place to protect data and maintain privacy in an increasingly interconnected work environment.
Chirag brings with him 15+ Years of experience in Digital Transformation, and IT Leadership. At Plutomen, he holds deep experience in business with a track record of customer-centric approaches helping them build business transformation.
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