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Man using a tablet while a robot is working.
Man using a tablet while a robot is working.

What is the digital workplace in manufacturing? 7 examples

In this article, we'll give you some examples on what digital workplace means in the manufacturing context. Plus, we'll  show you how you can streamline all of your favourite tech tools into one easy-to-use mobile app.

Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Advanced Robotics. When it comes to digital transformation for your manufacturing company, the options can feel overwhelming. And if they feel overwhelming for you as a leader, imagine the extra stress your operators and production workers feel when they have to learn yet another tech tool.

As your organization contemplates how to optimize the digital workplace, particularly for your frontline employees, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

Below, we'll explain the digital workplace in manufacturing, give some examples, and show you how you can streamline all of your favourite tech tools into one easy-to-use mobile app that your frontline employees will love.

What is the digital workplace in the manufacturing industry?

When people talk about a "digital workplace," they're referring to all of the hardware and software tools workers use to get their jobs done. The digital workplace in manufacturing, then, refers specifically to the technology used in that industry, whether it's at a textile factory, steel mill, chemical plant, or other production facility.

It’s not to be confused with “digital manufacturing.” The University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing defines digital manufacturing as "the application of digital information [from multiple sources, formats, owners] for the enhancement of manufacturing products, processes, supply chains and services."

While manufacturing is known as a labour-intensive industry, like all workplaces, it relies heavily on digital technology. In fact, factories have long benefited from technological advancements to create more products at a mass scale. Just as electricity powered the Second Industrial Revolution by enabling factories to use telephones and electric engines to speed up communication and transportation, technology like digital twins today are creating safer, more productive factory environments.

And thanks to the internet, factory workers are now able to work from home more and more, something that was unheard of previously. In fact, Gartner forecasts that 50% of factory work will be remote by 2024.

Benefits of a digital workplace in manufacturing

So why should factories continue to embrace this wave of digitalization? Both your business and your employees stand much to gain, including:

Increased productivity

Thanks to advances such as cloud technology, sensors, automation, and robotics, digitally enabled factories can see a 15-30% boost in productivity, according to McKinsey & Company.

Improved safety

Working with heavy machinery for many hours comes with the risk of injury and even death, but technology can mitigate that risk. For example, robotics can complete dangerous tasks and move humans out of harm's way. Additionally, the invention of wearables can monitor workers' fatigue and ensure they take breaks when needed.

Better financial performance

Deloitte analyzed data from 1,200 companies and found that those with higher digital maturity experienced higher net revenue growth (45% above industry average) and higher net profit margin (43% above industry average).

Higher employee engagement

In the same Deloitte research on digital maturity, one manufacturer saw a double-digit boost in employee engagement by rolling out an interactive reskilling program through an analytics-based tool.

7 digital workplace manufacturing examples

Manufacturers are leveraging all sorts of technology to boost efficiency, productivity, and the overall digital employee experience. Here are seven examples of how:

1. Streamlining communication between corporate and production employees

A longstanding challenge for internal communications professionals is keeping employees in offices and on shop floors equally informed. Thankfully, the digital workplace makes this possible through streamlined, virtual communication.

A great example of streamlined communication comes from roofing manufacturer Bauder. Initially, the company was keeping production employees informed via bulletin boards and a quarterly printed company magazine. With more than 1,200 employees across multiple locations in Europe, Bauder had an information imbalance, where office employees were better informed than their shop floor counterparts. By using Flip to build an employee app for its workforce, Bauder can now send information to both corporate and production employees at the click of a button. What's more, its employees can also submit their own ideas, opinions, and feedback.

2. Extending the corporate intranet to mobile

Many companies opt for building their own intranet to create a secure online portal for their employees, but a downside is that the experience is catered to desk workers—not the frontline. That means that when operators, production workers, or other deskless staff want to access the intranet, they often have to wait until they’re at a computer.

To extend the corporate intranet to the frontline, digital workplaces in manufacturing use employee apps so internal communications are available on employees’ smartphones. That’s exactly what automotive parts manufacturer MAHLE did. Prior to using Flip, it wasn't possible to reach all employees at once, especially when production employees were out on the shop floor. Now, MAHLE is able to reach all 72,000 employees worldwide via its mobile app.

3. Using AI to break down language barriers

For factories spanning multiple locations and employing a diverse staff, language barriers can present a communication roadblock. But thanks to the advent of neural machine translation (NMT), translation can happen instantly. 

Flip uses DeepL to provide instant translation. As soon as you receive a text message within the app, all it takes is one tap to read it in your native language.

4. Moving shift schedules from notice boards to mobile phones

Instead of printing out shift rotas and posting them to notice boards, make schedules accessible no matter where your employees are. With an employee app, anyone can check when they work and trade shifts as needed.

5. Digitizing documentation for easy access

When an urgent matter strikes, frontline employees shouldn’t have to scramble to find documentation. Whether it’s machine shutdown procedures or critical cleaning protocols, upload it to the cloud for instant and easy access right from their smartphones.

6. Gathering employee feedback through anonymous online surveys

No one knows your shop floor better than the people who operate the machinery on it. Staying connected to your frontline means listening to their ideas, complaints, and requests. An employee app provides a centralized place to gather employee feedback, particularly through the use of surveys. With Flip, you can even choose to make answers anonymous so workers feel free to speak their minds.

7. Upskilling and reskilling factory workers through virtual learning

With the manufacturing skills gap, it’s more important than ever to invest in L&D for your employees. Providing virtual training and courses that will help them upskill or reskill can close critical gaps in your workforce without requiring you to recruit, hire, and train more employees. But building out an e-learning program doesn’t have to be complex. With Flip, you can quickly create a virtual learning portal by adding videos, documents, and files to your employee app.

Bringing it all together: How one employee app can empower your digital workplace

With so many options out there, evaluating and testing them all can actually slow down your digital transformation process. The key to battling the overwhelm is consolidating your tech stack. That’s where the Flip employee app can help. With 4,000+ integrations and native messaging, shift planning, and news feeds, Flip streamlines your digital workplace tools into one easy-to-use app. 

Let’s revisit the success story of Bauder. The roofing manufacturer started using Flip and quickly saw 91% usage of the app across 15 countries. Read more about how Flip can transform your manufacturing digital workplace, or request a free demo today.

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