Indiana has a strong legacy in manufacturing, serving as the home to numerous world-class manufacturers statewide. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, Indiana manufacturers account for nearly 28% of the economic activity and employ more than 17% of the Hoosier workforce. The state also has the second largest automotive industry in the United States.

However, studies show that manufacturing productivity in Indiana is lagging, and the gap is widening. One reason for that is Indiana manufacturers are moving too slowly to adopt digital technologies during this pivotal point in industrial innovation, resulting in a loss in productivity. Some of the biggest technologies dominating the industry include robotics, artificial intelligence and Connected Worker solutions.

The Need for Connected Worker Solutions

The past year brought a significant paradigm shift to the “normal” way of working around the world. During the pandemic, there was an emphasis on the necessity to keep workers safe, product quality high, and operations streamlined. This led to increased investments in Connected Worker technology, with many companies implementing these digital technologies to make manufacturing processes safer and more efficient.

For background, a connected worker uses a technological tool, like a mobile phone or tablet, to get the job done better, faster and more safely. These tools capture and unlock real-time data to help businesses improve product quality, increase worker safety, and streamline operations. Platforms like Anvl help the worker by guiding them through a digital experience that serves to empower workers and keeps them connected to leadership in real-time, even in remote situations.

This technology has been one of the essentials in keeping manufacturing operations on track, even in the face of shutdowns and pandemic roadblocks. In the last year alone, 85% of global industry executives invested in Connected Worker solutions and market analysts predict massive growth in the next decade and beyond.

Mitch Landess, Vice President of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Conexus Indiana, noted that while COVID-19 heightened awareness of connected worker technologies as part of managing safe work environments, many found that these technologies have broader potential for data and analytics to improve productivity. As an advocate for the growth of Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries, Mitch found this interesting because those with strong safety cultures, like manufacturers, are often defending how an investment in health and safety is not at odds with productivity. In fact, these technologies can unlock additional productivity potential while also enhancing safety.

Companies that already made strides toward getting workers connected to digital resources were more agile and adapted better to the pandemic. They also reported improvements in operations and a decrease in operating costs. Now, companies that haven’t invested in these types of technology are falling behind and need to better understand the following benefits these technologies deliver.

Keep workers engaged.

With nearly 60% of the workforce disengaged with their work, Connected Worker solutions can be essential in boosting workplace engagement across the company. Safety suffers when workers are disengaged at work, with reports indicating that it can double the number of accidents and injuries. In addition, disengaged workers have led to an increase in non-conforming, defective products by 60%, resulting in lost profits.

Streamline operations.

Given the strain COVID-19 put on manufacturing resources, operational efficiency has become even more critical. The more efficient and productive operations can be, the quicker companies can scale their business and boost profits. Streamlining manufacturing operations with Connected Worker solutions will most benefit manufacturing leadership’s operational output through automated data collection and analysis straight from frontline workers, and communicating those insights to leadership.

Improve safety.

Manufacturing leadership failing to properly invest in safety measures can come at a great personal and financial cost. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies in America pay $62 billion per year for workplace injuries, which is more than $1 billion per week.

Connected Worker Solutions can provide real-time data analysis and suggestions straight from the factory floor to ensure safety protocols are being followed. The depth of data collected can help manufacturing leadership identify, escalate and communicate safety concerns before they fully materialize. As a result, money, time and, most importantly, lives are saved before a problem even arises.

Increase productivity.

These solutions also lead to a more productive and communicative workforce. Paper and manual processes lead to slow, ineffective data collection. By removing paper and manual processes, more work can be done effectively and efficiently. Connected Worker solutions allow real-time response and communication leading to fixes and changes in problems as they arise or even before they can occur. In addition, Connected Worker solutions take little training, especially when they are mobile applications that can be used on your smartphone or tablet. Since most of the workforce is familiar with mobile applications using them nearly every day, using them in a workplace environment is no large investment of time or resources. Anvl, for example, can train users in less than an hour, and users start collecting actionable, valuable data immediately after.

There’s no need to dive head first into complete digital transformation, especially with technology you haven’t piloted. While having a digital transformation plan is good, taking the time to invest in and train your employees to adopt the correct Connected Worker solutions that frontline workers will actually use will yield major ROI on how much work is accomplished, leading to clear growth for the business.

The Catalyst for Indiana Manufacturing

As the market for Connected Worker solutions grows, the manufacturing industry will continue down this path of digital transformation. Connected Worker solutions demonstrate that they are truly the catalyst for change for Indiana manufacturing to ensure long-term success of businesses.

Robin Fleming is the co-founder of Anvl, an award winning software company helping companies unlock real-time data to improve product quality, safety and productivity.