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    In less than a year, Covid-19 completely changed work around the world. The pandemic not only necessitated digitization and software technology for a newly remote workforce; it accelerated the implementation of these technologies faster than previously thought possible. According to a recent McKinsey survey of global executives, companies have advanced customer and supply chain digitization by three to four years, while their digital and digitally-enabled product portfolios have jumped seven years.

    The survey also indicates that organizations with more advanced technologies navigated the Covid-19 crisis better than their less tech-savvy counterparts. The rate at which digital products have been developed and adopted varies according to industry. Not surprisingly, executives in healthcare, pharma and financial services reported almost twice the digital product increase of respondents in manufacturing industries such as consumer packaged goods (CPG), automotive and assembly.

    Technology Designed For Deskless Workers

    Most of these manufacturing verticals have historically relied on an enormous on-site or “deskless” workforce. Research from Emergence shows that 80% of the global workforce (2.7 billion people) in essential industries such as agriculture, construction, retail, manufacturing and transportation have not traditionally performed their work at a desk. 

    Despite this reality, most technology has been developed for the deskbound workforce, while deskless workers have had to use pencil-and-paper-based systems and applications designed for the consumer sector. Ninety-one percent of HR leaders responding to a recent Gartner webinar snap poll reported having implemented a framework for remote work, but cited “the lack of technology infrastructure” as a major obstacle. 

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    Permanent Shift To Remote Work

    The pandemic may ultimately be the perfect catalyst for organizations to undergo the long-overdue digital transformation that will be essential for attracting top talent in the future. Gartner predicts that Generation Z will drive a 30% increase in the demand for remote work by 2030. Seventy-four percent of CFOs plan to shift at least 5% of their on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-Covid-19, with nearly a quarter of CFOs planning to permanently shift 20% of on-site employees to remote work. Deskless workers need more technology now. 

    My company recently surveyed over a thousand maintenance reliability professionals, primarily from North America, across different industries including manufacturing food and beverage plants. One of our key findings was that maintenance reliability teams in most industries have been financially resilient throughout Covid-19. This is due, in part, to shifting budgets toward health inspections and PPE, as well as digitization and technologies such as computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Forty-two percent of our 2019 survey’s respondents said they were using a CMMS; during the 2020 pandemic, that number increased to 66%. 

    The IoT Revolution

    When fewer than 5% of a manufacturer’s employees worked from home, those old paper-and-pencil and office filing cabinet systems may have been adequate. But with up to 20% of employees working from home, those systems are woefully insufficient. Fortunately, the growing Internet of Things (IoT) is making it possible for more on-site manufacturing jobs to be performed remotely. 

    For example, before the IoT, workers needed to run on-site inspections by physically walking up to a pressure meter or temperature gauge and manually recording its data for OSHA compliance and quality assurance. In the near future, IoT devices and sensors will virtually eliminate the need for on-site meter readings, enabling better and faster data delivery that allows analysts to make smarter predictions from remote workspaces.

    This kind of remote condition monitoring, where data flows in one direction, is just one step in the IoT revolution. The second step will allow two-directional data flow, where analysts can not only measure but control equipment remotely. If, for example, a pressure meter’s alert system goes off because the pressure is too high or too low, a data analyst or technician would be able to immediately correct the problem from their desk.

     

    Remote control monitoring is in its very early days and has only achieved a fraction of its full potential. There’s an enormous opportunity for new technologies to fill existing gaps. According to Emergence, 70% of deskless workers surveyed in 2020 said that more technology enabling better communications, operations, logistics, onboarding and training would help them do their jobs. 

    Even with the pandemic’s rapid acceleration of digital transformation, the deskless workforce is still so greatly underserved that 56% of deskless workers reported using technologies designed for personal use in order to do their jobs. If the social media platforms of the world have technologies to help support the remote workforce, why don’t manufacturing industries have the same tools and technologies with the necessary, vertical-specific safety and security measures included?

    Now more than ever, technologists must understand the crucial role technology will play in the deskless workforce and how Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the need for digital transformation. For far too long, these frontline workers have had to make do with the most difficult-to-use software. It’s time for technology to support the essential industries that keep our world running – even when most of the world is shut down.


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    Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/01/12/how-the-pandemic-will-drive-digital-transformation-for-deskless-workers-in-2021-and-beyond/

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