Skip to content

Tech is easy… try empowering a digitally dexterous workforce

Posted 16 Feb 2021

As the benefits of the internet of things (IoT) become more apparent for manufacturing industries and companies look to scale rollouts, a key challenge remains; upskilling of the workforce. Fostering a desire and ability of employees to embrace existing and emerging technologies to achieve better business outcomes is key to unlocking the true potential of the fourth industrial revolution.

A recent study highlighted the challenge that organisations continue to struggle to ensure their workforces possess the skills needed to succeed in an Industry 4.0 environment: only a fifth of executives completely agree that their organizations are currently ready.

Interestingly, though, the responsibility for developing those skills seems to have shifted. A growing number of leaders now accept responsibility for developing their workforces. Three-quarters of executives said training and developing their workforces is one of the Industry 4.0 priorities in which they’ll be investing the most. It ranked highest of the investment choices surveyed.

For the companies that get this right, the payout is huge

The Made Smarter Review outlines there is £455 billion value-add into the UK economy by adopting industrial digital technologies, increasing manufacturing sector growth between 1.5-3% per annum, with a 25% improvement in productivity and a 4.5% reduction in greenhouse gases.

IoT has emerged as a fundamental building block of this transformation, connecting machinery, people and systems together via sensors and connectivity. The technology delivers a step change for improvements in the bottom line and enables smart connected products and innovative new business models to drive top line growth.

But truly transformational change only comes when cross-functional teams (technical and non-technical alike) are confident in implementing IoT and digital technology. Given that these technologies are new and constantly evolving, employees are often reticent to spend time learning how to use them. This needs to be tackled otherwise investments made into the technologies will never be fully realised.

So what are some of the use cases?

Digital Catapult collaborated with Blooodhound to provide a cost-effective, low power wide area network and a selection of weather and wind speed sensors to assess conditions every kilometre along the track. Digital Catapult also created a bespoke visualisation and analytics dashboard, and deployed the entire solution in-situ.

Moreover, Digital Catapult worked with IoT Solutions Group and Watford Council to deploy battery powered parking sensors. The parking sensors use LPWAN to send information back to a centralised software dashboard and provide alerts to CEOs on infringements. The system integrates data from RingGo with visitor permit information. The technology led to less wasted time for drivers looking for spaces, reduced congestion and emissions, economic benefits through easier access to parking in small high streets, and potentially reduced parking contraventions, due to the more efficient enforcement model being a deterrent.

Digital Catapult also designed and delivered a complete remote monitoring solution for the RAF, including the deployment of a LPWAN network covering approximately 10 km2 of an operational airfield. Environmental monitoring sensors were programmed and attached to a range of assets to automatically detect shocks and changes in temperature and humidity. The condition of each asset is measured every 15 minutes and the data transmitted to the network server.

In another IoT use case, Digital Catapult, in collaboration with a start-up Thinkinside, provided a cost-effective, low power asset tracking solution to remotely monitor the location of parts (e.g. metal components of various sizes and forms) around Dyer Engineering’s manufacturing facilities in County Durham. This led to immediate visibility of assets across the factory site leading to a reduction in down-time and time spent looking for missing parts, and increased machine capacity and throughput.

Working with Seagate to make better use of the extensive process data it collects to maximise manufacturing output, Digital Catapult ran an open-call to national startups who have solutions to solve this challenge and worked directly with Seagate to downselect the most exciting solutions. Two winning solutions were selected and proof of concept projects using LoRa WAN were deployed in the factory.

How can I start my journey with the internet of things?

The Digital Catapult IoT Discovery Programme supports manufacturing organisations with just this; a structured three month programme which explains the basics of IoT, its relevance in specific sectors and supports employees in building a business case for the sustainable, long-term deployment of the technology within an organisation’s roadmap. It also gives the opportunity to meet a broad range of companies and perspectives on driving business value with IoT. Register your interest in the programme now or contact Rukmini Prasad ([email protected]) and John Pattinson ([email protected]) for more details.