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Smart Industry could use some 'human factor'

When speaking of Smart Industry, the emphasis often lies on technology. This is understandable, but the human factor cannot be underestimated. How can an organization support everyone in order to deal with an ever faster changing environment as effectively as possible?

When speaking of Smart Industry, the emphasis often lies on technology. This is understandable, but the human factor cannot be underestimated. How can an organization support everyone in order to deal with an ever faster changing environment as effectively as possible?

Avoiding risks and accidents, that is an important aspect of Smart Industry. Accidents are often caused by a combination of machines, the environment and people. More and more things are automated to avoid risks, but it is the people who make the procedures. We can say that man is a critical weakest link in this process, but also that man is able to make decisions in a flexible way in difficult circumstances through his creative brain and is therefore much stronger than machines. In any case, it is extra necessary to emphasize the human factor.

People in the management system

No matter how trained they are, people make mistakes. In the first place because simply no human is perfect. In addition, a person's mental, emotional and physical status always have an influence on the moment. Environmental factors also influence the decisions people make.

In an ideal world, everything that has to do with people and organizations is embedded in the management system. This varies from an environment where there is mutual trust to the possibility to work on competences and from optimal communication to safety in the workplace. All this with the underlying idea that healthy and happy employees are the best employees.

Ready for Smart Industry in the future

The impact that Smart Industry has on organizations in the manufacturing industry is great and companies are therefore looking for a good way to set up their organization in such a way that they can keep up with these developments and compete with the competition. To help organizations with this, the RWTH University of Aachen has developed the Maturity Index. This helps organizations determine where they stand in their development and what the next step should be. The index covers six stages of business processes. But because a transformation to Smart Industry affects the entire company, it is important not only to look at the technical side, but also to name the most important processes within the organization.

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Maturity Index

It is exactly to emphasize that human factor that the index contains four important perspectives for evaluating the development of the organization.

  1. Resources. This not only concerns the operational and physical processes, but also the intangible resources. Communication is of great importance here. In technically oriented organizations resorting to data is common, but not everything can be captured in systems. You can easily assume that you understand each other, but you will always have to determine whether everyone is talking about the same things. Asking for and receiving feedback is essential in this respect. Not only communication between people plays a role, also human-machine communication or even more explicitly, human-robot communication is an increasingly important factor. Human-machine communication also evokes emotions in people. If people experience communication as pleasant, they enjoy their work more and make fewer mistakes.
  2. Information systems. This concerns all processes related to the collection, organization, storage and description of information. Information must be available as easily as possible to anyone who works with it. Smart Industry requires a change in our skills to ensure that the technology that we are inventing now can be realized and used in the workplace. One of those skills is the aforementioned human-machine interaction. Machines are made to help people. That means people have to understand what the machines are telling them. Here, too, the human factor cannot be underestimated. You can furnish a beautiful cockpit full of dashboards, lights and buttons, but you have to make sure that people understand and use it. Simplicity can help here. After that, all systems and improvements in them must be translated for people who are going to use them.
  3. Organization structure. How do you organize your organization in such a way that you can always optimally respond to the market and are always one step ahead of your competitor? This requires a flexible organization, in which people who adapt best to the teachings of Darwin thrive best. You take this into account when recruiting and selecting new employees, but you can also train and trigger existing employees to adapt to new circumstances. It is always good to keep in mind that you cannot force people. You will also have to deal with resistance because there are always people who fear that they will lose something. That is why change management is so essential.
  4. Culture. Especially in a relatively new domain such as Smart Industry, open communication is important. Reliability of processes is almost always vital here. This means that people must be able to report honestly when something almost or completely goes wrong. This includes a culture in which people are not punished for mistakes they make unintentionally. If that happens, you limit the openness in communication.

In short, the human factor means that you involve your employees in the organization as much as possible by motivating and stimulating them. The human aspects are also of great importance in a technical organization.

Thierry Debertrand

Business manager Manufacturing Support, Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)6 23 55 57 99

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