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The Eight Commandments to digitising your shop floor workforce

This report bundles the insights, examples and lessons learned from PwC’s experience in digital transformation in an operations and supply chain environment into eight practical ‘commandments’. Operations, production, and supply chain leaders can apply this knowledge to digitise and connect their workforce through wearable technologies.

1. Bring the consumer’s reality into the realm of industry

While smart devices are commonly used by consumers, their added value for industry is being neglected, despite the real opportunity for these technologies in operations. The way we do business is changing at an ever-increasing pace and technology continues to develop and disrupt our daily life, but when it comes to the shop floor, we prefer to stick to what we know: paper.

Select the right challenges

Figure: Operational workers are confronted with numerous challenges

2. Select the right challenges

Your workforce is facing new challenges, from increased machinery and product complexity to changing safety regulations and circumstances. It’s crucial to face these challenges and select the most important ones to address and overcome during your digital transformation.

3. Think about your workforce 

According to a recent PwC Industry 4.0 study, industrial leaders see the biggest potential for digitisation on the shop floor. Companies need to think about how they can connect their workers with the equipment, information and processes they handle on a daily basis: there are various wearable devices and software options available that can help. 

4. Weigh your options smartly

Among the available technologies, smart glasses are a hot topic in industry. They encompass the capabilities of other smart devices, but with entirely hands-free functionality, making them among the most promising workforce technologies on the market today. 

There are many possibilities for smart glasses using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), depending on the degree of reality augmentation you require and the mobility of the workforce. Do you want to project information on top of human vision, or create a virtual world? Is your workforce mobile on the floor, or in a fixed location such as at a desk or in a training room? Consider the specific environment and application when choosing the ideal type of reality and hardware.

5. Let the voice of your workforce lead you through your transformation

To successfully guide your people through the digital transformation process, it’s important to involve them from the start. First, you need to learn how your workers operate within their environment before you can start to consider a new and better way of doing things. This approach enables you not only to define a connected worker strategy and choose the right innovative technologies, but also to imagine the future of your connected workers and create a sense of engagement with your workforce right from the start.

Select the most promising operational area to start your journey


6. Select the most promising operational area to start your journey

Connecting your workers with the use of smart wearables offers a wide range of opportunities. However, more often than not, it also requires specific software and customisation for both workers and your organisation. Therefore, it’s important to assess the impact of the changes on the area of operations you’re considering, and ensure the correct selection procedures are in place.

What do you aim to gain? Cost savings, increased capacity, improved safety?

7. Connecting your workforce is the means to an end: unlock the data

Smart devices need a lot of data input and connections, but at the same time they’re tremendous generators of data. Therefore, they’re important elements in the transition to a smart factory, where the generated data will be used for widespread analyses. Keep these results in mind when you start your journey towards digital operations. Think of the available data that’s required for other smart factory opportunities, and how it can be used or generated going forward.

8. A small step for your workforce can be a big step in your digital transformation

Smart devices can be used for a wide range of applications. However, they shouldn’t be introduced as an isolated implementation, but launched as part of a bigger digital journey with the right vision, scope, communication and ecosystem of partners, suppliers, and customers. Often, industrial companies are overloaded with buzzwords and questions, and struggle to set up an effective and strategic digital transformation and ecosystem.

PwC can help with your digital journey, using our proven 6-step approach

The “Eight Commandments to digitising your shop floor workforce” is based on learnings and challenges we’ve encountered while helping clients with a wide variety of technological explorations and implementations. It includes insights into the opportunities available to help you build your connected workforce and serves as a blueprint to get you started on the right path to your digital transformation. However, the real journey starts by gaining an understanding of the worker experience - right there on your shop floor.

Contact us

Peter Vermeire

Peter Vermeire

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 493 51 87 28

Jochen Vincke

Jochen Vincke

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 477 61 12 22

Johan Van der Straeten

Johan Van der Straeten

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 474 48 47 55

Connect with PwC Belgium