Widespread and hyper-digitalization is fast becoming a reality in a world where organizations, management, personnel and people in general are learning to live with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic hit, it had become evident that incumbent personnel and workforce in organizations will need to acquire new skills in order to survive and grow in a more digital world, where even the simplest of tasks will involve having certain basic digital skills. The pandemic however has only made the need to re-skill the workforce more expedited and has forever changed the way personnel are hired, trained, re-trained and retained.

In a recent interview with author Deanna Mulligan, former chair and CEO of Guardian Insurance, McKinsey highlights the need for organizations and personnel to focus on the skills needed in this hyper-connected and hyper-digital new world. A few key takeaways from the article are that due to the rapid digitalization happening, millions of jobs might go unfilled due to the skill gap of personnel not possessing the requisite digital skills. Rather than being technology averse and threatened, personnel need to understand how they incorporate technology in their jobs and use it to make their position and career better. The second point is that organizations need to focus on skills while hiring individuals, considering not only the titles, but qualifications and past experience. Finally, the point which sums up the affect that the pandemic has had is reiterating the fact that neither education, nor work will ever be the same again, and that organizations will need to step up and help employees acquire the skills needed to do their jobs better. All of these points collectively need to be aligned with investments being made when acquiring technology.

Another great read on the subject is a McKinsey interview with Beth Cobert, former US chief performance office and now a leader at the Markle Foundation. The interview highlights that even a manufacturing organization can benefit tremendously by a keen focus on skills rather than just qualifications and credentials. A great example is a precision lens manufacturer, realizing that they needed people with manual dexterity and focus on detail, which they found in unlikely sources for manufacturing labor: manicurists and sushi chefs. The article also highlights that technology can be used to make training more modular, more personal, resulting in immediate results and improvements in desired skillsets and capabilities. Another key takeaway is that every single job, and most certainly in the US and in the Western world, will in the very near future require some degree of digital competence and skill.

How to rapidly digitalize? Turn to a Modern MES.

So, how do manufacturers in diverse industry segments grapple with the dilemma of rapid digitalization? There’s a real threat of having a workforce which might not possess the skills to truly utilize the technology deployed. Is there a way to make digitalization a reality without having to face a daunting gap in the skill level of your present workforce?

The answer to these critical and potent questions might just be the MES application you choose. A modern MES can be the difference between rapid digitalization with employee re-skilling, or a digitalization effort that leaves a workforce estranged and threatened, unable to adapt to the speed of changes.

It is absolutely clear that the speed of digitalization can directly boost the agility and resilience of an organization. It also implies that the sooner it happens, the better for the enterprise as a whole. In an ideal scenario, digitalization extends to a company’s workforce, organization and value chain. Trading partners would be included in the digitalization to be immediately notified of changes in demand, shipping or inventory. The workforce would have its own interface to the operation, using personal devices, and individually guided to perform tasks in accordance with the day’s orders

A modern MES allows workers to gain new skills, easily get re-skilled and provide a platform for the learning they need to better perform their now-modified tasks. MES is first and foremost an IT application – an application whose scope orchestrates the entire production process and has all the data needed by workers to better perform their jobs. This means even at a rudimentary level that the MES would allow personnel to not just view data but configure the way they view that data to make it more meaningful to them and their tasks. This could include personalized user interfaces; dashboards to better reflect their progress and quality; and could contribute to operational KPIs that overall have more relevance to the group’s performance.

Webinar on demand 5 steps to digital transformation

Moving on to more complex areas like training, re-skilling and compliance, a modern MES allows users to view the entire shop floor of their own and other group plants through Virtual Reality or using a Digital Twin. It allows them to experience first-hand the entire working environment and become familiarized with the operation through simulation, without ever having to step foot on the shop floor and without having to handle expensive equipment or raw material until they are ready.

A lot of learning will also be ‘on the job’ and here again the MES provides oversight by ensuring, through Augmented Reality deployed through specialized glasses or via mobile devices, that personnel are informed and learn about the equipment, process and material with which they interact. Through MES contextualization, employees can understand what needs to be done in order to perform their jobs better. The application also allows for personnel related documentation, digital signature capture and reporting to ensure only qualified and trained personnel gain access to requisite areas of the operation.

Even when adapting to work with co-bots, autonomous vehicles and robots, the MES through simulation and video training aids, readying employees beforehand and allowing a seamless transfer in process flow from ‘no-technology’ to partial or complete automation.

Since the MES is online and available through the internet, remote work, which has become a norm due to the pandemic, becomes much easier to implement, allowing personnel to be safe and yet efficient at their work. Another great aspect of MES is that it can be deployed anywhere in the world and simulate any operation. In an organization with multiple facilities, each plant can be reflected, with all of their individual nuances, allowing personnel to be readied for deployment to any geographic location as needed.

Simply put, if your organization puts people first, the focus of your digitization efforts must include your workforce’s digital transformation as well. We covered this in a recent post on 5 Steps to Digital Transformation—the Value of Human Dynamics.

If you have the right MES application deployed, the speed of your digitalization efforts does not need to be subject to your employee’s skill development; it can be done simultaneously and organically to deliver the best results. Having the right MES will not only help your organization harness your specific and unique organizational knowledge, but also help develop a new stream of knowledge development and learning which will transform your organizational culture to become more skill based, more flexible and more resilient.

Gartner Critical Capabilities for MES 2021