On this episode, we talk with Ben Cheng from Parsable. Ben delves into the world of the connected worker. He shares ideas for how we can capture the experiences and knowledge of people on the shop floor to develop shared best practices, anticipate future problems, and improve efficiency.
Ben: During my years in planning, I was always very frustrated with the way that the shop floor workers were being asked to operate. The investment was continually going into our office workers, but we were never really spending money on automating or helping out our knowledge workers [in the shop], the guys that are actually doing the work and are responsible for throughput. We never really thought about how do we make their lives easier.
A New Role for Workers
Ben: I think the factory of the future is extremely exciting. If you fast forward all the way down to a complete lights out factory, in which there is virtually no humans whatsoever, right? What you actually find is it increases the value of the human even more because in the inopportune time that the factory goes down, then the human has to be involved. And you can only imagine the level of automation and the line speeds that are in place in a factory like that and how many units are getting produced. And it only puts more relevance on the human to fix it correctly, right the first time.
Andrew: Absolutely. This technology doesn’t replace workers per se. It’s more about empowering them to do different aspects of their job than they were previously asked to do. So, more manual work — robots and machines are capable of doing that. The workers of the future need to understand the data and all these streams [and to know] how the shop floor is optimized. Then make those decisions to ensure that development times and changeovers and things that you just described are working to full effect.
Ben: So there’s this concept of “O” data and “X” data, right? O data is operational data. That’s traditionally your ERP data, your IoT data. Basically it tells you what happened. But not why or how it happened. O data is just table stakes, right? It’s your ticket to entry into this overall game. What’s really exciting now is X data. Which is experience-based data…What I’d really like to start seeing is capturing X data too. Which is really uncharted territory on the shop floor. Experience data is where I feel we’re going to achieve a lot of return on investment.
Capturing and Sharing Worker Knowledge and Experience
Ben: So when we think about the personal knowledge and experiences of someone like “the gray beard” [in your shop]. He’s the guy who can touch a machine and just from the vibration is able to diagnose the problem as well as repair it. So that’s fantastic, but it’s not scalable. Right? So how do you then capture that data and recycle it back to the new generation of workers that are
Ben: [And then there’s] the company knowledge. What we always call the best practices. Shop procedures and such. And right now, that’s the last mile that’s often not digitized.