Career Advice

The Digital Factory Needs Skilled Workers, Not Just Tech
Shane Laros posted on August 27, 2016 |
New technologies are a driving force behind improvements in the manufacturing sector, as more factor...

New technologies are a driving force behind improvements in the manufacturing sector, as more factories make use of technological advancements to better automate their processes.

However, according to a 2016 Accenture Report titled “Digital Factory: Cracking the code to success,” some of the biggest hurdles for a manufacturer to overcome in their digital transformation have nothing to do with adoption of new technologies. In fact, many companies are suffering due to putting too much focus on new and innovative tech – and not enough on people.

Only 25 percent of the obstacles to digital adoption are due to technical factors. (Image courtesy of Accenture)
Only 25 percent of the obstacles to digital adoption are due to technical factors. (Image courtesy of Accenture)


“For manufacturers to realize the full potential value of digital factories, they need to redesign their workforce to include new manufacturing skills, such as analytical reasoning and data-driven decision support,” notes Russ Rasmus, managing director for Accenture Strategy and co-author of the report. “Developing a comprehensive talent strategy inclusive of new digital skills is an imperative for today’s manufacturers.”

The report laid out a list of “enablers of the digital factory” supporting the claim that companies should avoid developing a “digital strategy” and instead focus on creating a manufacturing strategy that is enabled and informed by new digital technology.

These strategies are described in the report:

  1. Digital Foundation: Layers of communication, data collection, monitoring, and control solutions that manage the shop floor execution of the factory.
  1. Intelligent Automation and Control: Advanced communications and control abilities that enable real-time, autonomous, self-directed decisions by production machines and products.
  1. Operations Analytics & Process Monitoring: Proactive analysis of micro/macro data to reveal trends or anomalies that alter decisions regarding reliability, technical operations, quality, safety, predictive maintenance and etc.
  1. Digital Safety & Energy Management: Safety solutions that monitor an individual’s location and exposure to hazards. Energy systems that monitor and control energy consumption.
  1. Mobility: Mobile solutions that capture, analyze, and communicate information to/from users and enable real-time execution of operations and fact-based decisions.
  1. Advanced Technologies: Digital enablement of manufacturing technologies including robotics, simulation and 3D printing to drive hardware and software performance improvement.
  1. Engineering Collaboration: Digital designs that can be readily shared with production to enable networked products that move quickly from idea to launch.
  1. Digital Production System: A digital platform that captures internal and external experiences, knowledge and best practices to drive continuous improvement of manufacturing operations across the network.
  1. Talent Development & Learning: Solutions to develop, update and re-skill workers, including on-line learning, recorded and real-time video, digital assistance, coaching, mentoring and new approaches to performance management.
  1. Manufacturing Control Tower: Operations monitoring and modeling, including suppliers and contract manufacturing, that facilitates real-time decision making.
  1. Industrial Security: Threat prevention techniques and solutions that predict, detect, understand and respond to threats, to mitigate risk across traditional IT platforms as well as physical OT assets.


By identifying areas where technology can improve on the existing infrastructure, rather than adopting new technologies due to novelty or because others in their industry are doing so, companies can streamline their digital process, and more easily note where the gaps in employee skills lie.

“Manufacturers must aggressively manage these non-technical barriers as they deploy their digital factory capabilities. These include the ability to create new processes, lead teams made up of workers and machines and constantly update training programs,” said Rasmus.

There is no argument against digital being the way of the future. While it may be a leap from some of the processes that have been the mainstay of manufacturing in previous generations, with a solid plan of implementation and education for employees to bring them up to speed, a “digital factory” can improve productivity and profits going forward.

The full report is available to read here.

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