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You Say You Want a Revolution

March 15, 2018

You Tell Me that it’s Evolution

I cleaned up my Netflix queue recently and searched for a few new shows to watch. Netflix – the company that revolutionized how we consume media at home – has a robust recommendation algorithm, which, by the way, is an excellent example of Artificial Intelligence if you’re ever trying to explain AI to someone. Netflix suggested documentaries and historical fiction including titles like Ken Burns’ The Civil War, Making a Murderer, Hell on Wheels, and The Crown. Ironically, I absolutely disregarded most history lessons as a kid in school. I didn’t like memorizing timelines or key personalities and their role in history.

I eventually grew up and realized history is often better than fiction. I research and fact-check via Google while I’m watching movies with historical context. I’m always curious about the events, timelines, characters, and anything else I can find about the topic. Somehow, I ended up reading about the Industrial Revolution, the rise of manufacturing in the United States, and the history of the time clock.

We All Want to Change the World

The First Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s and continued until about 1840. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, transforming the United States economy. Cotton was the chief export product, representing more than half of the value of US exports between 1820 and 1860. Whitney introduced interchangeable parts to the manufacturing industry when he was contracted to build 10,000 muskets for the US government. It was an invention based on necessity due to the massive volume.

By 1870, the Second Industrial Revolution – also known as the Technological Revolution – began with a sharp increase in industrialization and innovation in manufacturing, continuing until the beginning of World War 1. Advancements in science and engineering marked this period, differentiating it from the first revolution. Production of steel, iron, paper, rubber, petroleum, and other chemicals flourished. The automobile was invented, along with telecommunication, and then the railroad transformed business in the back office with refinement of certain accounting practices.

During this era, time clocks were also introduced, providing employers with a way to track the time that employees spent at the factory. Time cards protected business owners from employees cheating the system, and the cards also protected employees by providing an accurate record of hours worked. One company designed a clock that required a key from the worker to discourage fraud, but all the clocks had similar function and design. Time clocks remained largely unchanged for nearly a century.

The Third Industrial Revolution – or the Digital Revolution – started in the 1980s. The personal computer was invented, and significant advancements were made in telecommunications, including the Internet and wireless technology. Technology developed during this period paved the way for Industry 4.0 – the convergence of digital, artificial intelligence, and human interaction. During each revolution, new business models developed and either failed or flourished. The best ideas and systems were adopted and widely accepted across industries. A central theme for Industry 4.0 is Disruption. Today’s business models are less durable when compared to just 10 years ago. They’re highly subject to rapid displacement, disruption, and even destruction. A few examples of disruptive business models include:

  • Cash apps like Venmo and Facebook Payments broadened the way we exchange money for goods and services
  • Uber, a ridesharing app, sidestepped licensing systems developed to protect taxicab franchises and unions in cities globally
  • Airbnb transformed the travel industry, upending the traditional hotel/motel business model
  • Tesla Motor Company forced other automakers to take note by introducing fully electric cars equipped with artificial intelligence (By the way, have you met Coleman, artificial intelligence for enterprise?)

You Say You Got a Real Solution

It’s critical for manufacturers to align the workforce with business objectives. Regardless of industry, organizations recognize a need to improve workforce productivity. The first step is evaluation of current systems – including processes, software, spreadsheets, etcetera – to determine opportunity for improvement, growth, and change.

Here are several questions to ask when studying the history of your organization’s workforce management practices:

  1. Are current systems easy to use? Do they provide options for mobility?
  2. Are we dynamically tracking regulatory compliance? Audits are a look back in time – they don’t solve problems before they occur.
  3. Do we rely heavily on spreadsheets for workforce management?
  4. Do spreadsheets create barriers between employees, managers, and business units?
  5. Are learning and skills integrated with our current system?
  6. Are we effectively leveraging analytics to drive business strategy?
  7. Does our current system enhance collaboration across teams (lines, departments, units, etcetera)?
  8. How do our current systems and process accommodate growth?

Infor Workforce Management provides tools for manufacturers to track trends, examine historical data, and predict the future. Disrupt the basic transactional time clock with options to display real-time key data and dynamic schedules with 24/7 cloud technology. Employees easily view schedules, propose shift swaps, and managers approve or deny requests with a single click.

Operations leadership is challenging, which is why we’ve developed a product that handles every dimension of workforce management with a broad horizontal footprint. Increase the value of your time by focusing on product quality and process improvements, rather than manual spreadsheet updates.

Jessica Dunyon, Director, Workforce Management, Manufacturing, @jessicadunyon

  • Infor Workforce Management
  • Worldwide
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