Cisco Canada Blog

A Modern Workplace: How Manufacturers Can Appeal to the Next Generation

September 13, 2018

Much of today’s discussion about the future of manufacturing revolves around topics such as AI and automation. However, the truth is that human labour continues to play a large role both on and off the factory floor. But there’s a growing challenge: the current workforce is aging. One third of workers are estimated to be over the age of 50, and with retirement on the horizon, many manufacturers are facing the stark realization that there simply aren’t enough new, skilled employees joining the industry.

Is there a way for manufacturers to make the workplace more inviting to a younger labour force? The short answer is, yes. And the solution, perhaps not surprisingly, lies in digital transformation and the strategic adoption of current (and future-thinking) technology to modernize your manufacturing operation.

1. Collaboration Tools

It’s a connected world, and nobody is more aware of this than Millennials and Generation Z. For them, the ability to be mobile and connected to the work environment isn’t just a perk – it’s a necessity in the modern world.

Collaboration technology, such as Cisco Webex or Remote Expert, helps manufacturers drive innovation, increase productivity, unite global teams and facilitate knowledge-sharing. Employees gain flexibility to collaborate remotely or on-the-go through high-quality virtual meetings, enhanced group messaging and file sharing capabilities. While it may sound routine, instant and remote access to work resources is key to fostering and retaining a skilled workforce.

In addition, collaboration tools can enhance and simplify the day-to-day operations of modern manufacturers by providing easier integration of new machinery with legacy equipment; speeding time to market on new products; better aligning manufacturers and suppliers; and enabling real-time maintenance and enhanced operations. More efficient processes provide employees with a more productive and satisfying work environment, and are an enticement for prospective workers.

2. The Mobile Factory

It’s not enough for your workers to simply be mobile. The machinery on your factory floor will also need to “cut the cord” to achieve true modernization.

Building a mobile-enabled manufacturing network requires that wireless capabilities be built on a solid foundation. Historically, the factory network operated independently of the enterprise network. But today, it’s possible to secure and converge both the factory and enterprise networks thanks to the Cisco Factory wireless platform.

Cisco Factory provides what manufacturers need to deploy and scale their wireless capabilities including data, communications and video. Factory wireless solutions enable essential business benefits like less downtime, fewer line stoppages, improved worker efficiency, increased cycle time and higher OEE, which adds up to better productivity, availability and quality.

3. Bringing IT & OT Together

IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) may have previously occupied two mindsets, but if you want to modernize your manufacturing processes, they need to come together so you can better address key challenges like downtime and mobility.

Cisco Meraki technology, in the factory and beyond, can help manufacturers drive process improvements and become more competitive. For example, Meraki helps minimize downtime by simplifying remote network management, enabling admins respond quickly to potential issues, and helping stave off dangerous security threats.

Meraki can also help bridge the conversation between IT and OT departments when it comes to providing a proper, secure infrastructure for mobile devices by providing a centralized management source. Meraki Systems Manager, for example, can help manufacturers meet certain requirements for mobile device usage, whether by disabling mobile device cameras in confidential production line environments, locking devices to a single app, or preventing access to confidential data if a mobile device is taken outside the production facility.

Closer collaboration between IT and OT teams is a crucial step in manufacturing modernization, and will impress on younger employees that they are entering a forward-thinking environment.

How modern is your manufacturing workplace? Do you think you have the capabilities to entice a younger, skilled workforce? Compare with our latest solutions:

Cisco Webex

Cisco Meraki

Cisco Digital Manufacturing



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