It is no secret technology keeps advancing. Today, it seems to do so at an accelerated pace with a level of innovation that is nothing short of spectacular! These advances have created new opportunities for manufacturers to explore new ways to increase productivity. At the same time, these technologies have opened up greater global competition, which is now placing new pressure to be more creative with how work gets done.

A viable strategy to overcome these challenges is to explore how to better collaborate as teams – with both people and machines. Are you taking advantage of this opportunity? Here are some reasons why it might be a good idea to invest further, and what can be done to achieve the greatest success.

How Big Data is Driving Change

The way to work smarter and with greater productivity doesn’t involve working harder as an individual. A better approach is to leverage technology to operate better in a team environment. From productivity platforms that seamlessly integrate work tools to the new ways we collaborate in an ever-more diverse and distributed workforce, the work we do today must increasingly be done as a team.

A big reason behind this shift is the complexity of tasks we now face. We need all the help we can get. This includes working together to gain access to as many resources as possible, and then navigate our way to the right solution.

Before I proceed any further, I think it is important to clarify and define the type of teamwork I am suggesting. Often the terms Collaboration, Coordination and Cooperation are used interchangeably. The reality is that these words really mean different things, at least from my perspective. It is important to distinguish which activity we now need to focus on. To clarify, here is how I define these terms:   

  • Collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The key is that this is not simply an aggregation of individual efforts, but rather an outcome that is something new by creating a different scenario that can enable future innovation.
  • Coordination is the sharing of information and resources so that each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. It is about teamwork in implementation. This activity doesn’t create something new.
  • Cooperation is where individuals share relevant information and resources that then enable and support of each other’s individual goals, rather than coming up with a new solution to overcome a shared goal. Something new could happen, but it would be from an individual, not the team.

What I am proposing that we need greater collaboration while working on teams that include both humans and machines in order to overcome the increasing complexity of challenges now faced by manufacturers. We need a “whole” solution that is greater than the sum of its parts

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Digital Twin and Augmented Reality: From Ideal to Real with MES

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Why Machines are Great Collaborators

The ability to operate at a high capacity and process large, complex data sets provides a new level of objectivity that peer to peer teams simply don’t have. This doesn’t mean we should simply delegate every task to a machine. The optimal solution is one that leverages what a machine can do best and what a human can do best, and then establishes a way to integrate these activities into a single solution that can yield a highly efficient outcome.

We do this every day as a repercussion of our increasing reliance upon the use of smart phones. Speaking from personal experience, I can’t imagine going through the day without being reminded of when my next calendar appointment is, having the ability to quickly check emails, or asking my digital assistant to remind me next week to call my parents and wish them a happy anniversary (need to figure out a way to have that be a recurring reminder).

Machines are now “smart.” As a result, they have become quite good at amplifying what we, as humans, can do on our own, to then create a win-win situation.

Augmented Reality – The Ideal Machine to Human Language

On the shop floor, we are now witnessing this evolution in full swing. While machines can certainly process an enormous amount of data and can respond quickly to queries written in their native programming language, communicating back and forth between humans and machines could be improved.

Here is where the power of Augmented Reality comes in. By providing a highly visual representation of the data that has been collected and processed, machines can now better communicate with us – much faster than lines of code or a series of alerts triggered from events. Not only does this “language” offer greater contextual knowledge, but we can receive and understand this intelligence very quickly and efficiently.

It isn’t hard to imagine that this technology will continue to evolve to a level whereby more data is communicated graphically via an integrated communications framework spanning more and more activities. What can result is greater synchronization and productivity on our “team” despite the continued increase in complexity of the everyday tasks being performed.

The manufacturers that are now investing in an Augmented / Mixed Reality communications framework should soon get to experience a surge in better collaboration. It then seems reasonable to believe that was follows will be a further amplification of workforce and equipment productivity – a great team effort!