Inspectioneering
Inspectioneering Journal

Digital Solutions to Improve Workforce Connectivity

By Stephen Thomas, Change Management Subject Matter Expert at PK Companies. This article appears in the July/August 2020 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.
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Introduction

Every day, we send our inspection and maintenance work crews into the plant to execute jobs based on the daily schedule and the work orders that are included in the work plan. To get to this point, organizations spend a great deal of time and effort estimating, planning, materializing, and scheduling the work to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of the crews. If everything goes as planned, we will have a highly effective workforce in the field, but that is seldom the case. There are many variables that serve to invalidate even the best plan and work schedule, which in turn negatively impact well-orchestrated work execution by the maintenance work crews. Improved logistics that use well-thought-out and applied work processes can resolve many of these issues prior to the initiation of the work. Nevertheless, once the crews are released to the field, variables over which we have no control often cause schedule changes, interruptions of the planned work, and work crews attempting to execute jobs for which they are not properly prepared. The reason that our workforce and the work that they perform are not optimized for maximum benefit is that they are essentially disconnected once they are released to perform their daily work.

The Workforce

What is needed is the establishment of a more connected workforce – one that includes all levels of management, the plant maintenance and inspection workforce, the on-site contractors, operations, and any other organizations that have an impact on how work is performed.

There are several components that are necessary to attain a more connected workforce. The first of these is the ability to “connect” the workforce so that accurate and timely communications are enabled and important information is documented for posterity.

When we step outside of the plant gate, we immediately see that the lack of personal connectivity is not the norm. Everyone is connected by their cell phones. We use our phones to make calls or send text messages if we desire an immediate response, or simply to acquire and transmit information. This level of connectivity typically does not exist within the plant environment; if it does, it is in a very limited manner. In a plant without a connected workforce, effective and efficient movement and coordination of daily resources in the field is a challenge.

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