Smart Factories FEATURE NEWS

Plant Workers Skeptical About Industry 4.0: New Research Study

By Special Guest
Avi Nowitz
June 07, 2018

Most research into the topic of Industry 4.0 Maintenance is based on insights gained by senior management. However, we often miss the perspective of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) employees that are responsible for deployment. A new study by Emory University and Presenso (a Machine Learning based Predictive Maintenance solution provider), is based on an online survey and interviews with over 100 O&M professionals.

The following is an interview with Eitan Vesely, the CEO of Presenso:

Q. What other kinds of changes in maintenance practices are expected by O&M employees?

O&M employees expect to see slow and incremental change. The automation of processes and workflows that are already underway are expected to continue. CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) has been prevalent for the past two decades and it is unsurprising that from an O&M perspective, continued adoption accelerates.

Conversely, O&M professionals are more skeptical that using robots and drones for inspection and repair will occur.

Q. How do O&M employees differ from senior management in their outlook for Industry 4.0 Maintenance practices?

There is certainly a disconnect between the views of senior management and plant level employees. Based on extensive interviews, the disconnect is not based on O&M professionals concerns about threats to their employment. Furthermore, they understand the strategic “big picture.”

I engage with senior executives across Europe and North America, and there is broad recognition that Industry 4.0 is underway. The driving factor for many of these executives is the economic potential for applying Machine Learning to production processes.

Plant workers are more concerned with the practical constraints related to deployment and the lack of available resources.

Q. To what extent do O&Mfeel that their jobs will likely change?

About a quarter of O&M professionals expect employment levels will fall. By far, the most common perspective (57% of respondents) is that employment levels will remain the same, but there will be a change in job roles and functions.

When we asked O&M professionals about the impact of standard O&M practices, 41% of respondents expected significant change to standard practices and a further 54% expected moderate changes. Interestingly, when we interviewed plant level employees, they had difficulty describing the nature of the change.

During interviews with several plant employees, concerns were raised that management may have unrealistic expectations about the extent to which big data analytics can be incorporated into existing job functions.

Q. How do O&M professionals feel about Industry 4.0 / Machine Learning based PdM? Do they feel threatened or is this an opportunity?

O&M professionals are mostly positive about the concepts of Industry 4.0 and Machine Learning based PdM but are concerned that there are insufficient plans for deployment. There was little evidence of concern at an individual level for job safety.

Q. What do O&M employees see as the major blockers for deployment of Industry 4.0 and IIoT PdM?

The major blockers are seen as the dearth of qualified big data professionals. This was confirmed in both the survey and the interviews.

The issues that were less concerning were the complexity of software, ability to access sensor data and a lack of infrastructure.

A full version of the report is available here:

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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