Recent data from the Department of Energy (DOE) indicates that approximately 60% of electric utility workers will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. The impending loss of the most skilled and knowledgeable workers in the industry has put many utility companies on red alert. This potential workforce crisis means that companies have just a few years to transfer what’s often referred to as, “Tribal Knowledge” from those retiring to those who will have to fill their shoes.
Many utility workers hold positions within their companies for nearly 30 years, so one can easily imagine the amount of intangible knowledge and varying experiences that each worker has. What companies really need is a way to tap into the experienced worker’s knowledge while traveling in the field. Better yet, they would like to find a way to limit travel in the field; traveling hundreds of miles to analyze and solve problems poses its own set of risks, from driving hazards to on the job injuries. When something goes wrong on the grid, lives are at risk.
Challenges in the Field
Much of the information and knowledge needed by today’s utility worker is stored in a computer or in the cloud, and is not accessible in the field by the organization’s workers. Because of this, institutional knowledge and expertise decreases. Many companies today are purchasing collaboration solutions, including web meeting software, video and Internet-based phone systems. This package is intended to upgrade collaboration across business units, address the issues of lost tribal knowledge, increase workforce effectiveness and manage company priorities arising from their aging workforce. Challenges faced include a slow, sub-optimal rollout plan, forced by lower company revenues. Analysis points to automation of capture and storage of knowledge, utilities could take advantage of their expert employee’s skills and leverage their knowledge for less experienced workers in the field, thereby giving a good return on investment for early deployment of mobile collaboration.
There are three immediate problems to resolve: access to Tribal Knowledge, better utilization of experts for training, and improving safety for the mobile workforce traveling in the field. Companies remind us on a regular basis that training a utility lineman can take 10 years or more – and the average age of the current power lineman workforce is 47-years-old. Utilities are also focusing on retention of younger employees, who are generally more technologically savvy and who expect work access to tools they use outside the workplace, like smart phones and other wireless technologies. In fact, new or younger workers prefer to work in an area with new technology. Mobile devices such as smart phones and ruggedized tablets can be especially useful in the field where workers can get access to advice from experts in real-time or even start a meeting -- all to create increase access to institutional knowledge.
One component of Cisco’s solution is expert locator software. Employees such as line workers and technicians would have the ability to be connected anytime or anywhere via a five-product Enterprise Collaboration solution: Expert Locator, IP call control with video IP phones, web meeting (Webex), an immersive video solution (TelePresence) and ruggedized mobile video (Librestream Onsight).
New technology can change the way utilities conduct business
Workers would use mobile video in the field to show details of problems to experts throughout the company, senior workers could provide advice and support for repair of damaged equipment in the field without having to travel to the field. Experts can also quickly convene and escalate meetings to resolve a problem via the web and Telepresence. If a worker is on-site and there are challenges with a device, the worker can start a meeting, have the ability to share and give/get advice in real-time. Because of this, repair times go down while safety goes up.
How can Cisco help your organization support new collaboration and create a mobile workforce? Find out more by visiting our solutions page and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Connecting Dark Assets: An ongoing series on how the Internet of Everything is transforming the ways in which we live, work, play, and learn.
If you’re trying to run a business today, you are undoubtedly dealing with global manufacturing and distribution systems—and competitors from around the world. The Internet has given companies of all sizes access to a global marketplace, and that means competing in an environment where cost is king, and margins are razor-thin. No wonder manufacturers and distributors are trying to squeeze every bit of inefficiency out of every link in their supply chains.
Fortunately, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is here to light up “dark” supply chain assets by connecting them to data, things, and processes that multiply their value. As a matter of fact, Cisco Consulting Services’ research shows that IoE has the potential to create or migrate $2.7 trillion in value over 10 years’ time by improving supply chain and logistics efficiency and reducing waste.
Take, for example, the common forklift. It’s an ubiquitous feature of factories, warehouses, and loading docks everywhere—but not tremendously efficient when you factor in the time it takes for a driver to locate the correct pallet, and the damage that sometimes occurs while navigating stacked pallets through narrow warehouse aisles. But when IoE “lights up” this dark asset by giving it sensing capabilities and connecting it to the right data and software, the forklift becomes an auto-guided vehicle (AGV) that can find its own way through a massive warehouse. The AGV can go directly to the correct pallet of goods and deliver it at the right time to the right place. It will even plug itself into a charging station at the right time to ensure optimal battery life.
But it’s not just auto-guided forklifts that are transforming warehouse efficiency—sometimes it’s robot-guided shelves. Amazon is using small Kiva warehouse robots to move portable shelves from warehouse storage to an area around the perimeter Read More »
Blog authored by Chet Namboodri, Cisco and Marieke Wijtkamp, Librestream
Sub-Zero is a family owned business and, perhaps, best known as the developer of the first cabinet built-in refrigerator in the 1950s. Today, the company is the leading manufacturer of luxury appliances in North America, selling its top-of-the-line appliances worldwide. Sub-Zero employs more than 1,000 workers, with production facilities in Madison, WI, Richmond, KY, and, now, Goodyear, AZ. They are also a world-class example of a company who’s leveraging the Internet of Everything to drive innovation and who truly embodies the renaissance in American manufacturing.
Accelerating New Product Introduction (NPI) Cycles
In order to prepare for the largest product roll-out in the company’s history--60 new appliance models across refrigeration and its premium cooking brand, Wolf--Sub-Zero needed a top-notch, end-to-end network to provide flexible communication and collaboration between its engineering groups, the existing factories in Madison, and the new production facility in Goodyear. In addition, Sub Zero needed to ensure robust communication and diagnostic data exchange with external suppliers and installation partners. Dubbed the “New Generation Collaboration Initiative,” Sub-Zero worked with Cisco and Librestream to aid the design, launch, and ongoing manufacture of its new products.
Are you interested in keeping up with the latest innovative and transformative manufacturing solutions? Jointhe Cisco Connected Manufacturing Community! By becoming a member, you’ll receive access to industry news, complimentary webcasts, case studies, and white papers for optimizing business processes for manufacturing.
During a panel on IoE in Business last week, Stanley Black & Decker announced the results and estimated productivity savings, upside revenue, and risk cost avoidance of a new Connected Factory Wireless implementation conducted with Cisco and AeroScout Industrial. In partnership with AeroScout, we’re excited to share the details on how Stanley Black & Decker has transformed manufacturing operations with IoT.
Visit our post on the IoE Blog where Patrick Gilbert, AeroScout Industrial and I share details about Stanley Black & Decker’s plant in Reynosa, Mexico and best practices that helped Stanley Black & Decker improve labor utilization by 12 percent, increase throughput by around 10 percent, and reduce material inventory carrying costs by 10 percent.