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Field Support for New Workers with Mobile video Collaboration – Wherever They Are

Holding onto “Tribal Knowledge”

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.

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Stay in the know about our Manufacturing solutions – Join our MFG Community of Interest!

August 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm PST

Are you interested in keeping up with the latest innovative and transformative manufacturing solutions? Join the 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.

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The Internet of Everything in Business: a Roundtable Discussion

Yesterday afternoon, Cisco hosted an “Internet of Everything in Business” roundtable discussion--featuring executives from Stanley Black & Decker, AeroScout Industrial, salesforce.com and FH Celebration Health--which spotlighted how the Internet of Everything (IoE) is fueling transformative business outcomes and results … Today! In the session, our panelists discussed ways they are actually acquiring some of the $14+ trillion of global, private-sector value-at-stake estimated by Cisco to be available with IoE by 2022, and included real-world examples illustrating manufacturing and healthcare industry benefits.

Honing in on the panel portion related to my beloved industry, manufacturers are really leveraging IoT to improve operational efficiencies and productivity with reduced downtime, to accelerate to market faster and with new IoE-based Product-as-a-Service business models, and to drive more flexibility and agility into their supply chain operations, just as I’ve been referencing in recent blogs.

Yesterday’s panel representatives from Stanley Black & Decker and AeroScout Industrial provided highly repeatable manufacturing use case examples describing how they are already achieving benefits today, as well as helping their customers to capture value with IoE. Utilizing location based services, real-time productivity and work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring, manufacturing businesses are seeing a strong return on investment and improved safety and security in the workplace.

IoE MFG blog

Above, catch the roundtable--recorded live from Chicago--and learn amongst those IoE use case examples how Cisco Systems and AeroScout Industrial partnered to implement a productivity-and-throughput-driving solution at a Stanley Black & Decker (SB&D) plant in Reynosa, Mexico. And keep your eye on the Cisco IoE blog channel early next week for my deeper dive on that very real, high-impact, highly replicable SB&D customer case study. Thanks for reading!

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The Internet of Things and the Future of Business

As SAP says, the trends reshaping your world will ultimately transform the way you do business.  Today, Cisco and SAP join together to deliver their visions for the Internet of Things (IoT) at SAP’s signature conference in New York:  Conversations on the Future of Business.  Bryce Barnes, Solution Leader, Internet of Things, Cisco, and Patrick Maroney, Principle, Industry Solutions Group, SAP, lead a session on How the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting the Future of Business.

Bryce will explore the significance and impact of how connecting everything from machines in factories, to cars to sensors inside our bodies will change our lives, and drive new and exciting business models.  He will explore the relationship between connectivity, big data, and analytics and highlight IoT examples that point to the future of business from manufacturing to Life Sciences, retail, mining, touching every aspect of how we design, make, and deliver products.

Value at stake: enormous.  A top area of opportunity for manufacturers is to move toward a connected factory—an intelligent, networked plant environment that enables smart manufacturing. Read More »

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