The IIoT can also empower workers. By sharing data about how customers are interacting with products, employees can use 3D printing and other technologies to experiment in virtual teams, produce prototypes more quickly and tweak product design. Innovation is not only more spontaneous and synchronised; it is autonomous, liberating employees from traditional research and development structures.
At the core of this change is the way workers will be freed from volume activity to address individual exceptions revealed by data. In this way, they can resolve challenges faced by particular customers and design more tailored solutions for them. This shift in focus from delivering mass products to delivering outcomes for customers places greater emphasis on talent.
Singapore business leaders recognise the potential of the IIoT for their companies and workers, citing enhanced worker safety (58 percent), improved internal oversight and control (52 percent), and improved overall employee productivity (44 percent) as the key benefits they expect the IIoT to deliver for their businesses.
The benefits are not guaranteed, however. Seventy-two percent of the CEOs and business leaders Accenture surveyed say their company has yet to make concrete plans for the Industrial Internet of Things. In Singapore, only slightly more than half (56 percent) have taken steps to pursue this potential. What do leaders need to do to ensure digital technology brings advantages to workers?
Leaders will have to take risks by collapsing hierarchies and permitting new levels of autonomy so that workers can use data and intelligent connected devices to collaborate more with counterparts in other companies. Some companies will need to get ahead of organisational change that will otherwise be forced on them, as digital technology reverses recent trends by centralising manufacturing while decentralising services’ delivery.
The IIoT depends on significant investments in developing ad hoc skills and breeding new talent. New jobs—from digital robot design and healthcare analytics to transport network engineering and software development—can only be created if businesses and governments and the education sector work together to redesign education curricula.
Talent and skills are the most important determinants of whether countries and companies capitalise on this new digital era to secure growth and boost their competitiveness. Workers and employability could be the greatest beneficiaries, a tantalising prospect that depends on businesses and governments doing more to recognise the generational transformation in the workforce that could result from embracing the Industrial Internet of Things.
Alison Kennedy is Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, ASEAN
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