Jul 6, 2020

What is a Digital Workforce?

Manufacturing
Automation
digital workforce
Technology
Sean Galea-Pace
3 min
Manufacturing Global examines what a digital workforce is and its place in the manufacturing industry.
Manufacturing Global examines what a digital workforce is and its place in the manufacturing industry...

What is a Digital Workforce?

A digital workforce is a team of software robots that works alongside human employees to undertake manual processes and allow humans to focus on value-adding tasks. A digital workforce can be either large or small but should be able to grow or downsize on demand depending on business needs. 

Defined by Deloitte as “the natural evolution of the workplace”, a digital workforce consists of all the technologies that workers within an organisation use to complete work in a modern workplace. The types of technology range from HR application and core business applications to emails, instant messaging, enterprise social media and social meeting tools. 

Digital workforce in manufacturing

Alicia Millinger, Senior Product Marketing Manager at GE Digital, believes that workers traditionally learned from previous operators and worked within a predefined set of parameters. “In many cases, the more workers, the better a system ran because each worker would focus on and become an expert of a specific machine or part of the process,” commented Millinger. “One of the benefits of this approach is that the operator’s deep understanding of the process and system leads to quick problem resolution with a level of intelligent understanding of the issues with the machine or process. 

“Today, this approach of having workers with only in-depth linear knowledge is not sustainable given our changing workforce.” 

Jean-Pierre Petit, Director of Digital Manufacturing at Capgemini, believes that the digital workforce is an important component of Industry 4.0 “Automated systems and robotics in manufacturing are enabling employees to focus their skill sets on more value added and evolved tasks by taking up some of the more repetitive processes,” added Petit. “As we look to the future, data-enabled and data-driven methods will continue to play a major role with particular focus on remote, collaborative, virtual, mobile and augmented ways of working.”

What are the benefits in manufacturing?

Andy Coussins, SVP and Head of International at Epicor Software, believes that a digital workforce can help manufacturers thrive and survive the current challenges in the industry. "Many manufacturing businesses claim that they are seen as old-fashioned (23%), with a further quarter (25%) saying they’re not viewed as being a ‘young person’s industry’," he said. "If the sector is to become more attractive to prospective employees, these impressions need to change. Embracing the use of digital technologies can help industrial businesses get noticed by young people, and garner more interest in the employment opportunities on offer."

However, despite concerns around a digital workforce being a threat to jobs, Petit believes that "it is actually designed to support and augment the work currently being done by employees and not to replace the value provided by humans in the overall ecosystem. A digital workforce helps to build efficiency by design and effectiveness in operations, while consistently increasing company know-how. In addition, it also improves health and security at work by leveraging simulated and virtual technologies before entering physical operations. This allows processes to be tried and tested before they are put into action, giving employees the confidence that they’ll work correctly on the field."

Interested in reading more? Read our article “The Future of Manufacturing with a Digital Workforce” in July’s magazine.

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Jul 30, 2021

First Solar to Invest US$684mn in Indian Energy Sector

FirstSolar
Energy
Manufacturing
India
Elise Leise
3 min
First Solar will launch an advanced PV manufacturing plant in Tamil Nadu to support Indian solar independence

First Solar is about to set up a new photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India. The 3.3GW factory will create 1,000 skilled jobs and is expected to launch its operations in Q3 of 2023. According to the company, India needs 25+ gigawatts of solar energy to be deployed each year for the next nine years. This means that many of First Solar’s Indian clients will jump at the chance to have access to the company’s advanced PV. 

 

Said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s CEO: ‘India is an attractive market for First Solar not simply because our module technology is advantageous in its hot, humid climate. It’s an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy’. 

A Bit of Background 

First Solar is a leading global provider of photovoltaic systems. It uses advanced technology to generate clear, reliable energy around the world. And even though it’s headquartered in the US, the company has invested in storage facilities around the world. It displaced energy requirements for a desalination plant in Australia, launched a source of reliable energy in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE), and deployed over 4.5GW of energy across Europe with its First Solar modules

 

The company is also known for its solar innovation, reporting that it sees gains in efficiency three times faster than multi-crystalline silicon technology. First Solar holds world records in thin-film cell conversion efficiency (22.1%) and module conversion efficiency (18.2%). Finally, it helps its partners develop, finance, design, construct, and operate PV power plants—which is exactly what we’re talking about. 

How Will The Tamil Nadu Plant Work?

Tamil Nadu will use the same manufacturing template as First Solar’s new Ohio factory. According to the Times of India, the factory will combine skilled workers, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, and IoT connectivity. In addition, its operations will adhere to First Solar’s Responsible Sourcing Solar Principles, produce modules with a 2.5x lower carbon footprint, and help India become energy-independent. Said Widmar: ‘Our advanced PV module will be made in India, for India’. 

 

After all, we must mention that part of First Solar’s motivation in Tamil Nadu is to ensure that India doesn’t rely on Chinese solar. ‘India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidised global dominance of the crystalline silicon supply chain’, Widmar explained. ‘That’s precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits’. 

 

According to First Solar, India’s model should be a template for like-minded nations. Widmar added: ‘We’re pleased to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Asia-Pacific region—with American-designed solar technology’. To sum up: Indian solar power is yet the next development in the China-US trade war. Let the PV manufacturing begin. 

 

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