What is a Digital Workforce?
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 (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."
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.