Bracing for the impact of Industry 4.0

Bracing for the impact of Industry 4.0

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You may need to hit the ground running when the dust settles from Industry 4.0’s touchdown, but don’t fret as these HR leaders share their guidance with Nabilah Ismail on how to land on your feet. ­

Industry 4.0 is upon us and the question of “where do you see yourself in five years” no longer applies. Both individuals and companies have to envision where their skills and capabilities will lie in the next two to three years. Upskilling, reskilling and people readiness are no longer just buzzwords, but realities.

According to Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Industry 4.0 is the production or manufacturing-based industries’ digitalisation transformation, driven by connected technologies. Its nine technology drives/pillars are autonomous robots, big data analytics, cloud computing, internet of things, additive manufacturing, system integration, cybersecurity, augmented reality, and simulation.

Sci-fi author William Gibson put things similarly aptly when he said: “The future is already upon us, it is just unevenly distributed”, which we can now refer to in the context of Industry 4.0.

In this feature, we reach out to HR leaders on how they are future-proofing their workforce.

Putting on your digital gear

Staying on the ball is chief people officer of MaxMoney, Dalia Alkatiri, who recognises the opportunities that Industry 4.0 have made possible for the money transfer service provider.

MaxMoney’s target market being blue-collar workers in Malaysia, the company has been able to provide them real-time tracking, thus assuring them on the money sent back to their families, owing to new technology. The ability to alert and track riders once they are en route to deliver currency requested by a customer has also been made possible.

Group HR director at Putrajaya Leisure & Services (PULSE Group), Naresh Prabhakaran, is also looking to keep up with Industry 4.0 by upgrading the systems at the holding group.

We’ve identified a software, Ramco Systems, that gives a bird’s-eye view of employees’ performance, as well as company performance across the subsidiaries in the group.
- Group HR director at Putrajaya Leisure & Services (PULSE Group), Naresh Prabhakaran

He explains the need for a new system that will provide analytics for future strategies. “We want to look at future strategies for our investments and revenue. We’ve identified a software, Ramco, that gives a bird’s-eye view of employees’ performance, as well as company performance across the subsidiaries in the group that can be utilised to view if the strategic and financial objectives are being measured via its employees’ intervention,” he says.

With the modules this chosen software offers in HR, he hopes to identify the talent pool available and groom them using the software tool as an enhancer via progressive learning and development initiatives and performance management platforms. In essence, all actions in the organisation, including HR, “should be measured against revenue” and a correlation between the two should be identified.

When asked if there was some hesitation from his team to implement the software, he says: “We showed the benefits of having the software – what it can generate – and, as a result, people were overall excited to see what would come out of it.”

Adding her take to the situation is Vina Sarna, director of training and quality at outsourcing provider Sellbytel Group. She affirms that to stay afloat, there is a need to maintain competitiveness. “Data mining is one of our main attributes as a business, so Industry 4.0 means that we need to consolidate our expertise in big data.”

Getting your digital gear fitted

Driven by the need to accelerate with the times, Dalia dives deep into her stance that even with the technology that is available, what matters at the end of the day is how you use and develop the information you have gathered. For her, “it starts with the strategies and how you want to build your company. You need to become agile and understand what internal processes could be reduced or automated cheaply, essentially, what will make you move faster as a company”.

At the same time, she underscores that if something isn’t working well, you have to be willing to find an alternative. “Don’t just hold on to a certain project ‘just because’. If it doesn’t work, quickly move on and find a better way to do it,” she says, making a point about relevance.

She points to a programme by MaxMoney, called “MaxIdeas”, which sees a number of industrial speakers coming in to widen the horizons of employees. This includes leaders from start-ups, and more.

Despite signs of success across the initiatives, the adoption of Industry 4.0 should not be rushed.

Despite signs of success across the initiatives, the adoption of Industry 4.0 should not be rushed. “You don’t have to digitise everything or use the best technology out there. Nowadays, there are so many cloud-based solutions available that there is a variety for companies to adopt on the basis of their preference and requirements.”

As Naresh sees it, adopting Industry 4.0 will need a lot of assessment on the organisation’s end. He advises: “You need to have an understanding of the things you currently have, know what you want from there, and then have an aim in mind.” Industry 4.0 is not just a bandwagon for companies to jump on, but an opportunity for organisations to better themselves. “You should assess what you have and what you need, then decide how you want to upgrade – be it gradually or immediately,” he says, thus emphasising on the consolidation of current capabilities.

Sarna shares advice on finding your place in this new age. “Companies that are unsure of what Industry 4.0 is need to understand what it means to them and whether there are any 4.0 pillars that relate to what they do and the service they provide,” she recommends. “Once they identify which pillars are tied to their business, they can then narrow down the skill set required to make sure they meet their objectives.”

Who loses out?

Industry 4.0 not only brings new possibilities, but also fears of job losses. However, Dalia firmly believes that though job scopes will be removed, there will be additional scopes added to the responsibilities of those who are willing to learn.

She places a high importance on continuous education, and recommends reminding employees “about what they will be doing next and what they need to learn to prepare themselves for the changes coming their way”.

Citing an example, she talks about how initially employees can be reluctant to stop printing payslips manually as they are worried the automation will take their jobs away. But once they understand it will equip them for reskilling opportunities, they will be more comfortable.

“It is about managing human emotions; people need to know that they are needed”, in such cases where staff are concerned.

Technology should complement what you want to do, raise the bar of what you can achieve, but without emotional intelligence or the human element, everything becomes very robotic.
- Group HR director at Putrajaya Leisure & Services (PULSE Group), Naresh Prabhakaran

Nothing without the human element

In an age where technology is taking prominence, Naresh makes a great point around the concern of underestimating the importance of emotional intelligence and the human touch.

He elaborates: “Technology should complement what you want to do, raise the bar of what you can achieve, but without emotional intelligence or the human element, everything becomes very robotic.”

He has confidence in today’s workforce, saying that: “Technology can only do so much – human interaction still comes into play, especially if you have limited resources.”

However, the challenge he faced with the implementation of the software Ramco was identifying people who had the right capabilities.

“We want them to be able to manage the software for us, be able to generate resources and also make the requisite recommendations,” he says.

As a learning, these are skills that can’t be taught overnight, so it’s essential to entrust these tasks to someone who is qualified.

Dalia leans towards this stance as well, saying: “You don’t go 100% faceless immediately. You still need outlets that employees can reach out to as a form of contact.”

Clearly, in the age of Industry 4.0, close stakeholder relations still remain very important, especially in solving major challenges for consumers and employees alike, by taking a more proactive approach towards their possible challenges.

“Rather than solving the problem when it comes, it is more about trying to predict what issues might arise,” she says.

Equally, it is important to align such changes to expectations of both consumers and employees. For example, if a change is made on the consumer front, it will need to be effectively rolled out for employees as well, and vice versa.

A helping hand from the government

Up until recently, only bigger, global software companies were offering solutions for automation, which made them quite expensive and harder to customise. Coming to the present, such software solutions are becoming more widespread, and in fact, many regional and local players are even developing solutions tailored to smaller companies.

Against this backdrop, Dalia suggests an idea for a sort-of potluck software licensing option: “Why not have a few companies use a particular software together, which would make it cheaper for all the companies that are sharing?”

While her idea of a group system seems plausible, especially in today’s shared economy, HR leaders like her will not turn away from the idea of a helping hand, or incentive, from the government side.

“We have very limited incentives to grow our company and attract more customers. If there was a way for companies like us to get government incentives to adopt Industry 4.0, it would be very helpful,” she says.

Much like Dalia, Naresh would be interested in government support as well.

“I think incentives can help ensure there are enough tools to go around. The government can become enablers in terms of support given towards the overall growth of the industry.”

Photo / StockUnlimited

READ THE MAGAZINE: Human Resources, Malaysia – Jul-Sep 2018 edition

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