Shaping the future workforce

Materials World magazine
29 Oct 2018

Chris Proctor, CEO of management service provider Oneserve, argues that technology is driving a significant change in the workforce, introducing a better way of working.

Companies such as Deliveroo and Uber are prime examples of how adopting a new workforce strategy can decentralise and connect them to a larger, non-traditional one to become more productive and streamlined. Yet, large-scale organisations remain fearful of such technologies, preventing them from achieving their business goals and as a result – for some – haemorrhaging money unnecessarily.

Technology will enable all companies, regardless of their size, to take control of their workforces in ways hitherto unachievable.

Where is your best worker?

For too long, organisational growth has been stifled and limited by the resources that are available within set geographical locations. Since the days of the first industrial revolution, this has led to a clustering of expertise and resources, a model we still largely have today – one hardly fitting as we embrace the technological revolution currently propelling us forward.

As an increasing number of operations are highlighting, organisational growth and success no longer need to be limited to their geography. Remote working, cloud-based telephony and business process technology have now advanced to the point whereby any organisation can completely decentralise their workforce to attract the best talent, regardless of their location.

Find the right contractor now

When Carillion dramatically ceased operations in January 2018, it raised significant challenges across the contracting industries. The individuals who had been scheduled to carry out the work were still there and available to fulfil the tasks. So too were the jobs they were due to service in the first place. However, the way in which everything had been centralised through one monolithic owner caused everything to crash.

Fundamentally, it challenged the core premise that there needed to be an organiser in the traditional sense, acting as a conduit between those who need something done, and those able, prepared and qualified to do it.

Going back to market disruptors like Uber and Deliveroo, we can see one way in which companies are completely bypassing the monolithic contracting owner method.

Here, the arrangement is much more informal, whereby each person effectively bids on a job that is sent to an aggregation platform that takes into consideration location, expertise and equipment required to do the job. The contract is then assigned to the person who is most qualified.

As a result of eliminating the middle man – in the case of the contractors, Carillion – jobs are completed more efficiently and transparently by people who have a vested interested in peer reviews of their work, to maintain the reputations and workflows. The results are both happy customers and workers.

If one is wondering why we would adopt a paradigm such as this, considering that research firm Gartner has predicted that by 2020, over 40% of field service work will be conducted by individuals not employed by organisations, the core driver to this conclusion is patently clear, although less discussed. There is a significant disparity between operative ingress versus operative egress. Operatives are retiring at a pace that simply cannot be matched with new recruits.

Aside from leading field service management platforms, blockchain technology is also playing a vital role in the changing of the current workforce. As a globally distributed ledger, all historic jobs are easily accessible, accurate and secure without any opportunity for fabrication. This will help re-establish some of the trust lost between contractors and employers, and all jobs will be completed by the most qualified people.

Preventable downtime

As the workforce develops, so does the competition, and it becomes even more important to remain competitive in the market. Those who fall behind typically do so due to their refusal to adopt new technologies to strengthen their infrastructures. One such example of this is system and machine downtime. Research has exposed the cost of preventable downtime to be an astounding £18,000 every minute. Not only are there clear financial implications to machine downtime, it is also raises huge problems for a business’ reputation.

Instead of knowing that a machine has broken – because it’s broken – technology is enabling companies to know what is going to break, why and how to fix it before it happens. Only now are senior decision makers becoming aware of the infinite uses data collected every second by dumb sensors can provide. By adding sensors to machines, business leaders can track a machine’s activity and be alerted when there’s any unusual behaviour that could signify that the machine may break. This report then enables business leaders to make an informed decision to get the most appropriate engineer to fix any issue that will arise.

It’s clear that there still needs to be some education on the power of condition monitoring and making use of data already available, but this
is happening, and once there is a wide roll out of such technologies, we will never look back.