How our data historian will drastically increase employee engagement in Industry 4.0

Frederik Van Leeckwyck on , updated

In our blog series ‘Unexpected Benefits’ we explore the underlying advantages of automated data collection and dashboarding with Factry Historian. In this article, you will learn how our data historian will drastically raise employee engagement in your production or manufacturing facility, and why it can be considered the rockstar of Industry 4.0.

Increasing employee engagement on the production floor.

In the first article of our blog series ‘Unexpected Benefits’, we wrote about the inherent possibilities of data historians to monitor and reduce energy use, identify improvement potential and follow-up on ongoing energy saving measures. In this new blogpost, we will discuss another unexpected yet extremely profitable benefit of our open-source based data historian: increasing employee engagement.

Why employee engagement matters in Industry 4.0

Engaged employees (not only in Industry 4.0) are measurably more productive, profitable, safer and less likely to leave their employers, research has proven time and again. Yet many organisations in the production or manufacturing industry are struggling with creating a compelling employee experience. But what could be a successful strategy for increasing employee engagement, besides placing a decent espresso machine?

What matters for employee engagement in Industry 4.0

A recent study by Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, states that the key to improving engagement is enabling people to make decisions on their own work and contribute to organisational decision-making. This will not only lead to higher engagement, it also motivates workers to make full use of their skills and further enhance them.

Engineer with laptop monitoring processes

How can digital (and open source) technology help?

Technology that enables sharing, transferring and adding knowledge will be crucial to the remote and hybrid work models that are bound to shape industries throughout the 2020s. Yet in order to elevate the crowd on the factory floor, Industry 4.0 companies need more than a monthly newsletter. They need a digital rockstar that gathers people around the center stage of their business: the production process.

This is where Factry Historian comes in. Higher employee engagement is considered the biggest unexpected benefit of their historian by many of our clients. By gathering people around the process and inspiring them to collaborate, experiment and learn, the historian becomes a tool for fostering relationships in a motivational way, encouraging workers to take part in the greater goal of their business.

Employee engagement

Why Factry Historian is Industry 4.0’s rockstar

All great rockstars on earth, including the open source historian, have three important things in common. Firstly, they’re world-class at what they do. Secondly, they’re committed to further improving their performance throughout their career, while taking sideways and making new connections. And lastly, they always stay true to the core reasons why their fans became fans in the first place.

In the case of Factry Historian that is: delivering accurate and actionable process insights through snappy, user-friendly dashboards. Having these dashboards, enables employees to get instant visual access to process data, analyse it in detail or see the bigger picture, learn from their findings and improve operations. In our experience, this by itself automatically leads to higher employee engagement.

But there is more to the historian’s repertoire.

It will also lay the groundwork for many other Industry 4.0 applications such as MES, OEE monitoring, predictive maintenance or AI. And just like flesh-and-blood rock stars, the historian becomes even more versatile as it keeps gathering input from an ever growing amount of new sources. It mostly starts off with monitoring a few machines, but ends in capturing data from pretty much any device on site.

Curious is a good thing to be, as it seems to pay some unexpected dividends.

Iggy Pop

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat - it was ignorance

Plant managers and operators are curious by nature, and hardwired to find small solutions that improve operations. It’s easy. When people set out to discover things by themselves, they not only find creative solutions, they get more involved in the process. And the more curious people on the factory floor are, the more benefits a company can reap from a historian in terms of insights and continuous improvement.

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Will people actually start using the historian software?

Compared to classic enterprise historians, Factry Historian is equipped with a much more flexible and user-friendly interface. Any employee with basic digital literacy can use the data visualisation tool and create custom dashboards. As you don’t need a PhD for it, or need to read a thick manual in advance, most people can work with it by themselves after only two to three hours training. It’s as intuitive as it can get.

Doesn't expecting the unexpected make the unexpected expected?

Bob Dylan

True thing, Bob. But when clients come to us, they’re mostly focused on solving one or two specific business challenges, such as improving quality of production or delivery reliability, creating a paperless factory or building a single data management platform. However, along the road, they mostly discover some ‘free add-ons’ which further validate their decision. Improving employee engagement is one of them.

Here are three ways in which it will lead to more engagement.

1. No more monkey work for operators

Having a data historian in place, eradicates repetitive duties such as manual data collection on paper. By collecting machine data automatically, e.g. temperature or pressure data, people on the factory floor get the time to do more useful and satisfying tasks. Instead of wasting their time transcribing machine counters, they can e.g. perform root-cause analysis or collaborate on process improvements.

By collecting process data automatically, we can now offer our employees a more worthwhile and satisfying job. In fact, in my opinion, this might even be the main long-term advantage of our historian.

Ivo Lemmens
Project Manager Automation at Algist Bruggeman
Engineer monitoring production

2. Faster onboarding of new employees

The historian’s user-friendly dashboards are regularly used to onboard new staff members a lot faster. A great example of this is our client Ekopak. To get a grasp on how its water treatment installations work, new process engineers or operators will mostly look at the historian dashboards first. By having frictionless access to process data, they can get detailed process insights on their own from day one.

Factry Historian allows us to follow-up any installation hassle-free, create graphs and zoom in or out on certain parameters. It gives us a perfect insight into how our installations are running.

Tim De Maet
Operations Manager at Ekopak
Engineer with laptop monitoring processes

3. Knowledge transfer within teams

Sometimes it happens that the creativity of our client’s operators goes beyond our imagination. One of the most striking examples of where plant operators went bananas with the historian dashboards, would be our client A&S Energie. In its biomass electricity plant, they not only use their historian for data collection, but also to train less experienced operators in comprehending the start-up process of the turbine.

The start-up cycle of the turbine, which is the core of the electricity plant, is a very complicated process that employees gradually have to learn to master. The start-up manual resembles a flowchart with a series of steps depending on certain live conditions. Some operators went crazy and put the entire start-up process in a dashboard, with the process flow on the left side and the live values on the right side.

On that basis, they can now visually compare the steps in the process with current and theoretical values, and the actions that are needed in every stage. In this way, the historian dashboards have become a tool for A&S Energie to transfer knowledge from experienced to less experienced operators. This does not only mean people get more involved in the process, it also saves the company a lot of onboarding time.

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