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Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, the Internet of Things… these are some of the extremely powerful but complex technologies that make Industry 4.0 possible. Understanding them is a daunting task for most companies, and it is sometimes easy to forget that having people with the right digital skills is the most important success factor.

The right workforce

With technologies, consumer and lifestyle patterns, and geopolitical situations emerging and changing faster than ever before, companies need to navigate in a very uncertain environment. On top of that, the coronavirus crisis is threatening the survival of many entities.

“For most organisations, it is clear that they have no space for an unskilled and unproductive workforce,” said Laurent Probst, partner of PWC Luxembourg and the first speaker of the Luxembourg Digital Innovation Hub (L-DIH) webinar. “But what is the right workforce, and how do you determine what you need in the future?”

For each euro invested in upskilling your staff, you save at least two as you significantly reduce lay-off costs.

Mr Probst recommended working with strategic workforce planning, a structured approach for defining how the jobs and skills needs of an organisation will evolve depending on its technology uptake. It then helps analyse the supply of such skills, within and outside the organisation. The third step is to define and develop plans for remediating the digital skills gap.

While external recruitments are obviously sometimes necessary, he pointed out that the internal organisation is the best source for finding the essential skills. “For each euro invested in upskilling your staff, you save at least two as you significantly reduce lay-off costs.”

Overcoming the digital skills gap

Developing the skills of the existing staff is central for Amazon Web Services (AWS). “Cloud computing is at the moment the number one hard skills that companies are looking for,” said Izabela Milewska, digital skills global leader at AWS Training & Certification. “The number of cloud-related vacancies is increasing, and there is just not enough talent to fill them.”

Ideas from innovative services come from all departments.

In order to face this challenge, AWS offers cloud computing training and learning pathways to its staff. This initiative does not only target IT specialists, but also people in other fields such as marketing, procurement and legal services. “Ideas from innovative services come from all departments, so everyone needs to have some basic understanding of what cloud technology can do.”

Ms Milewska also underlined the importance of life-long learning and of the validation of digital skills that employees gain through job-related training. “Governments also need to work very closely with industry and education institutions in order to redefine how we equip the workforce with the skills for today and tomorrow,” she said.

Innovative work culture for teams

However, having people with the essential skills is not enough. Companies must also offer the right working conditions for them to function optimally. “Putting the most skilled people together does not automatically result in a great team,” said Michel Moutier, co-founder of MLC Advisory.

Referring to a Google study, he listed five key success factors for teams:

  • An atmosphere of safety and trust, where people can say what they want and where mistakes and a certain level of risk are allowed
  • A culture of mutual accountability, where people are willing to take responsibility
  • Clear roles for team members and specified goals that they are expected to achieve
  • A feeling of meaning regarding work and the impression that it is worth doing
  • The belief that the work of the team has a real impact

Leadership is essential for achieving this nurturing culture. Having an open and transparent communication with team members, empowering them to structure and organise their work and setting challenging but not impossible goals are some essential factors. In addition, Mr Moutier pointed out that “values and leadership style are even more important. Values should not be written on the wall, but implemented in concrete actions.”

Supply chain transformation

Lothar März, chief operations officer at supply chain engineering specialist Stremler, concluded the L-DIH Talk with a presentation of the digitalisation process of WashTec, a leading manufacturer of car washing machines. The company wanted to address its very large stocks and increasing throughput time, and decided to tackle this by digitalising its supply chain.

The company created a digital twin of its operations, and established an architecture for the whole supply chain all the way from order placement to component production, assembly and installation. A detailed planning and scheduling was set up for each step, and staff with the right skills were assigned to each part of the process.

The supply chain will not move to the next phase unless the prerequired milestones have been reached.

Whenever there is a change in demand or performance, the digital architecture makes it possible to see the impact on the entire supply chain. “We defined milestones for both WashTec and its clients,” Mr März explained. “The supply chain will not move to the next phase unless the prerequired milestones have been reached.” The outcome of the project speak for itself: WashTec managed to increase its productivity by 24%, reduce its stock levels by 70% and decrease its throughput time from 13 to 2 weeks.

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