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Eliminating Paper from your Shop Floor with the Connected Worker!​

Digitisation has changed the modern world and how we interact with it. Smartphones and other intelligent wearables like watches and earbuds track our activity and deliver location and context-based information. Many people are accustomed to using location-aware to-do lists that display an alert on their smartphone when they are near the location where they can complete a task. Smart shopping lists are finally here! Similarly, most drivers now use GPS without thinking about the technological layers that have made it universal. This increased use and reliance on technology outside the workplace has highlighted a technical gulf for many workers working on a factory shop floor or in field service industry roles.

This disparity is an opportunity for many organisations. Familiarity with consumer-level technologies allows businesses to introduce systems based on similar technology into shop floor operations or other business functions. This digitisation of working practices to deliver enhanced digital tools and workflows across businesses got boosted by the safety requirements for workers during the pandemic (don’t worry, this is not another pandemic article). Providing information and work instructions in digital form facilitated the social distancing and other safety measures we all followed.

At the same time, it also reduced reliance on paper workflows and audit trails. This is a huge benefit in itself, but it also opens up the prospect of radical digital transformation that delivers enhanced productivity and new flexible working arrangements.

Moving from paper to a working environment where instructions, productivity tracking, and delivery happen digitally is known as enabling the connected worker. Adopting the connected worker methodology can greatly increase productivity and staff morale, including in the pharmaceutical sector by adopting Industry 4, smart factories, and connected worker practices under the umbrella of Pharma 4.0.

The Connected Worker in a Connected Factory

Connected (or augmented) workers use technology to bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds. This connection allows them to do their work, interact with others, and make decisions using current and specific information about the task they need to perform and at the location they need to accomplish it. Deloitte defines the term as:

“A connected worker is any person whose working life is changing due to digital and other technologies.” (See ref 1.)

Connected worker techniques can be used for field operations, in service industries, and also on production & manufacturing shop floors. In the context of smart factories and connected workers, Gartner uses this definition (ref 2):

“The connected factory worker concept is a new approach to industrial efficiency. It’s as much a technology construct that changes how factory workers access information and knowledge to do their jobs differently, as it is a change management exercise that is rooted in workforce development, behavioural shifts, and integrated continuous improvement.”

Implementing connected worker operations provides each factory floor or frontline worker with the tools, information, and authority to deliver the tasks they need to get done and make faster decisions to ensure that productivity gets maximised. For a connected factory worker Gartner highlights five areas where the staff members benefit from connected working (ref 2):

  • Standard work – Digital access to standard operating procedures (SOPs), input into SOP creation and management, and access to guided digital workflows. Delivering the elimination of paper from the shop floor!
  • Collaboration – Digital access to supervisors and colleagues. Delivers on-site, remote, and hybrid assistance and guidance for any issues that arise. Enables group-based troubleshooting between staff via digital communication. The capture of the discussions, recommendations, and outcomes (feeding into continuous improvement).
  • Continuous improvement – Improved reporting and KPI management. Better pre-shift meetings, handovers, and delivery of Gemba principles – a Japanese term for “actual place,” used to highlight the place on a shop floor where important work occurs.
  • Quality and compliance – Faster preventive measures and improved site safety. Digital audits and inspections of factory equipment and plant. Improved incident management and reporting – another input into continuous improvement.
  • Training – Digital delivery of standard training materials and certification exam delivery and tracking. Ongoing continuous knowledge transfer from all staff (more continuous improvement!). Access to on-demand knowledge whenever and wherever it’s needed.

Pharma 4.0​

In Oleson, we have a focus on the pharmaceutical sector. As an industry, Pharma research labs and manufacturers have seen the benefits of Industry 4 techniques and have formed an industry group to create a roadmap to introduce Industry 4.0 Smart Factory techniques to the pharmaceutical industry – Pharma 4.0. This gets managed under the auspices of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) (ref 3.)

The Pharma 4.0 mission statement begins:

“The aim is to provide practical guidance, embedding regulatory best practices, to accelerate Pharma 4.0™ transformations. The objective is to enable organisations involved in the pharmaceutical product lifecycle to leverage the full potential of digitalisation to provide faster therapeutic innovations and improved production processes for the benefit of patients.”

We have extensive knowledge and partnerships with organisations operating across the Pharma sector. In conjunction with our connected worker industry partners in 4Industry and ServiceNow, our consultants can work with pharma labs and manufacturers to design and deliver smart factory solutions and connected worker technologies. And in doing so, we can partner with your Pharma or other sector manufacturing teams to deliver the connected worker benefits outlined above and in the Gartner research note.

Adoption and Staff Trust are Key

Like all technology improvement projects, adopting connected worker practices and solutions will only succeed if the staff are active participants in the tools’ design, delivery, and ongoing evolution. Most staff will want any solution that is selected to work well and not be a hindrance to them.

The human factor is just as important as technology, and ensuring that staff are engaged in the process will lead to satisfied workers who champion the new way of working. This will make success and associated productivity gains easier to achieve. Plus, it’ll make it easier to introduce additional changes in the future to further streamline production workflows and the factory floor.


Adopting the connected factory worker concept is vital to stay competitive in the modern high-tech and scientific manufacturing sectors. Oleson can partner with your organisation to ensure you avoid the common pitfalls that others have made by bringing our extensive industry experience to the table for your modernisation projects.

Each company is unique, and we will partner with you to deliver what you need today and into the future. Contact us to discuss your needs.



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