Industry 4.0: How Lighthouse Factories Value Connected Worker Technology

Written by: Arnold Vogt

Read Time: 3 min

There is a global network of lighthouse factories today. What can we learn from them when it comes to augmented reality technology for frontline workers? This article will summarize the most relevant use cases, provide concrete value proof points, highlight significant challenges in transformation projects, and derive best practices for implementation.

Lighthouse factories open a new chapter of Industry 4.0

Lighthouse factories are leaders in using Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) technologies to transform factories, value chains, and business models for compelling financial and operational returns. In January 2023, the World Economic Forum (WEF), in collaboration with McKinsey, published a new report on digital lighthouse factories around the world. The report is part of the WEF Global Lighthouse Network, a neutral collaboration platform to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in manufacturing. The initiative launched in 2018 by scanning thousands of leading manufacturers in search of the most advanced factories. They identified the first 16 lighthouse factories. Today, 132 lighthouse factories are listed in the latest report (January 2023), with 13 additionally recognized as sustainability lighthouses thanks to the technology-enabled improvements to their environmental footprint.

What can we learn from lighthouse factories concerning connected workers?

What are the key findings from this new report when it comes to digital technology that supports frontline workers in their daily business? That is the fundamental question this blog post will address. To go into more detail, we will split this question into four areas.

  • What are the main use cases of augmented reality for lighthouse factories?
  • Are there any concrete proof points underlining that digital lighthouse factories benefit from digital frontline worker solutions?
  • What are the main challenges for digital factory transformation initiatives?
  • What does this mean for the implementation of frontline worker solutions? 

Key augmented reality use cases

In the latest report, some digital lighthouse factories ranked frontline worker solutions as one of their top five new use cases. According to the report, digital lighthouse factories leverage various use cases for frontline workers. Many top use cases focus on assembly, maintenance, production performance, quality control, and logistics. In assembly, lighthouse companies have implemented augmented reality technology – for training and guided instructions – to improve worker efficiency.

In the maintenance space, digital lighthouse factories utilize remote assistance tools based on augmented reality. For digital production performance management purposes, these factories use digital tools to enhance their connected workforce. When it comes to digital quality, leading factories use digital work instructions and augmented reality glasses to guide operators in end-of-line inspections. In logistics, digitally enabled picking is a highly relevant use case.

Clear proof points for the value of connected worker technology

When it comes to enabling the frontline with digital solutions, the main value boils down to improving workforce efficiency. Lighthouse companies carefully tracked and reported concrete numbers, demonstrating how these digital frontline worker solutions clearly improved efficiency. The most interesting example in this context is Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), a provider of independent semiconductor assembling and test manufacturing services in Taiwan. The ASE factory in Kaohsiung (Taiwan) uses AR technology for site safety patrol management. As a result, the company reported triple-digit efficiency gains. ASE Group has decreased inspection time for safety patrols by 100% thanks to AR. Two more examples are Danone, a global food company headquartered in France, and Flex, a manufacturing services provider from Brazil. Both companies leverage digital tools to enhance their connected workforce. Thanks to this, the Danone factory in Opole (Poland) improved changeover time by 28%, and the Flex factory in Sorocaba improved worker satisfaction by 18%.

Roadblocks to implementing Industry 4.0 technologies

Besides relevant use cases and case studies, the report also includes a survey to highlight and compare the top priorities and challenges of lighthouse and non-lighthouse companies. The results revealed the top priorities of respondents from all industries and regions: productivity, sustainability, resilience, and the ability to scale digital technologies across production networks. Even as a top priority, scaling appears to be incredibly challenging for companies for various reasons. Non-lighthouse companies point to a lack of leadership commitment and investment, whereas lighthouse factories consider a lack of strategy the principal obstacle. When talking about enablers of digitalization, lighthouses overwhelmingly believe that workforce engagement and transformation offices are the most critical.

Best practices for successfully deploying and scaling frontline worker solutions

Based on the challenges mentioned above, we would like to summarize some key points:

  • Companies need a general strategy to scale their digital transformation initiatives across different factories. Digital technology to enhance the capabilities of frontline workers should be an integral part of this strategy, as its value has been proven.
  • Workforce engagement is critical to all digital factory transformation projects, but it is absolutely essential for implementing digital frontline worker solutions. Without frontline workers’ support, there is no chance to benefit from these solutions.
  • Because of the above, change management should be a primary focus area for transformation offices to implement frontline worker solutions successfully.

For further reading, our recent blog post digs deeper into the situation of frontline workers in the automotive industry and discusses the most effective approaches to supporting them.

Support Frontline Workers in Automotive

Learn more about AR for automotive manufacturers. Read the Automotive Blog
Tags: Augmented Reality Industry 4.0 AR Workforce Efficiency Digital Transformation

About the Author

Arnold Vogt

Arnold Vogt has been working in the software & IT services industry for 25 years and joined PAC in 2017. Arnold Vogt’s primary responsibilities are market analyses and strategic consulting engagements around Industry 4.0/industrial IoT. He advises providers and users in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in this field.