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 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 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.
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.
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%.
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.
Based on the challenges mentioned above, we would like to summarize some key points:
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.
Learn more about AR for automotive manufacturers.