As the evolution of mobile operating systems and ever-more sophisticated applications continue to change the way we work,
"If one considers the Generation Y management layer in these sectors, it becomes clear that having grown up in an environment where technology was easily accessible, they have a very different way of thinking and working. Generation Y are those individuals born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, also known as Millenniums.
"Generation Y expects an always-on world with access to the latest application and availability software. Therefore as manufacturing continues to evolve into a more high-tech environment, the new generation of workers is very different and expects a working environment that matches both their technological acumen and expectations," he explains.
Evidence of technology transforming plant and manufacturing environments, Van der Merwe says, is the ever increasing move away from localised plant control to a more remotely accessible environment.
"While previously all operational functionality was conducted in front of a workstation, it is becoming increasingly possible and desirable to improve efficiency by managing the plant remotely via iPad or mobile phone. Here, operating from a remote environment can drastically increase productivity and cost savings while at the same time reduce safety risks," he comments.
In addition, Van der Merwe explains that it is this mobile and wireless functionality that is driving the requirement to re-look graphical user interfaces within these workplaces.
"More and more users expect a coherent technological experience. Instead of products being accessible on one specific device and platform, slowly, everything is being designed around creating a fluid experience where users can recognise and have the same experience on multiple platforms," he comments.
However, while technology continues to bring both change and benefits to the plant and manufacturing industries it is not without its own unique challenges. Here
"One would expect the typical plant life expectancy to be around 25 years, the middleware environment around 15 years, while the IT environment has a life expectancy of only three to five years. It is this timeline dilemma that is driving increased investment in application development as companies attempt to bridge this gap.
"The bottom line is that it is about applying an 'adapt or die' mindset. Plant environments that embrace and invest in technological innovation will be those that stand the test of time," he concludes.
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