The human value chain as we know it in industries like manufacturing or aerospace is broken. When the pandemic struck last year, industry set in motion emergency measures that saw many thousands of on-site workers sent away to work remotely from home. They also accelerated planned investment in digital transformation and automation technologies. The aim was to maintain business functions as usual and, by and large, it succeeded. Now, as industries try to encourage staff back into the office, it is apparent that this new Work From Anywhere world is here to stay. As manufacturers reconnect their hybrid workforce with the human value chain it is equally clear that, while automation may replace physical tasks, human knowledge and experience remains as important as ever.


Return to work

Office workers are in no hurry to return to the daily commute. Studies show many prefer working from home, arguing it makes them more productive and gives them a better work-life balance. It is estimated that 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month by 2025. Away from the office, however, what is less talked about is the return of staff in fields like manufacturing, life sciences and aerospace which traditionally have a less flexible infrastructure than, say, technology companies. Yet these industries still have plenty of jobs in sales, services and marketing. And while many physical tasks may be automated a great many jobs - from product innovation and design to data analysis and interpretation - can with the right tools be accommodated within the new hybrid working model. 

In this new world of work, reconnecting the human value chain means finding new ways for people and teams to work together when they are physically apart. For example, in-person activities are being reimagined for virtual environments. By dispensing with the need to travel for on-site meetings industrial organisations are saving time and increasing productivity. Firms are finding that optimising human value is no longer the sole responsibility of HR; it goes to the heart of how a business goes to work and how it goes to market. 


Reconnecting the human value chain

To help their hybrid workforce, the industry needs to break down the collaboration and communication barriers employees face when working from home. Employees need access to platforms that allow everyone, including non-technical users, to quickly create and visually share documents in a variety of formats, even in 3D if necessary. Alongside popular collaboration tools from Google, Slack and Microsoft more specialised collaboration tools are appearing that allow locally distributed or even internationally dispersed design and engineering teams to work together remotely.

Collaboration tools for design professionals must have the capacity to handle highly detailed technical drawings with absolute precision. If remote colleagues confuse a component or mistake a measurement, it could end up costing millions to fix. Having access to tools that allow real-time collaboration, interaction and feedback will reduce client approval times, leave less margin for error and increase overall business and team efficiency.

Many organisations that adopted hybrid working aligned with collaboration tools and cloud-based technology before the pandemic survived, and some are even thriving. They are finding it brings enhanced productivity, business continuity and resilience. This model is also the way forward for manufacturers. Those that do not will struggle to deliver value and to innovate.



Hybrid working is here to stay. Teams of colleagues are physically separated and are resisting calls to return to the office. When reconnecting the human value chain, manufacturers and other industries must make sure their cloud-based applications are capable of sharing data, designs and documentation in ways that make sense for every single person in the organisation regardless of where they work or their role within the company. With the right collaboration tools, employees can interact with one another, with the designs and with the documentation as if they are in the same room, experiencing all the benefits of being back in an office environment.

As we’ve seen, remote working and collaboration in the industry have many challenges. The technology infrastructure is not as mature as in some other fields. However, cloud-based applications and creative collaboration tools will allow industries to recreate the office environment and accommodate the new world of hybrid and remote working. With the right tools, creative talent in industries like manufacturing, life science and aerospace can work from anywhere. It also helps industrial organisations streamline communication processes, cut inefficiencies, minimise errors and drive sales.


Do you agree that collaboration tools are the best way to reconnect talent in the industry? What kind of collaboration tools are emerging that will allow professional designers and engineers to work from anywhere?