How Microsoft is equipping manufacturing workers with the tools of the future
By Emma Williams, Corporate Vice President, Modern Work Transformation

Across the manufacturing industry, pressure continues to rise as organizations and their workforces balance unpredictable supply chains, complex regulatory and compliance requirements, advanced security threats, and heightened competition. These forces are driving the need for rapid technological advancement—especially among the nearly 430 million frontline manufacturing workers at the center of this digital transformation.1

However, over one-third of all frontline workers in manufacturing report that they do not have the right technological tools to do their job effectively—representing a significant opportunity for companies looking to develop their frontline talent and future-proof operations.2

At Microsoft, we are working to empower all manufacturing workers, from the factory floor to the customer’s door, with the solutions they need for sustainable growth and increased productivity. We know that 63 percent of frontline workers in manufacturing are excited about the job opportunities tech creates and we are working hard to create purpose-built solutions to support their success.1

Today, I am excited to announce several new cross-cloud product features and capabilities designed to optimize, connect, and upskill the manufacturing workforce—helping frontline workers perform at their best today and harness the opportunities of tomorrow.

Optimize workflow integration to empower your frontline
This week at Hannover Messe 2022, we are announcing the general availability of Updates in Microsoft Teams, enhancements to Approvals in Teams, and customizations to optimize key manufacturing workflows through Microsoft Power Apps.

Easily create, review, and submit employee updates with Updates in Microsoft Teams
Many of today’s manufacturing workers still rely on outdated tools and manual updates to stay in sync and get work done. Updates in Microsoft Teams is an out-of-box app that saves people time and energy by helping them create, submit, and review all their check-ins, reports, and updates right in the flow of work. Whether those are recurring processes that happen on a regular basis, like inspections and maintenance updates, or real-time updates that might be needed at any time, like incident reporting, Updates makes it easy for you to manage these all in one place.

Integrate Approvals across line of business applications and Microsoft 365
Extend and integrate Approvals in Microsoft Teams into your factory operations apps through Graph APIs in Microsoft 365 and Power Apps Control Framework controls in Power Apps. These include new integrations with Microsoft 365 to create approval requests for an entire document or a section of a document directly in Microsoft Word. Additionally, you will be able to create and manage approval requests directly within Microsoft Lists. All of these enhancements will be in preview this summer, and stay tuned for new features in our pipeline, like group approvals, sequential approvers, and more.

Tablet device showing a cleaning log document with approval settings in Microsoft Word.
“These kinds of workflow capabilities bring operational processes into the flow of work and make Teams and Microsoft 365 a critical platform for manufacturers,” shares Richard Gregory, Global Value Realization Lead, Avanade. “They enable factory teams to be streamlined and efficient—tying organizational productivity and communication tools seamlessly into the day-to-day work of frontline manufacturing workers.”

Bring frontline collaboration into your custom apps with Collaboration controls
With Collaboration controls, you can leverage the best of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams collaboration capabilities (chat, meetings, Tasks, files, and Approvals) in Power Apps to enable contextual collaboration around business processes. In preview later in 2022, this integration allows for the building of custom collaborative experiences for manufacturing with easy access for your frontline workers directly in Teams.

Smart building solutions provider Johnson Controls leveraged Microsoft Teams and Power Platform to build and deploy a set of applications called Power Smart Factory to help streamline frontline operations and improve factory operations. Learn how their solution helped optimize workloads, reduce machine downtime, improve product and service quality, and save money in this customer story video.

Learn more about how Microsoft Teams and Power Platform can work together to simplify critical manufacturing workflows.

Streamline the manufacturing frontline with Microsoft Teams Shifts connector for Blue Yonder Workforce Management
The Microsoft Teams Shifts connector for Blue Yonder Workforce Management (WFM), now generally available, extends the value of Blue Yonder WFM for manufacturers that rely on it for precise labor scheduling, accurate time and attendance tracking, reduced associate turnover, and simplified compliance with labor laws and corporate policies. The Shifts connector allows for two-way replication of schedule and shift-related data between Teams and Blue Yonder WFM and empowers frontline workers to view and manage schedules while on the go. With greater optimization of workers, managers are free to spend less time on administrative tasks, leaving more time for the high-value work of coaching and mentoring employees and working directly with customers. Learn more about this year’s Nucleus Research Value Matrix Leader.

Tablet device next to a mobile device, both showing workers’ shift schedule in a horizontal and vertical layout.
Connect your workforce with communication and engagement solutions
The generational shift in worker age, the unlocking and digitization of manufacturing-floor data, and most recently, the global COVID-19 pandemic are all driving forces in the acceleration of digital transformation in the manufacturing industry. Together, these factors have led to a manufacturing workforce that is less experienced and more spread out physically. In addition, 62 percent of all frontline workers say leadership does not prioritize building culture2—creating a greater need to access institutional knowledge and build workplace community.

Manufacturers need tools that help their frontline teams collaborate and stay connected across geographies and functions—while helping them tap into key resources and insights across teams. With purpose-built frontline capabilities in Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Viva Connections, we are creating solutions that better connect manufacturing workers with each other and their organizations to enable improved real-time decision-making.

Mobile device showing Viva Connections Dashboard with multiple digital tiles for different resources.
Access Walkie Talkie in Microsoft Teams on more devices
The Walkie Talkie app helps streamline the way frontline workers securely communicate with each other by offering a familiar push-to-talk experience built directly within Teams. Frontline teams can instantly communicate with each other, anywhere in the world, without having to worry about frequency static or cross talk. I’m excited to announce the addition of Crosscall ruggedized handheld devices to our growing list of Walkie Talkie integration partnerships with Samsung Electronics, Zebra Technologies, Sonim Technologies, and Kyocera. Manufacturing frontline workers will now be able to use Teams Walkie Talkie on select Crosscall Core-X, Core-T, and Action-X series devices. Read the Tech Community blog, Walkie Talkie in Teams is now supported on Crosscall rugged devices, to learn more.

Side view of a mobile device showing the built-in push-to-talk Walkie Talkie button, next to the front view of the same device showing Walkie Talkie screen with a digital microphone button in center.
Support multiple home sites and multilingual Dashboards in Microsoft Viva Connections
Customers will soon have the option to enable multiple home sites within a single Microsoft Viva Connections tenant allowing a tailored experience for different roles and teams within an organization. This new feature provides a better Dashboard layout and Resources tab for frontline workers who may be in different locations, roles, or subsidiaries within a single organization—providing a home base that is more relevant and personalized.

Viva Connections Dashboards now support multiple language views in public preview. Customers with a multilingual frontline workforce can optimize their Dashboards for an employee’s preferred language—supporting inclusivity and engagement while advancing workforce transformation.

Manufacturers like Blum are leveraging tools like Microsoft Viva Connections and Microsoft Teams to promote employee culture while optimizing for the factory of the future. Learn how Blum created a customized employee experience app for their frontline workforce with Viva Connections in this customer story video.

Video still of happy employees walking outside of Blum manufacturing building with company logo.
To learn more about how Microsoft Viva Connections is enhancing the employee experience, check out the latest Tech Community blog post, What’s new and next in Viva Connections.

Upskilling for a future-proof frontline
With 55 percent of frontline workers saying they’ve had to adapt to using digital tools on the fly, with no formal training or practice, workforce transformation has never been more important.2 Within our Microsoft Viva custom-built solutions to facilitate upskilling, reskilling, and ongoing learning, we are announcing several new capabilities to help companies equip their frontline with the tools and training to stay up to date, improve safety and compliance, and prepare for the future.

In-line playback for Viva Learning is now generally available in Teams and allows manufacturing workers to watch content from LinkedIn Learning directly in the mobile app. Previously only available on desktop, frontline workers can now access learning and development courses in a way that better suits their needs through on-the-go learning on their mobile devices. And, in preview in June 2022, customers can discover, view, and share Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) content alongside formal learning courses through Viva Learning. Generally available in June 2022, manufacturing workers will be able to search and filter for company content—like safety trainings and onboarding resources—by description, duration, skill tags, and more.