Equipping the workforce for smart factories of the future

Posted on 4 Jun 2019 by The Manufacturer

Workers have long been the fuel for manufacturing’s engine of growth. But today that fuel supply is in jeopardy as manufacturers around the world contend with evolving job requirements and aging workers with deep process understanding leaving the workforce.

Despite continuing productivity from automation and other elements of supply chain optimisation, Deloitte estimates nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the US from 2015 to 2025, and the skills gap will leave 2 million of them unfilled.

Meanwhile, the UN reports that China’s over-65 population will surge from 8% to 23% between 2010 and 2040 – even as Chinese factories today struggle to fill positions.

In Europe, citizens will need to work to a later age to support the Europe 2020 Strategy of increasing general employment to 75%.

CROP - Automation Cloud Digital Digitalisation Industrial Internet IIoT factories of the future - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) are further complicating matters, creating additional skills gaps and forcing manufacturers and industrial operators to reshape their workforces.

Workers need new skills that aren’t easily found in today’s workforce to enable this convergence and to take advantage of new technology.

There is no single or short-term fix for overcoming these profound demographic changes and technology skills gaps. But there are some key areas where manufacturers can better prepare their operations and empower their workers to adjust to the challenge ahead

Attracting tomorrow’s workforce

Manufacturers face a formidable challenge – attracting tomorrow’s workers while preserving the collective knowledge and experience of the ‘baby boomer’ workforce.

They must nurture a new generation of tech-savvy production workers and managers who are ready to face the challenge ahead. This requires attracting students early, feeding their interest in manufacturing, and showing the benefits of a career in industry.

65% of respondents to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 believe that manufacturers have a responsibility to get involved in schools and training to shape the workforce of the future.

This involvement could take on many forms – from supporting technology programs at local schools, to introducing technology at manufacturing facilities that is modern, mobile and easy to use for both younger workers and older generations.

AMR 2019 - manufacturers have a responsibility to get involved in schools and training to shape the workforce of the future.

Training and lifelong learning is critical

Manufacturing has evolved far beyond the days of workers tied to dedicated, repetitive jobs. It is expected that many manufacturing processes will more radically change in the next five years than they have in the past 20.

Advancing technologies and evolving manufacturing processes require a highly-trained, agile workforce. As the Industrial IoT expands and IT and OT systems converge, companies need to equip workers with new skills to enable this convergence and take advantage of newly available information that can drive better decisions.

In a connected enterprise, workers have real-time access to production information that can be communicated via alarms to the right people at the right time.

The benefits of this increased information-sharing are profound – companies are more competitive due to faster time-to-market, lower total cost of ownership, increased asset utilisation and improved risk mitigation.

To be successful, manufacturers must view training as a competitive differentiator rather than an expense. They must incorporate the need for lifelong learning into their business plans. In addition, private and publicly funded job training programs must target industry-needed skills and competencies.

Equipping the workforce for smart factories of the future is difficult, and most companies express concern about their current workforce’s ability to meet the demands. To keep up, workers need to be problem-solvers, creative thinkers and self-directed learners.

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Traditional one-size-fits-all classroom instruction won’t be enough, especially for younger students and employees.

The most effective education will include competency-based, multimedia instruction using cooperative work/learning assignments and courseware with simulations of real-life manufacturing situations.

At Epicor, we believe that having the latest, industry-specific ERP platform, whether on-premise or in the cloud, is paramount to the future success of UK manufacturers.

Our technology is an enabler for reaping the benefits of the current and future wave of technological advances our industry is experiencing right now. Using the latest technology is key to bridging the skills gap and attracting new talent into our industry.

We would love to find out more about how we can partner to support your business growth.


GO FURTHER: Industry 4.0 & The Factory of the Future

Industry 4.0 & The Factory of the Future Webinar - Screen Grab - Epicor UKThere has been a lot of buzz over the past few years about Industry 4.0. In this recorded webcast you will learn what Industry 4.0 is and why it matters to you.

There is a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart manufacturing, and how these concepts can help in your manufacturing plants.

There are also real-world examples of tools that can help you reduce costs, improve quality, and increase efficiency.

Click here to watch the webcast