Workforce challenges solved with Industry 4.0 technologies

Are you struggling to recruit for manufacturing roles that you once found straightforward to fill? Many people believe manufacturing jobs are disappearing, yet Forbes report that the struggle may lie in the skills gap, rather than in manufacturing unemployment as a whole.
Manufacturers are in a predicament between an existing soon-to-be-retired workforce and an array of young, energetic engineers and factory operators with somewhat less experience. The job openings exist, but who is going to fill them?

Forbes report that manufacturers need skilled engineers and machine operators but it’s often those lacking these required skills that are looking for work. The result, according to Forbes is that factories are ‘struggling to run their business with a workforce that’s smaller than ideal’.

However, one of the solutions to the current state of affairs appears to be technology. As industry 4.0 technologies continue to amplify the contributions from employees and increase their productivity, manufacturers can manage with fewer employees.

Knowledge is power

A talented, older workforce means that companies become dependent on their employees to maintain their intellectual property. The employees who have been there the longest have knowledge of all company specific manufacturing processes, and it’s this intellectual property that differentiates them from their competitors.

Forbes state that ‘If that knowledge is not recorded, analysed and understood across the organization, and if you don’t have a process in place to effectively transfer it to young engineers, your company is at risk.’

Therefore, by adopting sophisticated data-driven practices and principles, two aspects of this problem are addressed. By transferring knowledge from the workforce to the manufacturing system, experts can access the data more effectively and use it to their advantage. This means that the workforce will have access to an improved manufacturing system that aims to enhance the knowledge and skill of the experienced engineers and operators, making them more productive. And, once this knowledge has been captured and made available throughout advanced manufacturing systems, ‘employees throughout the company also gain access to it, fostering a culture of data transparency.’

Attracting the young and highly-skilled

Forbes report that ‘recruiting young, skilled talent has become increasingly difficult as the pool of young engineers and skilled workers seeking manufacturing jobs is unfortunately small.’

As manufacturing is becoming increasingly more high-tech, it is up to each company to demonstrate that their facilities are attractive to potential recruits, and as reported ‘Updating factory tooling, automation and software with the latest industry 4.0 technologies’ will go some way to attract the computer savvy talent that has grown up with innovative digital technologies.

Invest in upskilling

Investments in data solutions and technology provides benefits for the lower skilled operators on the factory floor. As domain knowledge from the highly skilled engineers is collected and utilised in manufacturing systems, the lower skilled operators gain access to it, minimising the difficulty of learning specialised processes that may have contributed towards a high turnover in staff. With knowledge built in to the system, new employees can learn faster, meaning that the chances of them getting discouraged and quitting are considerably lower.

Additionally, once the new staff members have been fully trained on the fundamentals of the process, operators can leverage digital technology and learn from the system, ‘increasing their skills to the benefit of themselves and the company.’

Forbes report that ‘one study found that manufacturing engineers spend roughly 30% of their time looking for information.’ Luckily, as Industry 4.0 technologies come in to their own, companies can begin to reduce time spent searching for information by making data and information readily available on the factory floor, ultimately helping to address long-standing workforce challenges.
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