Industry 4.0 - Closing the skills gap?
You may have heard of the concept of Industry 4.0 – if not this is otherwise known as the new age industrial revolution. It is a prediction that the manufacturing industry is set to replace workers with modern technology across many sectors. TRS, a supplier of manufacturing staffing services has researched and reviewed the current engineering climate – with its future.
There has always been a demand for skilled employees within manufacturing jobs, however, many are finding difficulty in securing a skilled staff force in an increasingly productivity driven workplace. Industry 4.0 is predicted to see manufacturers across the globe move toward new business models with data, cyber systems and cloud computing at its foundations. With technological advancement expanding across all engineering roles, there is a growing skepticism about the future of the engineering work force. However, research suggests that employment levels could thrive as staff could work in conjunction with new technologies instead of being replaced by them.
The US Manufacturing industry is predicted to have as many as 2.4 million jobs to fill between now and 2028. According to Operations Solutions, the lack of qualified talent in Manufacturing could be set to incur the collective loss of $454 billion in GDP by 2028. From a Manufacturing Recruitment Agency viewpoint, there are a variety of issues that are assisting this economic loss – which are generally surrounding the perceptions of the future of Manufacturing.
The enhancement of technological advancements, according to Forbes, create misconceptions about the need for human staff in the near future. Workers have already been replaced by particular systems on the manufacturing line, with an ability to mimic repetitive processes at a faster and more accurate rate. This to many is a sign that traditional methods of production are being replaced by machinery. Although this appears a stressful concept, Forbes explain that this process has happened previously in history. “In the mid-19th century, the machines of the Industrial Revolution were replacing traditional farming methods and changing the face of agriculture. But rather than see human staff pushed out, this, in fact, led to the creation of new job roles and skills ― from machinery operators to vehicle drivers.” This future Industrial enhancement will in fact open up the possibility of new job role opportunities as previous industrial development has, whilst improving overall site safety.
We can already see this new method of working within current production processes. WoodBusiness have explained that their open software solution “ActiveAssist” actually enhances employee experience, using Identification systems to load required plans that are then projected onto the work surface. Machinery guides the employee through the workflow whilst tracking movements through 3D cameras to ensure steps are automatically updated when required.
The automotive sector is another example that employees at all levels – mechanical engineering positions to sales and senior executives have the ability to collaborate with technology and have a more rewarding experience. According to Manufacturing.net, “Alfred P. Sloan Jr.’s commitment to new concepts such as automotive styling and Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line – defines an industry in which change occurs more often than not.” The latest enhancement is said to be delivered by Industry 4.0, with the increasing demand for automation. This leads the way for more refined customer insight, as well as an increase in production therefore reducing the workload. Current automotive staffing increasingly offers more time to focus and use creative thinking.
Machines being used to benefit staff can also be applied in the concept of the demand and supply issue of skilled employees. Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute recently submitted their fourth skills gap study with reference to the future of manufacturing work. The study explains that “As recently as August 2018, there were 508,000 open jobs in US manufacturing... While the job gains are positive indications that the industry continues to recover from the Recession and reflect strong production levels, it also means that finding talent with the right skills to fill the open jobs could reach crisis proportions.” Results show that maintaining production levels to satisfy customer demand is one of the biggest challenges arising in the next three years according to business executives. This is directly correlated with the difficulty in finding skilled workers who can complete their job accurately. “Many manufacturers today are turning toward automation to supplement the low-skilled jobs they cannot fill and instead focus their existing workers on jobs that are either higher skilled or require uniquely human skills.” One of the top skills predicted to be in significant demand is the concept of critical thinking. As the manufacturing process becomes increasingly automated, human skills such as this will be valued across Manufacturing.
The insecurity associated with Industry 4.0 will be short lived. As technology and automation evolves throughout Manufacturing we are seeing a change in how staff perform - not replacing staff, a development in their roles, and a demand for typically human skills on the rise. A human-machine pairing could offer an opportunity to close the skills gap and invent new roles available for workers that will deliver value.
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