As an increasing number of manufacturers adopt smart-manufacturing systems, the demands on their employees change. Instead of physically making products, employees are now needed to monitor, install, and program machines that do the work for them. This smart-manufacturing model requires employees to fluidly learn new skills to adjust to their changing roles and improving technologies.
For example, an increasing number of manufacturers are connecting the machines on their shop floor to the internet in order to allow managers – sometimes across multiple facilities – to view and interpret data from their machinery in real time. This unified network, called The Connected Enterprise, alters the roles of the employees who install and maintain it, particularly IT and OT workers.
Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) have traditionally been very different roles, but with the implementation of The Connected Enterprise, these roles are beginning to merge. Each side now needs to know more about the other in order to keep the network running smoothly.
The key to making this transition as seamless as possible is an updated training approach that includes both the OT and IT sides of network maintenance. These new types of training courses that are designed for OT and IT to take together are quickly replacing traditional training, making it easier for them to integrate their networks.
In addition to training current employees on their changing roles, training is also needed for new employees. 2.7 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire from manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years, while the manufacturing industry is expected to expand – creating 700,000 new job in the same time frame according to TechSolve. That means there will be an average of 340,000 open manufacturing positions per year that need to be filled. This is creating a huge vacuum of talent, where highly experienced workers are leaving the industry in droves, while millennials are either uninterested in or unable to fill the gap.
There is a perception among young people that manufacturing jobs are dangerous, monotonous, low paying, and lack opportunities for advancement. It is this outdated perception that keeps them from applying for these technology centered positions in spite of an unemployment rate that is roughly 3 times the national average, and a higher average level of debt than any previous generation in history.
Even those millennials who do apply for increasingly available smart-manufacturing positions are often turned away due to a lack of training and experience. According to a recent Accenture survey, 60% of U.S. manufacturers have trouble filling vacant positions due a lack of qualified applicants. The problem with this is there are few to no venues in which unexperienced young workers can gain the skills needed to succeed in these jobs. They need an entry level job to gain experience, and they need experience to gain an entry level job.
The answer to this catch-22 is training. Manufacturers need to be willing to invest in training a new generation of workers, and there is no better time to make that investment than when they are migrating to an increasingly automated, smart-manufacturing system.
Written By: North Coast Automation Solutions. Through its exclusive partnership with Rockwell Automation/Allen Bradley, the NCAS team of Specialists offers automation products, services, and solutions that help NCE customers become more efficient, proactively address safety issues, and reduce costs. Visit their site at https://www.northcoastelectric.com/staticPage.action?ID=659