Embrace Digital Transformation to Meet the Demands of a Changing Workforce

Jason Chester
By Jason Chester | April 13, 2022
Director of Global Channel Programs

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

How do you get young people interested in manufacturing? It’s a question that has been plaguing the industry for years now. As the population ages, there is a growing need to replace retiring veteran workers with new employees. In the manufacturing industry alone, there could be millions of jobs available in the coming years. Analysis performed a few years back by the Manufacturing Institute, in collaboration with Deloitte, about what they call “the skills gap,” and the challenges it presents to business, indicates that “by 2025, two million skilled jobs may go unfilled [in the US] because there is no one qualified to do them.” Ouch.
 
It’s time to change the perceptions of manufacturing as being unsafe, low-skilled, and insecure. When young people (and their parents) don’t see the rewarding aspects of manufacturing careers at an early age, these misconceptions are more likely to persist into high school. Modern manufacturing jobs are much safer today than in the past; in many cases they are considered to be well-paid high-tech jobs that require skill and competency.
 
When these young students reach an age where they need to start thinking about their future educational/career path, having a positive perspective on manufacturing can only help.
Young Workers are the Future of Manufacturing

Emphasizing High Technology

Needless to say, young people who are now entering the manufacturing industry don’t want to be performing manual and laborious tasks on the production line. Who can blame them? They’d rather focus on high tech alternatives, like working with modern, intelligent machinery, data analysis tools, and the latest software. These items are more in their “wheelhouse” than manual labor. And that’s to manufacturing’s benefit. Cutting edge quality management software can quickly convert critical shop-floor data into actionable insights to optimize manufacturing operations. But not enough manufacturers have made the switch to an all-digital environment.
 
Despite the fact that the recent pandemic accelerated digital transformation initiatives across the world, the manufacturing sector is still behind in comparison to other sectors. As a result, manufacturers must enhance their digital transformation initiatives if they want to attract the best talent. This includes investing in emerging and maturing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, analytics, and cloud computing. This will give rise to the evolution towards smart factories driven by data and intelligence, rather than merely sweat and labor, which will be key in attracting the right talent—young minds that are “programmed” for using the latest technologies.
Smart Factories Need Young Minds

Needs are Changing

With intelligent automation and IoT growth comes the need for more and more highly skilled workers to operate and maintain those environments. Automation is creating new types of jobs in manufacturing by phasing out positions that perform repetitive and mundane tasks (and, as mentioned, that’s just the sort of thing that young people entering manufacturing aren’t interested in). But there’s an added benefit: automation is also increasing the need for highly trained professionals covering a broad range of skills—from mechanical and electrical engineering to advanced mathematics and data analytics.
With Increased Automation Comes New Opportunities

The Future of Manufacturing

InfinityQS conducted a study that showed that 75% of manufacturers are still manually collecting their data, and nearly half of those are still using paper checklists to record information. It’s not that manufacturers are patently refusing to embrace digital transformation, but they are resisting due to a host of understandable reasons: perceived cost, fear of failure, extensive change management, and (perhaps the biggest problem) lack of talent to support the new technology, to name but a few.
 
If you introduce these new technologies, then you need people who understand how to use them effectively. Otherwise, you’ve wasted your money and your time.
 
The solution is to think less about the present and more about the future of manufacturing. The new manufacturing workforce is comprised of tech-savvy individuals, used to having information at their fingertips—at the click of the mouse or tap of the screen. Whereas previous generations needed to get comfortable with technology, today’s workforce has grown up with it—they’re hard-wired to deal with it, and in many cases, excel with it. They expect to have the same real-time access to information they’re used to in everyday life on the computers and mobile devices they use on the job—not clipboards, papers, and checklists.
 
To truly engage this new generation of workers (in fact, to attract them at all), manufacturing needs to keep pace with technology.
Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Take Advantage of the Digital Environment

Further InfinityQS research has revealed that 52% of respondents have already adopted, or are exploring the option of adopting, digital transformation initiatives. This shows that the increase, or planned increase, in digital transformation is largely down to the impact of COVID-19. What was once a long-term strategic vision became an urgent and necessary tactical response to the pandemic firefight, and while it’s great to see this increase, many manufacturers often write off an investment if it doesn’t show an immediate, big return.
 
Manufacturers now need to truly capitalize on these new digital environments. To do this, they must invest in and recruit new talent into the workforce that can drive even greater levels of innovation. It is vital that manufacturers see this as a long-term, permanent endeavor and not one that dissolves into a missed opportunity.
 
I encourage you to take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information about our industry-leading quality management software solutions. They’ll get—and keep—your organization (and your new employees) on the right track as the industry shifts toward more new technology.

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