Efficient Plant January 2020 - 9

feature | workforce strategies

Brian Fortney
Rockwell Automation
Mary Burgoon
Academy of Advanced Manufacturing
Rockwell Automation

THE GREATEST THREAT to many
manufacturers today isn't any external force,
such as competitors or new regulations. It's
internal-critical shop-floor jobs that are
sitting open because skilled workers can't be
found to fill them.
According to Deloitte, New York
(deloitte.com), an estimated 2.4-million
U.S. manufacturing positions will go
unfilled between 2018 and 2028 because
of the skills gap. In that time, the skills gap
could nab $2.5 trillion of manufacturing
GDP.
A lack of skills can sting almost every
aspect of your business. It can lead to
missed production orders and poor product
quality. It can hurt your ability to innovate.
It also can endanger worker health and
safety if your teams are overstretched.
By understanding your skills needs and
creating a multi-faceted strategy to address
them, you can do more than survive the
skills gap. You can create an agile, productive, and competitive business.

A DUAL CHALLENGE

An essential element of filling
the skills gap is to help young
people understand that
today's manufacturing is not
the dirty, boring environment
they see in textbooks but a
world that involves robots,
computers/tablets, and
augmented and virtual reality.

JANUARY 2020

The skills gap is actually two large trends
converging to create one big problem, like
two waves crashing together on a ship at
sea. First, large numbers of skilled workers
are retiring, and not enough experienced
workers are taking their places. As a result,
it's becoming harder and harder to fill
critical roles. In 2018, the average number
of days it took to fill engineering, research,
and scientist positions was 118 days. That's
an increase of about 25% from 2015.
The second trend is the digitalization of
manufacturing. The merging of industrial
and IT systems, along with a shift to information-driven decision making, is putting
new demands on workers. They need new
skills in areas such as coding, network
topologies, and wireless communications
to deploy and sustain these new, connected
operations.

Many companies are overwhelmed by
these skills challenges. As a result, they end
up taking little or no action. That's why it's
so important that you have a multi-faceted
strategy-so you can understand your risks
and establish tactics to address them. Your
own strategy will be unique to your needs.
But you should consider using three key elements of skills development: engagement,
training, and support.

ENGAGE AND RE-EDUCATE
We need to engage young people to change
their manufacturing perceptions. Unfortunately, many still only learn about industry
in history class. What do you get when a
student's understanding of manufacturing
is Henry Ford and black-and-white images
of assembly lines? Most textbooks describe
manufacturing jobs as "thoughtless work
at an assembly line" and "stagnant, with no
room for originality or individuality."
It's time we open young people's eyes to
the manufacturing of today: operators who
walk the plant floor with iPads, robotic
machines that work alongside humans,
production lines that come to a stop when a
worker nears them, engineers who get x-ray
vision of a machine when they look at it
with augmented-reality technology.
Every manufacturer should be communicating this message to students and young
skilled workers. How? By delivering it in
classrooms, at job fairs, and as part of scholarships. By promoting it on social media, or
by reaching out to local newspapers, radio
stations, and TV stations to help spread the
message. Maybe even by throwing creative
events that reach young people, such as a
"microbrews and manufacturing" event at a
local brewery.
Of course, there's a lot more to communicate than manufacturing's cool factor. Students who worry about finding a job out of
college should know that skilled workers are
in demand. Not only skilled operators, but
EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM |

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Efficient Plant January 2020

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