A new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is blending automation and data exchange in ways that have never been possible before. The change has strengthened the concept of a “smart factory” that integrates cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing to create an increasingly cooperative relationship between man and machine throughout the manufacturing process.
Some fantastic developments regarding the future of employment in this new landscape were revealed in a report released last week by the Association of Advancing Automation (A3). The document detailed how interconnectivity, automation and, more specifically, robots work to create increasingly valuable and necessary work roles. Keep reading to find out how the skills gap is being addressed at home and abroad and how worker wages figure into the equation.
Automation: Replacing The Mundane With The Mechatronic
As advancements in automation and robotics reach a new zenith, individuals and organizations can more effectively and affordably integrate these mechatronic marvels into their manufacturing processes. Able to complete simple tasks with a high degree of quality, these robots enable the current manufacturing workforce, and those entering the field, to approach more complex and demanding roles in the workplace. As a result, new approaches to training and education are required to prepare workers in how best to leverage these technologies and improve productivity. The same is true not just for manufacturing but an array of industries, including hospitality, transportation, and healthcare.
New Careers For An Existing Workforce
The results of automation are far from the sound bites and headlines predicting an end to the job market as we know it. In a sense it’s true, but hardly from a negative standpoint. While automation does eat up the roles charged with repetitive and simple tasks, it enables the workforce to take on more complex responsibilities that lead to further productivity and profitability. A poignant example with a focus on banking was offered at last week’s A3 conference.
With the arrival of the ATM, many people thought the role of the bank teller would go the way of the dodo. Long story short: it did not. The number of bank tellers fell by about a third. This presented banks with the opportunity to open more branches, approximately 40% more during that time, with the money saved by allowing machines take over the mundane cash-handling roles. More employees were then hired to fulfill more intellectually-demanding careers, such as relationship banking and credit and finance management. With these new roles came the need for more advanced training to adequately prepare the workforce to fill such positions.
Education, Certification, And Resurrection Of The Apprenticeship
As the number of opportunities in new careers grows because of increased automation, advances in educating and certifying a more talented workforce need to take place.
Based on data from the OECD, the National Bureau of Statistics of China and the University Grants Commission of India, Germany, India, and China have produced the greatest human investment in STEM fields over the last 15 years, with graduates in these sectors rising 170, 110, and 150 percent respectively. The US and South Korea have only increased their number of graduates by 40 and 20 percent in the same timeframe. Japan has foundered and seen a 10 percent reduction in STEM degrees. The top performers have been pushing STEM efforts beginning at the K-12 level, while additionally enhancing vocational training courses, and strengthening community college and university offerings that are attractive to employers in the manufacturing sector.
According to the Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, executives across the board agree that the biggest hurdle in advancing their operations in manufacturing is talent. It is estimated that 60% of critical positions in manufacturing remain unfilled. Beyond lack of qualified individuals, the time it takes to recruit, interview, and bring hires up to speed in the workplace can take as long as three months for engineering and research positions and two months for skilled production workers.
Employers have been addressing the hurdle by building from within through apprenticeships and on-the-job training. University isn’t appealing to or even practical for everybody, but with quality educational resources at their disposal, employees who find themselves with just a high-school degree can receive relevant, high-level training while at work or be compensated for continuing their education through external institutions. For example, Amazon has created its Career Choice program for hourly employees. Designed to give workers the opportunity to learn skills for in-demand jobs, the program pays for 95% of tuition costs towards robotics, computer science, engineering, and IT courses. Amazon even offers on-site classrooms to make the learning process as convenient as possible for participants. Programs like these make the benefits of automation clear: with labor freed and profits increased, companies can invest in their workforces to scale competently with growth.
Industry 4.0: Competition Breeds Opportunity For Workers
Beyond the opportunities for advancing education, compensation packages have steadily increased for talented workers in manufacturing. From back office to the shop floor, these employees can demand elite-level paychecks with benefits to boot. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, entry-level positions in manufacturing begin at $20 an hour with the total compensation for manufacturing jobs reaching an average of $81,000 including benefits, compared to the average of $63,000 for all nonfarm workers.
Perhaps it has been true in the past that the world’s manufacturing personnel feared robots would take over the shop floor to the detriment of a human workforce. However, the data reveals they’ve only paved the way for more rewarding positions and opportunities beyond the assembly line.
About Encompass Solutions
Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.