7 Ways to Build a Smarter Manufacturing Team

As manufacturers look to meet the competitive mandate to digitally transform their operations, the digital skillset of their team will be critical to their future success and resilience. For many manufacturers, finding skilled talent can be a challenge. In a recent survey from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturing executives reported that recruitment is more challenging today than before the pandemic.

The study also found that the lack of available skills in today’s workforce could leave 2.1 million U.S. manufacturing jobs unfilled by 2030, costing manufacturers $1 trillion in lost productivity. For their part, 77% of manufacturing workers reported a willingness to retrain to improve their future employability according to a 2020 PwC survey.

Though industrial businesses and workers agree that training on digital skills is instrumental in building out future productivity, many manufacturers have simply not tied work performance to learning and development. A 2019 Tooling U-SME survey of manufacturers found that industrial businesses were not bridging the skills gap, contributing to a high cost of turnover rate and lost productivity. Just 12% had training and development programs in place, with one-third budgeting for external or on-the-job employee development.

To build out attractive recruitment and retention programs, manufacturers need to develop scalable digital training. Here are 7 ways that manufacturers can engage and guide their workforces as they build out their digitally transformed operations.

1. Executive Ownership of Building a Smarter Manufacturing Team

Direction from manufacturing executives can ensure their company pairs its training programs to tangible business objectives and strategic goals, holding leaders accountable for making decisions that also promote digital transformation, employee retention, and productivity. It requires leadership to be literate in digitally-enabled opportunities and communicate associated goals clearly to employees to earn their buy-in. A data integrity committee, for example, can accomplish this board-level oversight of workforce initiatives while advancing strategic data-driven business goals at the frontlines.

2. Providing access to online tech courses and nanodegree programs

Learning platforms like Udacity and Coursera offer courses in anything from Six Sigma proficiency to Robotics for Advanced Manufacturing. Training initiatives do not need to happen on the job, but creating opportunities for learning by providing access to these platforms will attract new hires and build a culture that emphasizes the importance of continual digital learning.

3. Partnering with local schools to create a talent pipeline

Take Harper College in Illinois, for example, which previously had dismantled its manufacturing curriculum. With the support of the Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing (INAM), local high schools, and federal grants, Harper College revamped its manufacturing curriculum, filling 30,000 open jobs paying on average $29 per hour. With input from INAM, the redesigned and manufacturer-influenced curriculum enables students to earn an associate degree debt-free with guaranteed employment upon graduation by pairing specializations in Automation, Metal Fabrication, Precision Machining, or Supply Chain and Logistics Management and apprenticeships.

4. Tapping into networks of right-skilled workers

For smaller manufacturing firms who struggle to recruit a workforce floor-ready for advanced manufacturing, contractors represent an opportunity to take advantage of the technical skills required. A manufacturing-focused talent marketplace like Veryable is key to connecting flexible and skilled workforces to manufacturing firms in need of flexible labor.

5. Using simple out-of-the-box software

A digital solution that suits Industry 4.0 is one that simply works — manufacturing firms can no longer afford to leave technology users to weave, bundle, bridge, abstract, translate, connect, develop, and outsource disparate and disjointed pieces of software.

Uptake Asset Strategy Library® Explorer was created with this need in mind, providing industry-proven preventative maintenance strategies on-demand. As asset-heavy industries struggle with knowledge transfer as many longtime maintenance and reliability professionals look to retire, PM Strategy Explorer digitizes domain expertise and provides step-by-step maintenance tasks based on specific failure modes for critical assets.

6. Software demos for employees by power users

Offering ample time and opportunity for manufacturing workers to share knowledge can help reskill and upskill employees across an enterprise. Asynchronous access to demos through video recordings and instructional guides prepared by team members can help new personnel get up to speed quicker. Think of it as your very own Coursera or Udacity, an internal one-stop-shop for learning and development.

7. Making OT data available to the enterprise

Operational technology (OT) data has long held back asset-intensive operations like manufacturing from cost-effectively taking advantage of applications like AI/ML, digital twins, and operational orchestration. In particular, the compression of OT data and its restriction to proprietary formats often keeps data locked in unusable formats for preferred methods of consumption.

Uptake Fusion, for example, makes business and maintenance users both power users of OT data, allowing them to cost-effectively develop high-value, multi-purpose industrial applications as they wish. It presents the critical context for various data consumers in the organization, retaining the same object model used to query OT data on-premise but in the cloud to scale decision-making.

Making Talent Development a Competitive Advantage

On-demand access to software, datasets, and learning are key as manufacturers look to earn buy-in from their teams. Those manufacturers that will be competitive are those that invest today in developing a culture of lifelong digital learning to guide their workforces through Industry 4.0.

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