Embrace Ongoing Technical Training As A Best Practice 6463f509431c6

Embrace ongoing technical training as a best practice

May 23, 2023
Adrian Messer says developing your skilled Industry 4.0 workforce can no longer stop at the hiring door.

The manufacturing industry as we know it, has been undergoing a paradigm shift in the way that we think about and execute maintenance and reliability of our physical assets. Industry 4.0 technologies such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have become increasingly more widespread, and cyber-threats to networked industrial assets are growing.

While these technologies offer numerous benefits such as increased efficiency, productivity, and profitability, they also pose significant challenges for the industry, particularly regarding the industrial skilled trades gap. Addressing these challenges will require a collaborative effort between industry, government, and our educational institutions to provide training and education opportunities, bridge the digital divide, and make necessary investments in technology and infrastructure.

Shortage of skilled workers. As experienced workers retire and younger generations are interested in other career paths, there has become a shortage of skilled industrial workers. The gap is widening as the industry continued to adopt new technologies and processes. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, more than 4.6 million jobs are expected to be created in the manufacturing sector over the next decade, but 2.4 million of those jobs could go unfilled due to the skills gap. Manufacturers must invest in training and education programs to attract and retain skilled workers and ensure that they have the necessary skills to work with advanced industrial technologies.

Training and education. Industry 4.0 requires workers with a higher level of technical skills and knowledge than traditional manufacturing jobs. However, many workers currently in manufacturing do not have the needed training and education to work with these newer advanced technologies. If public colleges and training institutions aren’t providing the necessary training programs required for these newer advanced technologies, then manufacturers must fill the gap. One way for facilities to achieve this goal is to partner with local educational institutions to develop in-house training programs, or by offering apprenticeship programs and internships.

Digital divide. With the rapid pace of advancements around Industry 4.0, many workers and communities do not have access to the necessary technology or training that is needed, which can result in a “digital divide” that limits the opportunity for workers to participate in this new-age digital workforce. Manufacturers can help to address this challenge by partnering with both educational and community organizations to provide digital literacy and technology training programs. They can also invest in technology infrastructure, and equipment to ensure that current and future workers have access to newer skills, tools, and technologies.

Cost adopting. Newer technologies and methods surrounding Industry 4.0 can be expensive and difficult to implement. Many small and medium-sized manufacturers may struggle to afford the investments, and this can create a competitive disadvantage for these businesses. However, there may be government grants and tax incentives available to help offset the costs of adopting newer technologies and systems. Some vendors may offer leasing options or may be willing to work with other manufacturers to help share the costs associated with such technologies.

Resistance to change. The adoption of Industry 4.0 methods requires a significant shift in the way manufacturing facilities operate. Change is never easy, and some workers and even companies may be resistant to change, making it difficult to fully embrace new technologies and processes. To address this challenge, manufacturers must engage their workers and stakeholders in the transition process, providing them with training and education opportunities and fully communicating the benefits of this new strategy. This approach will keep them involved from the initial discussions, through to implementation, and then to feedback.

Complexity and standardization. Modern industrial work requires a high level of technical expertise to implement and maintain newer strategies and methodologies around Industry 4.0 initiatives. This further adds to the fact that workers need to be trained and given accurate and thorough procedures and job plans for the work that they are responsible for executing. Before the knowledge held by your more seasoned workers walks out the door due to retirement or attrition, capture that knowledge so that it can be used to increase the knowledge of the newer workers just entering the workforce. That knowledge can also be valuable when implementing newer strategies and technologies. Because Industry 4.0 is fairly early in its arrival into manufacturing and industry, there are not many standards in which to go by when deciding upon and implementing many of the tools and technologies that are in the marketplace. Therefore, the responsibility may fall upon certain industry verticals to create their own standardization guidelines.

In conclusion, the industrial skilled trades gap and Industry 4.0 pose significant challenges for industrial manufacturing. Addressing these challenges will require a comprehensive approach that includes investing in training and education, exposing current and future workers to the tools and technologies that exist today that will be in use now, and learning how to keep assets safe from cyber threats. With the right plan and execution, these challenges can be overcome, and manufacturing can reap the true benefits of Industry 4.0. Manufacturers with this approach will be better positioned and able to pivot in times of economic crisis, supply chain issues, and compete globally.

About the Author

Adrian Messer | CMRP, Vice President of Executive Services, Progressive Reliability

Adrian Messer has worked in the maintenance and reliability field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has worked with manufacturing and distribution facilities across multiple industries helping to improve their plant’s asset reliability through improved condition monitoring. Adrian is Manager of US Operations at SDT Ultrasound Solutions. Previously he worked with Progressive Reliability to advise companies on reliability-focused contracting & hiring and to find M&R professionals for open jobs.

Adrian is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Human Resources. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP) through the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and is actively involved with SMRP on a local and National level. He resides in Anderson, South Carolina.

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