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The Future of the Manufacturing Workforce

The manufacturing industry faces significant changes due to digital transformation. As these technologies replace traditional tasks and change the way jobs are structured, it forces us to consider how digital technologies will shape the future of the manufacturing workforce.

While conversations around digital transformation have largely centered on automation solutions and their ability to displace jobs, there are other innovations that we also need to consider, including cobots, artificial intelligence, big data, and so on. It is these technologies when applied together, that has the power to revolutionize work at the factory.

Skills are changing – and the need to upskill or reskill the workforce

Skills are changing, not only in the manufacturing industry but across all industries globally.

Understandably, there are anxieties about whether the workforce can adapt to this new environment, or whether we will be taken over by digital

According to a 2020 World Economic Forum report, it was predicted that robotics and automation will displace 85 million jobs globally in the next five years. Yet, the report also predicted that the same technologies will create another 97 million new jobs, typically those requiring different skills and education.

Across the value chain, from production functions, technical services, and administration, to indirect production functions, like planning and engineering, are all facing skills and workforce transformation. Notably, production functions are likely to be reduced as more companies use digital solutions that can improve efficiency and accuracy. However, this also provides people with the opportunity to move up the value chain to support the business in other areas of innovation. Big data, for instance, can provide engineers with actionable insights that they did not have access to before. Skills like data analytics and data visualization are new and emerging ones that more people need to pay attention to.

Despite the race towards a digital-first future, companies need to think about how they can attract and retain talent in the long run as well. The pandemic has changed the way people expect work to be. Employees want to work for companies that are flexible and inclusive, with a great workplace culture. In order to attract the best talent to your company, leaders also need to rethink how they can do more to support employees in this digital transformation, through programmes like upskilling training initiatives, internal support groups, among others.

Moving into new territory

We are dealing with multiple crises across the region. An uncertain economic climate, geo-political conflicts, and climate issues threaten the way we live and work. Now more than ever, companies need to contribute back to global causes to help build a better world.

In the manufacturing industry, there is an opportunity for employees to explore new frontiers in sustainability. Conscious consumers want factories to do better at being sustainable towards the environment, and with digital solutions today, companies also stand a better chance at achieving these outcomes.

Taking up skills in sustainability can allow workers to tap into this nascent field to help the business develop its sustainability capabilities.

Observing how digital transformation affects your job while paying attention to macroeconomic business trends, is key to ensuring a long-lasting career in the manufacturing space.

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