Upskilling for the Move to the Smart Factory

Posted by IMEC on Jul 20, 2021 12:33:47 PM

On the heels of the global pandemic comes yet another challenge for manufacturers to face: The coming of the “smart factory”. The factory that requires you to upskill your workers just to stay afloat and will leave you and your employees behind if you don’t start planning now. Right now.

According to a manufacturing talent study conducted recently by Deloitte in conjunction with The Manufacturing Institute, 2.1 million factory jobs will go unfilled between 2020 and 2030 simply because the employees of today will not have the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

Since the skills needed for the smart factory will be markedly different than those needed on today’s shop floor, it only stands to reason that your current employees need to be retrained. While you may agree wholeheartedly, your first concern likely centers around pulling your workers off the shop floor to teach them new skills, and just what that will mean to your current productivity levels. A few hours or days of training will increase productivity in the long run, so finding the time to devote to your employee's skills is essential even if it may be a bit hard to schedule in. Use this calculator to determine the cost of turnovers and how employee training boosts your bottom line.

Many of today’s manufacturing employees still remember the plants closed and jobs lost during the recession of the 1980s. The idea of not just holding onto a job, but instead building a career path may be very appealing to employees today. Let your line workers know of your intention to train everyone to a greater skill level that can be used well into the future. At the same time, express to them that interim increases in work hours may be required of them to ensure that everyone is retrained. If you have twenty people on the line, and you remove them in groups of five for retraining / upskilling classes, that puts a temporary burden on the other fifteen. But when you pledge that all of them will ultimately be retrained for a better job, when you show them a true career path, the benefits to cooperation will become clear. An increase in workload is much more palatable to an employee when they know that it is temporary, and will lead everyone to a better, more secure place.

You may also realize other benefits to this process that go beyond a well-trained workforce. For instance, you may find that the worker who is only adequate at his / her current job is a shining star at the job for which he / she is being retrained. Extraordinary talent doesn’t often make itself known in a starter position. Planning for tomorrow’s smart factory may provide an employee the opportunity to find their niche and become your company’s superstar. Losing and replacing a “rock star” employee who feels stuck in a job, with no prospect of learning new skills or moving up the ladder may cost you more than a temporary decrease in productivity ever would.

Over the next few years, manufacturing is expected to become more automated and technology-driven. Yet, robots and machines will never replace the need for competent, dedicated, and reliable workers who have up-to-date skills. Give your employees the training they need to be successful on the smart shop floor - get in touch with an expert at IMEC who can help you get started with a workforce development plan.

Creating a reasonable plan and making it visible will help create ownership throughout the organization, so you don’t have to do it all yourself. Watch the recorded EQUIP YOUR TEAMS: How a Training Matrix Can Identify and Address Skill Gaps Webinar and learn how to create a learning culture.



Written by IMEC

Topics: employee engagement, manufacturing, operations, productivity, workforce, workforce development, Industry 4.0, talent retention, smart manufacturing, smart factory

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