The “tech economy”, a term that appeared on the landscape at the end of the last century as computers became central drivers of commerce, now has another name: the economy. No longer are digital manufacturing platforms a fringe development or a sign of things to come. Cloud computing, network-based operations and single platform back office management are no longer the “the future” of manufacturing; they’re the present, and they’re here to stay. And as operations become leaner and producers gain a more nuanced and real-time understanding of customer needs, the overlay between manufacturing and technology will become even more comprehensive.
So what does this mean for the last vestiges of the old model? And what does it mean for the future of staffing and hiring in the manufacturing sector?
The National Academy of Engineering, a research group created by congress, recently produced a report that documents the shrinking division between manufacturing and technological innovation. According to the NAE, technological advancements are radically altering the way products are conceived, designed, created and distributed.
New developments in data collection and analysis, crowd sourcing, and product creation have opened up vast new opportunities that help companies better understand customer needs, develop more efficient design and development processes, discover new markets, and gain new access to investment funding. As the report points out, pharmaceutical and automotive manufacturing have been radically altered by these innovations. For example, platforms are now available that can help patients remember to take their medications on time, and car manufacturers can now monitor vehicle maintenance and provide new forms of in-car entertainment.
Technology, Manufacturing, and Staffing
The report also documents the rapid disappearance of repetitive and manual jobs, which used to provide the foundation of the industry. Even with vast improvements in product quality, an average car manufacturing plant can now operate smoothly with 30 percent of the staff that were required in 1965. As assembly line positions disappear, the remaining roles in the industry require increasingly specific and advanced technological skill sets, for example, using indoor GPS and laser positioning systems to assemble the components of a car or aircraft.
And as these positions become smaller in number and more demanding of specific skill sets, manufacturing managers are encountering a “skills gap”, or a host of difficult-to-staff positions that remain open long enough to undercut the organization’s bottom line. Closing the skills gap will be one of the most daunting challenges facing manufacturing managers and executives in the decades to come, according to the report.
To overcome this challenge, manufacturing companies will need to provide advanced levels of employee training while working together with government programs and higher education. A growing percentage of the working population will need to acquire specific programing and engineering skills that are now in short supply. For more on how to tackle the skills gap and plan for the future, reach out to the Little Rock manufacturing staffing experts at Career Staffing Services.