There’s a lot of news lately about the growing labor shortage and the trend toward fewer people looking to work in manufacturing. We know that the global workforce is aging out – retiring with decades of institutional knowledge. More distressing for the future of the sector is the very real perception problem around what manufacturing work really is today, and why anyone looking for a job that’s challenging and financially rewarding should look at manufacturing.
The simple fact is that manufacturing jobs have changed enormously, and working in production environments requires more brains than brawn, as machines increasingly do the majority of the heavy lifting. Take CNC machining, for example: The training manual for a typical process is more than 200 pages long, and it can take up to two years for a person to be trained on that machine. Sadly, though, while salaries for these jobs can be worthwhile, the skills gap is real, and filling those positions is getting harder every day.
I think it’s clear that manufacturers need to do a better job of selling the opportunities for people to work in manufacturing. So here’s a crazy idea: What if one of the opportunities that got a spotlight was working with collaborative robots(cobots)?
Yes, you read that right. Instead of focusing on the jobs that will be eliminated by collaborative robots that can automate so many more tasks, the narrative was built around the opportunity to work with smart machines on transformative strategies that build high-performing, efficient and highly competitive operations. A new portfolio of skills, like creativity, complex problem-solving and critical thinking, are the ones that the next generation of workers want to bring to the workplace – and the ones that will be essential in the digital age of manufacturing. Working with big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more are just some of the opportunities that collaborative robots make possible in manufacturing – and are hot fields.
Making it cool to work in manufacturing is not really that crazy – or hard. We’ve got customers who share with us that their employees love working with our collaborative robots and take great pride in telling their friends and family about that work. And because cobots are changing the definition of work, there’s no better time to rebrand what it means to work in manufacturing and use robots as a lever to attract the best and the brightest talent.
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About the Author
Jim had a choice upon graduating from Tufts University – chase a dream as a concert pianist or become part of the inaugural Leaders for Manufacturing Program at MIT. He chose the latter– dedicating his career to developing and delivering innovative solutions that improve the business of manufacturing. Internally at HP, and then at breakthrough start-ups in e-commerce, inventory optimization and supply chain risk management, Jim’s never once looked back. His charter today: capture the power of data and analytics to push the standard for world-class manufacturing higher—once again.