Reskilling for Industry 4.0: Prepare for Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Jobs Today
Industry 4.0 is in full swing. While many manufacturing professionals fear automation technology will make many manufacturing jobs obsolete, the reality is that the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and modern software actually introduces new opportunities in manufacturing. A record 522,000 jobs remained open in September 2019i, with the number of open manufacturing jobs having increased by double digits since mid-2017ii.
The new era of manufacturing is creating stiff competition among companies trying to hire tech-savvy employees who have coding, app development, data science and other technical expertise. This exciting new job market represents a unique opportunity for anyone interested or already working in a career in manufacturing. All you need are the skills that automated manufacturing demands. A good way to embrace Industry 4.0 is by building and enhancing your skills through relevant IT training.
The Shifting Skill Sets Driven by Industry 4.0
By 2022, the manufacturing job market will have significantly shifted in focus. Jobs are evolving from the physical to the analytical, and from manual to technology-driven. The World Economic Forum has outlined the in-demand skills manufacturers need in relation to today’s common manufacturing job skill sets, which you can use as a guide in determining your own reskilling pathiii.
If your current job focuses on…
Seek reskilling opportunities like…
Manual dexterity, endurance and precision
Technology installation and maintenance
Reading, writing, math and active listening
Management of personnel
Quality control and safety awareness
Technology use, monitoring and control
The shift in required skill sets is a result of manufacturing companies adopting technology and automation. As more manufacturers incorporate AI, IoT and automation systems to create smart factories, integrate supply chains and develop more customer-friendly distribution and sales chains, they need more employees who have skills related to these innovative capabilities.
Top Skills to Master for Your Future in Manufacturing
Manufacturing innovations are lowering costs, accelerating production lines, reducing risk and failure and enabling levels of customer service previously out of reach. While multiple technologies play a part in Industry 4.0, the four leading areas in which you should hone your skills to help support — and succeed in — the new industrial revolution are AI, IoT, modern software and data analytics.
AI — including industrial robotics, machine vision, intelligent products, machine learning and collaborative robots — is the innovative driver behind smart factories, integrated supply chains and customer-friendly distribution and sales chains. These AI-driven systems improve end-to-end operations — from market analysis to design and manufacturing to delivery and support. For example, industry leaders expect significant growth in the use of predictive systems that reroute production before equipment failure and provide inventory analysis for efficient and cost-effective parts management. AI also powers intelligent supply chains that provide just-in-time delivery, and robotic process automation (RPA) helps manufacturers produce more product with lower risk of fault or failure.
As more smart factories come online, manufacturers are faced with significant workforce challenges, including a lack of employees who have the necessary digital skills to implement and maintain AI systems. Current or aspiring manufacturing professionals can upskill or reskill to take advantage of emerging AI-related opportunities. AI topics cover everything from business intelligence and complex problem solving to systems configuration and management to in-depth, technical data science and code development. Similarly, training courses and learning paths in AI range from vendor-specific workshops to in-depth computer science learning.
The Internet of Things
When leveraging IoT — the interconnection of unique devices within a networked infrastructure — manufacturers are realizing cost reductions, increased efficiency, improved safety and compliance adherence and innovation in product development. By communicating with one another through closed networks, Wi-Fi or cloud, IoT devices free up manpower and streamline operations. They also provide valuable, accurate production metrics, alert staff to impending system failures, improve fault tolerance and reroute production automatically to improve efficiency.
There are a number of opportunities at smart factories and within manufacturing as a whole for professionals who have IoT expertise. IoT security engineers, solutions specialists and architects, hardware and software designers and industrial consultants are all in high demand. Learning a blend of vendor-specific systems and IoT foundational knowledge will help you find your fit in this area of Industry 4.0.
The modernization of the manufacturing industry is producing a wealth of data from AI and IoT systems. This data represents unprecedented insights for manufacturers — but only if they can aggregate and analyze that data quickly and efficiently. While big data is often put on the table for discussion, data needs to be actionable in order to deliver value. Game-changing, actionable data improves production, optimizes operations, preempts problems and provides valuable insight for business planning.
Data science is the term given to the broad range of skills used by experts who extract meaning and usable insights from raw and structured data. The purpose of data science is to spot patterns that lead to answers that enhance business. Falling underneath data science, data analytics focus on capturing, collecting and processing data with the purpose of performing statistical analysis that generates insights and leads to enhanced business intelligence. Reskilling in data analytics requires coursework in big data aggregation, databases, statistical analysis, business intelligence, complex problem solving and more. To break into the data analytics field, you can start by taking application-specific courses that will make you an immediate asset to your organization, and you can build your skills over time with on-the-job experience and additional, follow-up courses.
Software modernization is an integral part of Industry 4.0. While software plays a significant role in AI, IoT and data analytics, modern software solutions allow manufacturers to streamline processes such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), manufacturing process simulation and supply chain management. Whether a manufacturer chooses to modernize legacy systems or integrate new software solutions or cloud services, they need adept engineers and architects who can understand, implement and manage the software behind huge volumes of data that influence ongoing operations, forecasting, decision-making and, ultimately, profitable results.
Because software is critical to many manufacturing technologies, there is a wide variety of career opportunities available. Look for a training vendor that knows the technology stacks, operating systems, programming languages and common integrations leading Industry 4.0 modernization. Choose one that offers a wide variety of courses and learning paths that support your company’s roadmap and/or your desired career path.
Seize the Manufacturing Career Opportunities of Industry 4.0
The current gap in tech-savvy talent is already a challenge for manufacturers, and as Industry 4.0 progresses, that challenge will grow. There are many exciting career progression opportunities for anyone in manufacturing and for those interested in getting into the field. Investing time and energy into learning the necessary skills now will pay off in both the short term and the long term.
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i CNBC, “Manufacturing is facing a growing skills gap that is leaving hundreds of thousands of positions open,” Oct. 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/04/manufacturing-sector-is-facing-a-growing-skills-gap.html
ii Deloitte, “2018 skills gap in manufacturing study,” 2018, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/manufacturing/articles/future-of-manufacturing-skills-gap-study.html
iii World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs Report 2018,” 2018, https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018