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Over 50% of roles in manufacturing demand degree-level knowledge. The modern manufacturer doesn’t necessarily need engineering capabilities – but rather the likes of digital and programming skills. 

There is an issue though: an ageing workforce, who may lack expertise in these relatively new digital fields. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re no longer suitable for today’s business. How? Here, Made Smarter Digital Transformation Specialists Ian Marshall and Brett Turner explore how manufacturing teams are shifting in line with digitalisation.


How manufacturing teams are shifting in a digital world
  • Rebranding the workforce

    Your manufacturing workforce has knowledge and legacy skills that are crucial for manufacturing and should be harnessed. You can’t risk losing their proficiency. Instead, they need to be upskilled – you need to rebrand the workforce, so to speak.

    Reverse mentoring by someone with technological expertise is a great idea. A digital technology intern can come in with their fresh perspective and help bridge those knowledge gaps, for example. Bringing together modern knowledge and experience in this way has the power to create a competitive advantage, and was a priority area identified by the Made Smarter review to empower the UK to effectively embrace Industry 4.0.

  • Generative design

    Some see generative design as a tool to replace workers – however, this isn’t the case at all. It is actually an artificial intelligence CAD aid for the designer.

    The average person hits a creativity block after 5-7 different product iterations. Through generative design, they can input their parameters and AI can then produce thousands of distinct iterations to inspire them. It has the added benefit of reducing time to market too.

    But perhaps the most important reason for implementing generative design – from a workforce perspective at least – is that it allows less experienced team members to create more advanced designs. Those with more experience and skills can impart their knowledge to the new generation through the technology. They could feed in their expertise to grow the generative design AI, meaning their legacy is being used to benefit future workers, and won’t be lost when they move on.

  • Agility

    Agility plays a key role in responding to sudden challenges successfully. And specific technologies – such as augmented reality, assisted assembly and cloud technology infrastructure – can support and make your workforce more agile. Instead of a business having to grind to a halt and take stock of a drastically different landscape, they can scale themselves – up or down.

    These technologies support various parts of manufacturing. They can allow employees to work remotely, train without business disruption, or carry out maintenance.

    In fact, both training and maintenance can be performed virtually. If there’s an issue, a factory owner can access their own machines remotely. Similarly, a client can access an expert without having to visit them. This saves considerable time and money, and it also reduces their carbon footprint, helping businesses to get the UK closer to its net-zero goal. This projects a positive image to customers, and has the additional future benefit if potential legislation ends up making travel an ‘expensive luxury’ for manufacturers.

  • Attracting the future workforce

    So many see manufacturing as a rigid, unskilled industry. There’s a lingering perception that it’s very manual work, conjuring images of dirt and spanners. But the landscape has long since changed. Today, around half of the industry is highly skilled and digitalised.

    There have been many initiatives in recent years – including the Year of Engineering, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, Tech She Can and STEM ambassadors – to appeal to the younger generation, especially women. Alongside this, businesses, industry bodies, government and academic institutions have introduced training programmes. T Levels are coming into place from Autumn 2020 – these include a three-month industry placement and exams, with both classroom and practical learning.

    However, there’s still more work to be done to make manufacturing more attractive as a career – and ensure the right talent is sourced. It’s becoming increasingly important to boost technical knowledge not just amongst those with digital roles, but within the entire company. This includes internal recruiters, who require such understanding to know who they should be hiring.

  • Made Smarter’s workforce support

    Made Smarter has helped numerous makers with an ageing or not yet digitally competent workforce. For instance, our team have worked with a precision engineering company that had a number of staff approaching retirement age, no immediate successors in place, and struggled to find suitably qualified candidates locally.  

    Our advisers, on the other hand, have observed how unsustainable it is to have silos of workers with one specialist skill that they use for life – an individual has to get involved in multiple parts of the supply chain.

    To be able to assess skill sets and identify areas for upskilling, you may wish to consider Organisational Workforce Development (OWD). It analyses your business goals, as well as how systems, processes and practices can help towards achieving these. The right skills can then be put in place to tackle any challenges you may face along the way.

    Through the workforce development support offered by Made Smarter, team members can be aligned to the future of manufacturing. We provide fully funded, specialist OWD advice to gauge readiness and adoption success.

    Then there is our digital transformation workshops, extremely useful when building out your strategy, including the skills required to fulfill it.

    Turn to Made Smarter today for help with your own digital journey. Our support also includes up to 50% match-funding and tailored advice. Speak to us to take your workforce into the future.

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