Industry 4.0, traditionally only cost-effective in areas such as automotive and aerospace, is now a viable solution for manufacturing organisations operating in most sectors of the industry. This is largely due to the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the huge impact it is having on both processes and output. A technology that allows more than just computers and smartphones to connect to the internet, IoT has enabled entire working processes to link to one another via the internet which has led to the rise of the smart factory.
A new, smarter, factory is not only essential for the preparation of more innovative products and increased output but also facilitates smarter processes, lower costs and improved bottom lines. In the PwC Annual Manufacturing Report 2018, researched and delivered by The Manufacturer, it was found that: “manufacturers accept that the future of (successful) manufacturing lies in the adoption of advanced technologies”, and that those companies not looking to adopt these changes risk being left behind in this evolving market.
Some of the key benefits identified include, but are not limited to:
- Improved supply chain relationships
- Reduced process errors
- Smarter working
- Improved staff engagement
- Increased productivity
Evolving roles in engineering and manufacturing
The increased use of technology, in any workplace, will naturally mean that the skills necessary to implement and maintain it will also need to evolve. Professionals with technical digital and IT skills will be increasingly sought after in the industry to help operate new Cyber-Physical Systems and manage the Internet of Things to ensure true integration. Industry 4.0 is being powered by the increasing digitalisation of the working environment so knowledge and experience working with such technology will be advantageous for businesses looking to better utilise these new systems and processes.
In light of this, however, PwC’s Workforce of the Future research revealed that just 33% of UK workers believe they possess the required STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills. Employee upskilling will play a huge role in the workplace looking forward, not just in engineering and manufacturing but across a broad range of industries where technology is becoming further integrated into day-to-day processes.
Recent PageGroup research, in partnership with trends analyst Foresight Factory, has identified that there is a growing need for faster and more efficient on the job training. To facilitate this, businesses will need new education tools, tailored development programmes allowing employees to upskill as and when they require it, be flexible in their approach to training, and allocate a significant investment of business resources to reskill staff where necessary.
Engineers and manufacturers of the future
The skills gap within the engineering and manufacturing sector is no new issue. However, The Manufacturer report highlights that some 71% of manufacturers believe apprenticeships are fast becoming a real alternative to higher education. Incoming talent can and should be learning from the highly skilled and experienced employees already incumbent in the workforce. By encouraging individuals to start a career in the sector early, companies are able to train and develop staff as experts – and, more importantly, evolve with the new technology being introduced.
When exploring the views the industry holds of the Government’s contribution to closing the skills gap, 59% of manufacturers highlighted that they believe the Apprentice Levy is simply a tax on employment. When John Gomersall, Senior Consultant, Michael Page Human Resources spoke to Simon Gott, now former Head of Learning and Development at Portakabin Group, he gave an interesting insight into what the Levy really means for organisations in the UK. Simon believes that the introduction of this Levy and the wider reforms to the Apprentice system represent a significant opportunity for all sides.
He had this to say on the topic: “The Levy provides us with a protected budget to plug our identified gaps in knowledge, skills and experiential learning. It is a vehicle to drive us towards our strategic objectives and allows us to carry out a whole scale organisational learning audit and plan for the next few years ahead.” View our full interview with Simon for more information and advice on how you make the most of the Levy.
The issue that still remains is that not enough people are aware of the opportunities and career paths available within engineering and manufacturing. The industry is at the forefront of innovation and problem-solving, and professionals in the sector can instigate real change by creating new solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. Industry 4.0 is just the next step in enabling these professionals to do what they do best more efficiently. The Internet of Things will allow real-time reporting and faster decision-making, meaning more streamlined processes, reduced errors and higher profit margins.