PwC’s New Word, New Skills analysis shows that one in three jobs is likely to be disrupted or to disappear in the next decade because of technological shifts. Today we’ve seen a growing mismatch between the skills people have and the shortage of qualified talents for the new digital economy. For instance, middle-skilled roles in manufacturing, such as mechanists and maintenance technicians, not only need to have hands-on specialist skills, but also need to develop digital skills to work with the connected equipment. Unfortunately, the training for these roles is still far from enough to fill the skill gap.
As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement, manufacturers are now struggling to attract young talents. Compared to the older generations, young people are more digitally literate because of their early exposure to technology, and therefore they are the ideal selection for bridging the skill gap. However, there seems to be a misconception among them that manufacturing processes are repetitive, conventional and lacking space for creativity. To change their perception, manufacturers could provide them with more exciting opportunities to work with innovative technologies.
First developed in the defence sector, exoskeletons are now widely used in manufacturing. An industrial exoskeleton is like a wearable robot, combining the advantages of human’s intelligence and industrial robot’s strength and endurance. It consists of a metal frame fitted with motorised muscles to the outside of the wearer’s body, which can multiply workers’ strength and enable them to complete long hours of repetitive and physically demanding tasks while reducing work-related injuries and optimising their efficiency.
For example, Ford adopts the Ekso Vest, an industrial wearable exoskeleton vest developed by Ekso Bionics, in its 15 plants globally to lower the chance of worker fatigue, injury and discomfort. Since then, there has been an 83 per cent decline in workers’ injuries.
When thinking about the arduous and repetitive tasks in a production line, younger generations may consider manufacturing as one of the least enjoyable work environments, but i this is not necessarily true. Since younger generations are often interested in games, bringing gamified technologies to the training process could help.
Game- and simulation-based training could increase young people’s understanding of manufacturing by showing them that working on a cutting-edge production line can be varied and exciting. For instance, the U.S. manufacturing company Caterpillar is now employing game-based simulators in recruitment, offering students opportunities to understand machine controls and operation before they enter their career.
Design Interactive, a human systems integration company, is developing an AR application to introduce young people to the idea of working as a truck technician. Screen-based training dependant on HMIs enables trainees to switch among several site scenarios in minutes, helping them learn a wide range of skills. VR simulators provide apprentices a failure-safe training space in which mistakes won’t have real-life consequences, enabling new workers to learn without being afraid of mistakes. Also, by using gamified simulators, current workers could try new technologies, significantly improving their existing skillsets.
To eliminate millennials’ bias that manufacturing jobs are exhausting and monotonous, manufacturers can take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies like exoskeleton, AR and VR simulators. In the context of Industry 4.0, the sooner workers start being exposed to these technologies, the more willing they will be to embrace new ones in the future.
To know more about innovative automation technologies in manufacturing, visit https://www.euautomation.com/uk/.