In the manufacturing and engineering sector we are preparing ourselves for the revolution of Industry 4.0. And just as previous industrial revolutions have transformed how organisations operate in every sector, we foresee the same fundamental shift occurring across all industries and organisations. Article from Neil Lewin, Senior Consultant at Festo Training & Consulting.
Currently, manufacturers are assessing how they can use artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent software alongside robotics and automation. This will remove the need for human interactions, as independent machines will be able to communicate directly with each other to share information and instructions. Taking a product from concept to delivery without the eyes or the hands of any human being involved in the process.
So how will this affect the current workforce? For us to say that these technologies will have no impact on jobs would be foolish, particularly at shop-floor and administration level. However, Industry 4.0 will also provide recruitment challenges for the manufacturing and engineering sector.
There is already a major skills shortage, and this is set to worsen as the rate of change increases. This skills shortage is vast and increasing year on year. An additional 1.8 million engineers and technically qualified people are needed by 2025 according to research by Engineering UK, with a 20,000 a year shortfall in the number of people with these skills being produced by Britain’s education system. Many employers are already concerned about these shortages. A 2017 poll of over 600 industry professionals, commissioned by Subcon in association with trade magazine The Engineer, found that 67 per cent of UK manufacturers are worried about the future availability of skilled staff for their businesses.
Finding the right people with the right skills and competencies to develop and work alongside AI technology is going to create additional recruitment challenges for the sector.
The need to upskill
HRDs will need to re-examine their workforce strategy and adapt their training, performance and talent acquisition plans to implement change effectively. Even though some roles may become obsolete with the use of more sophisticated technology, the skills required to maintain and update AI technology will be in demand. The sector will require considerable training and development to upskill maintenance and service engineers, as well as build the leadership skills needed to effectively manage the change that AI will inevitably bring.
Training Leaders for Change
For HR Directors this is an opportunity to work with business leaders to strategically plan the shape of organisations in this new technological revolution. The concept of the manager as an ‘expert’ will be one of the first things to change with Industry 4.0. HR Directors have a window of opportunity to gear their managers up to leading change projects. To step beyond their role as technical expert and into one that can keep an eye on developments that could strategically impact the business. That can work with skilled, multi-disciplinary teams and utilise new technology effectively.
HRDs and business leaders are going to have to become more agile and comfortable with making ‘best bet’ predictions, working on constantly shifting strategies and communicating with and engaging employees who are likely to feel anxious about their future.
A recent White Paper by Festo Training and Consultancy, Get ready for Industry 4.0 the change management challenge[i], clarifies the management capabilities required to support the pace of change in Industry 4.0 (figure 1). No longer are managers expected to see change projects through one at a time, they are expected to manage several change projects and the associated issues that go with them. As the pace of change gets faster, HR Directors and leaders will have to be creative, flexible and operate at speed. They will have to quickly assimilate new knowledge and assess the implications for their organisations, yet 85 percent of leaders within this sector say that lack of leadership and management skills is an important concern for the business.
We’ve seen many manufacturing and engineering firms fall in the last 20 years because they have been unable to adapt to changes in the environment. This technological revolution will impact organisations of all sizes and in all sectors. By working with business leaders and equipping managers with the skills to handle a new, even more rapid pace of change, HR Directors can gear their organisations up to take advantage of the opportunities of Industry 4.0.