Start at the Top When Hiring for Future Employment Skills in Manufacturing

January 22, 2018

Manufacturing leaders are undoubtedly aware of the emerging technologies set to change their industry. They know it’s no longer about if or when: The manufacturing revolution has already begun.

But not all C-suite executives are knowledgeable enough about tech and digital innovations to direct transformational strategies for their companies — strategies that include hiring. Manufacturing leaders must get themselves up to speed quickly and prepare the rest of their organizations for future worker needs.

In other words? Educate, educate, educate.

Developing an understanding of the needed employment skills will help you to hire the right tech-savvy people to ensure your company is prepared to prosper from new manufacturing technology.

Start at the Top

The CEO and board of directors should act now to get the education and training they need to strategically lead the transition to apply the new technologies.

There are numerous executive training sessions available at universities that excel in leading-edge manufacturing technologies. Start by enrolling the corporate leadership team in a first-class educational institution that’s at the forefront of emergent technologies. Later, it may be appropriate to turn to a consultant or university experts to help the board and the senior operating executive to craft a new manufacturing strategy.

Develop a common level of knowledge across the broader corporate leadership team. Such training will help company leaders support the necessary technological revolution from the corporate office to the shop floor.

The senior HR executive’s team should aim to develop new position descriptions for 2018. IT, engineering and manufacturing personnel will be the first priorities.

The sooner new hires with the proper technical savvy can be brought on board, the sooner the transformation of the necessary skill sets can happen throughout the organization. These new hires will be the ones to teach and implement the right manufacturing systems and technology innovations.

Measure Now Against Later

Senior operating executives must be tech-savvy and understand the potential breakthroughs on the shop floor as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) evolve.

Executives must see how these technologies can improve manufacturing performance and the business. They must also be able to create and execute their operations strategy accordingly.

If the current senior operations executive isn’t capable of making this radical adjustment, consider making a change. Having the right person in place is crucial, as they must assist with many critical tasks:

  • Assessments: Assess vice presidents, directors of manufacturing, plant managers and staff managers to determine if each one is capable of executing new and future digital technology strategies. These assessments should be the first order of business for the EVP/SVP, who should be assisted by a senior human resources (HR) executive. Even seemingly unrelated skills like cybersecurity and data science will become crucial as IoT applications in manufacturing ramp up.
  • Employee training and movement: Capable managers will require extensive education and training — both on the shop floor and in the office. Those who cannot meet the new requirements will need alternative work if available, or separation. Once plant management teams are set, the education and training that follows will ultimately involve most of the workforce.

Managers may be able to repurpose some resources toward training, but there will likely be a need to invest significant amounts of new resources into long-term training demands and state-of-the-art equipment.

How Plant Managers Will Lead

Every plant manager will be accountable to train and recruit employees with the necessary skills to run the factories based on emerging data-driven technologies. Does the factory location already have close working relationships with local or regional technical colleges? They could be the first step toward getting local management and shop-floor employees trained.

Technical positions are already changing. Mid-career manufacturing engineers may need an extensive grounding in digital technology and how it will be applied to next-generation machines. New, state-of-the-art technical hires should become the future leaders of this new shop floor strategy.

Maintenance people will require additional training based on high-tech retrofits and new equipment purchases. Many will need electronic technician, programming and networking credentials. Even line supervisors will be faced with a new set of expectations. New position descriptions are a must-have.

Summary: Don’t Wait

It would be easy to coast along, thinking “It’s a decade or so away. Why should I worry about this today?”

But the manufacturing revolution will only gain momentum over the next decade. It will take several years for most companies to prepare themselves with the talent required to succeed.

There’s no time to waste in securing leaders of the right caliber with high-level technical and digital knowledge. They are the group that will be hiring the new generation of specialists required to run the factory of the future.

From an employment skills perspective, the future is already here.

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