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Posted on : Wednesday 17th June 2020 11:16 AM

Technology Is the Key to Bringing Millennials Into Manufacturing

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Technology has the power to change the way we think. It has the power to improve the way we create, and the way we communicate with our world. It has completely altered our products, our work environments, and our modalities of communication. And it has fashioned entire generations, defined cultures, and reimagined industries.


Today, technology is the power behind change in the manufacturing industry. We see it in every-where we look. Paper has been replaced by touch screens. Meetings are conducted via Skype in the place of face to face. Factories are more measured, more data driven, more agile, and more nimble than ever before. Artificial intelligence and robots are now included in our daily lives.


There is no doubt that these improvements have brought disruption, and cost to manufacturing. But the rising of technology in our industry has been a must in keeping us competitive and essential for maintaining the industry in the future.


Manufacturing is more effective, profitable, and adaptable today compared to it was twenty years ago. There’s a greater comprehension of what takes place on the plant floor, with more real-time data to assist decision making. With new software and technology, we are seeing our industry achieve new levels of performance that we couldn't have imagined even a decade ago.


Today, many factories are improving their performance by operating like video games. Gamification is taking the industry by storm, with systems designed to align with the natural motivations that people have to make a difference, and be recognized in how they drive plant floor performance. Increasing transparency and tracking achievements by individual user or teams has resulted in huge increases in efficiency for some companies. When contributions are seen by associates and executives, this motivates those people to carry on to problem solve and innovate. When correctly designed, gamification is making employees more engaged, productive, and happier.


But most significantly, gamification and technology are opening the door to connect with a younger generation, who quite frankly, never have shown much interest in the manufacturing industry to date.


When we look at the data on available jobs in the manufacturing industry, it's sobering to say the least. According to The Manufacturing Institute, 3.5 million manufacturing job opportunities will need to be filled for the following ten years. Two million of those jobs will go unfilled. Not thousands but two million. This is a wake-up call for our industry.


At my company, we read the statistic from The Manufacturing Institute and wanted to figure out why more Americans are not pursuing careers in manufacturing. We were also keen to see if there were any differences in views by generation. We commissioned Engine, a research provider, to poll 1,002 Americans demographically representative of the United States at a 95 percent confidence level. Answers were then grouped by generation, Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965-1980), and Millennials (born between 1981-1998).


We were shocked by how notably the responses diversified by generation. When asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the U.S. economy, 86 percent of both Baby Boomers and Generation X consented. In comparison, only 68 percent of Millennials agreed that manufacturing is important to our economy.


We then asked respondents about the supply of competent workers in the U.S., and again observed differences by generation. Sixty percent of Baby Boomers and 63 percent of Generation X agreed that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. In contrast, only 51 percent of Millennials agreed that there is a shortage.


And lastly, we asked respondents if they agreed that the manufacturing industry provides fulfilling careers. Fifty nine percent of both Baby Boomers and Generation X agreed. To our surprise, only 49 percent Millennials agreed. That’s less than half of the younger generation who believe our industry offers desirable or satisfying opportunities. This is a test for our industry, because our future workforce is dependent on what we do today to reach the younger generation.


The truth is, our industry has not done a great job at connecting with younger audiences about what makes manufacturing engaging or enjoyable. Other industries have, such as the tech sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information jobs are expected to increase by 12 percent during the period of 2014-2024. This is the fastest growth rate of all other occupations for that time period.


It may shock Millennials that besides manufacturing offer opportunities to work with cutting-edge technology, but it also provides competitive pay to the tech sector. According to Glassdoor, the ordinary base pay of a Manufacturing Supervisor is $64,118, and for a Manufacturing Engineer, the average is $71,679. For a Director of Manufacturing, the average base pay is $146,412. For a generation known for its record-setting student debt, this is a powerful information to convey.


As an industry, we need to be more vocal in sharing the exciting technology opportunities in manufacturing. Ongoing developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, integration, gamification, and real-time data are what interest Millennials and what will link our industry to younger generations. We must exchange the facts and data at the seminars we attend, on our websites, in our presentations at schools and universities, and in all of our recruitment efforts. Two million unfilled jobs is no small matter. This is the time to shout from the rooftops.


Technology is leading the manufacturing industry to newer frontiers. If we do it properly, we can bring the younger generation together with us in being a part of expanding manufacturing in the U.S. And if our technology can join forces with Millennial interests and skillsets, our industry will likely prosper.


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bringing millennials into manufacturing

Comment Section

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    Murali Palani

    Traditionalists 1900 – 1945 (Loyal and discipline), Boomers 1946 – 1964 (Responsible, strong work ethics), Generation X 1965 – 1980 (Independent thinkers, efficient), Generation Y 1981 – 1994 (More social, confident, less independent) & Generation Z 1995 – 2012(Poor communication skills, extensively engaged to technology). Younger generation sound in technology did any plan to improve their way of communication, without better communication skill in manufacturing industries can expand.

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      Murali Palani

      Understanding each generation views technology and prefers to use in the workplace. • Set expectations regarding workplace philosophy and behaviour • Use different styles of communication • Personalize your approach • Appreciate differences in values and motivations • Ask, don’t assume • Eliminate barriers to communication • Ready to explain and be taught • Recognize the differences