How the Manufacturing Labor Force Will Shift in the 2020s

Since 2000, manufacturing jobs have fallen by nearly 30%, and wages have remained stagnant since 1980. Automation is often blamed for this, with technology creating a greater output while requiring fewer employees, especially lower-skilled ones. With the rise of AI and robotics, many see this trend accelerating.

However, many experts believe that an analysis of labor force market trends and recent economic performance don’t support this. According to Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, “I don’t think that automation is advancing any more rapidly than it has been. But in any case, automation has never led to fewer jobs in the economy in the past and never will in the future, for the simple reason that automation lowers prices which increases demand for goods and services, which in turn creates jobs.”

Additionally, if automation were rendering workers obsolete, there would be a surge in productivity, as well as significant capital investments. None of these things have come to pass. This is not surprising: for over a hundred years, technology has had many opportunities to render workers obsolete, and yet it never has.

If we look back at history, we see that technology has created at least as many new jobs as it has eliminated. While the displacement of old jobs and the introduction of new ones can be disruptive, the result is that technology has a net-neutral impact on manufacturing jobs – and there’s no reason to think this will change now.

Instead, we’re seeing a shift away from low-skilled, manual jobs towards high-skilled technical roles.

Five new jobs every manufacturer will be hiring for

While jobs will be lost during the fourth technological revolution, many new ones will be created. Deloitte recently put together a profile of types of new jobs that manufacturers will be hiring for over the coming decade.

• Digital Twin Engineer: This person creates virtual representations of physical products and simulations of how that product will perform under various IoT-connected conditions. Insights gathered from these simulations are used to inform product design and business models in the real world. Digital Twin Engineers work closely with sales and marketing to develop products and create data-driven marketing strategies.

• Predictive Supply Network Analyst: Using machine learning and cognitive computing, these analysts identify market opportunities and create forecasts for sales, operations, and supply chain. Their focus is on meeting KPIs such as fulfilling customer SLAs, out-of-stocks, and inventory cycle times. They work closely with production and logistics to calibrate demand and supply and remove disruptions and delays.

• Robot Teaming Coordinator: With an ever-increasing number of robots being leveraged by manufacturers, people will be required to observe them and evaluate their performance. Additionally, there will be a need to train human team members to work more effectively with robots. This will be the job of the Robot Teaming Coordinator.

• Drone Data Coordinator: In the next five years, we can expect to see autonomous drones used more frequently to perform physically challenging and hazardous tasks. The Drone Data Collector will oversee the gathering of drone safety, inspection, and surveillance data for analysis. This person will optimize and create SOPs for the optimization of drone data collection on-site. They will also moderate drone routines, modifying them around manufacturing processes and progress.

• Smart Factory Manager: As with most managers, the Smart Factory Manager will wear many hats. Their responsibilities will range from identifying opportunities for optimizing assembly line IoT devices to creating various capabilities such as robot cutting, computer knitting, and 3D printing. Perhaps most importantly, this person will work with production teams to manage unique customer demands that come through automated demand planning, e-commerce platforms, and connected products in the field.

Manufacturers looking to get ahead and succeed into the 2020s will need to leverage an agile, integrated approach to ensure they can anticipate shifting labor requirements and adopt new technology as it becomes available. CRM software such as Salesforce can help. To learn how, contact Gerent today.

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