Don’t be alarmed by the media hype: automation, robots and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) won’t wipe out all manufacturing jobs. In fact, experts say that disruptive technology has the potential to enhance existing jobs as well as create more for greater productivity.
So, how is digitisation changing the nature of the manufacturing workplace and job roles?
A recent podcast from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, explored this issue with Martin Strutt, a 4IR expert at EEF, and Vikram Singla, Strategy and Marketing director at Oracle.
“In some ways, jobs won’t change at all and in other ways, they’ll change massively,” Singla said. “You still need leaders who have the character to build the trust of customers and employees, people across departments that encourage collaboration and facilitate cultural change, and engineers with technical skills.
“What’s changed is the pace that people need to learn and unlearn, how they work together and learn new things. Company culture needs to encourage flexibility to take advantage of opportunities.”
Those who thrive will be people who are flexible and comfortable working with uncertainty and continuous change, Strutt believes.
As for the manufacturing environment, the fact that robots and cobots no longer need to be kept separate from people means there are many more areas where they can be applied. And the falling cost of the technology is bringing greater opportunities to increase automation in processes.
In light assembly, for example, they are doing repetitive tasks that are difficult for humans to do consistently — alongside employees who focus on some of the more fiddly things humans are still better at doing.
When launching digitisation initiatives, it’s important to get people involved at all levels across the organisation, Strutt recommends.
And the right leadership will create a sense of urgency to help the business move forward, Singla concluded.