7 Reasons to Reskill Workers for Smart Factory Jobs


Emily NewtonEditor-in-Chief at Revolutionized

Friday, October 15, 2021

Manufacturing is on the verge of a transformation. As Industry 4.0 gains momentum, factory automation is reaching new heights, with connected technologies and data unlocking new possibilities. Amid all this change, manufacturers should consider reskilling the workforce.

Article 5 Minutes
7 Reasons to Reskill Workers for Smart Factory Jobs

The human element of Industry 4.0 often goes overlooked. While technological advancement lies at the heart of this movement, these advances change workers' roles in the factory. Smart jobs require Industry 4.0 skills, which today’s manufacturing workers lack.

Here are seven reasons why manufacturers should reskill workers amid this transition.

1. New technologies will displace jobs

As factories implement more smart technologies, they’ll be able to automate more traditionally manual processes. This automation will mean job displacement, considering how available technology could already automate 58% of manufacturing jobs today. While new openings will eventually make up for those lost, technological advancement will initially outpace employment.

Reskilling the workforce will lessen the blow of this displacement. Instead of losing their jobs until they can develop new skills, workers can learn new ones at their current position. Offering this option is certainly beneficial for the employees themselves, but it also helps their employers.

Reskilling workers instead of letting them go could improve a company’s public image. If job displacement is inevitable, it’s best to prepare the workforce for it.

2. Smart factory tech requires new skills

While smart factories will make some jobs obsolete, they’ll create a need for others. Ten years from now, these positions won’t look the same as they do today. Consequently, manufacturers will need to hire workers with a different skill set than their current employees.

Smart factories won’t remove the need for skilled workers. Rather, they’ll require Industry 4.0 skills. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the U.S. to have more than 24,000 openings in network administration every year until 2030.

As factories add more smart tech, they’ll need people to manage it, and their current workforce lacks the necessary skills. By reskilling their employees, they can prepare for this upcoming change.

3. New workers may be hard to find

Some manufacturers may think they can replace their workforce amid this shift. While finding new workers with appropriate Industry 4.0 skills works in theory, it won’t likely be easy in reality. The manufacturing industry already faces a labor shortage, and experts predict this will continue over the decade.

By 2030, the manufacturing industry will have 2 to 3 million unfilled positions, according to current projections. While smart factory jobs will differ from today’s manufacturing jobs, the labor shortage will likely still affect them. There’s a tech talent shortage, too, one so considerable that the U.S. could lose $162 billion annually by 2030 if it continues.

Reskilling is the ideal fix for this issue. Manufacturers don’t have to worry about finding talent if they foster it within their current workforce.

4. Reskilling is faster and more cost-effective

The prospect of reskilling the workforce can be intimidating at first. While it does take time, forethought and considerable effort, these factors are typically less severe than employers may realize. Reskilling and upskilling are often faster and more cost-effective than searching for and onboarding new employees.

Studies show that it takes two years on average for an external hire to get up to speed in their new position. These workers are also 61% more likely to be fired. By contrast, internal hires are more inclined to stay and typically achieve promotions faster.

Searching and onboarding are time-consuming, expensive processes. It’s often far faster and requires fewer resources to retrain an existing employee who’s already on the payroll and familiar with company culture.

5. New technologies make training easier

Smart factory tech may also accelerate the benefits of reskilling over hiring externally. The data and engagement these technologies provide can make it easier to train employees on new skills. As a result, workers will adapt to their new roles faster, ensuring future success with minimal disruption.

Connected technologies provide data that can highlight where employees struggle and succeed. For example, smart textiles can track movement posture, showing if someone is working in a way that would lead to injury. In the same way, data from connected machines can highlight improper IT skills, showing managers where different workers need to improve.

Technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can also make learning new skills more engaging. This engagement can improve workers’ learning, helping them gain Industry 4.0 skills faster.

6. Reskilling can improve employee satisfaction

Another advantage of reskilling the workforce is that it often improves overall employee satisfaction. Recent research shows that 70% of surveyed employees have left a position because it lacked opportunities for career development. Similarly, 95% said they would have stayed in a job they left if it had offered them.

Reskilling offers workers a chance to advance their careers, building loyalty and satisfaction. They’re then less likely to leave the company and more likely to be highly productive. Considering how the manufacturing industry has a 20% turnover rate, it’s hard to overlook that advantage.

7. Reskilling creates a more flexible workforce

Just as smart factory jobs are changing how today’s manufacturing workforce operates, future advances will likely cause similar shifts. The time will come when manufacturers will need new skills beyond those they’re reskilling for now. Since technology advances exponentially, this shift could come sooner than previous in-demand skill shifts.

Reskilling workers now will help manufacturers prepare for future shifts by becoming more flexible. Companies that already have experience retraining workers will be able to do so again with minimal disruption. Similarly, reskilled employees will have a broader skill set, helping them adjust to fit various roles in the future.

Reskilling and upskilling create a more flexible workforce by providing new knowledge and talents. These more knowledgeable, broadly skilled employees will be able to adjust to the quick changes of the future industry.

Reskilling the workforce is critical to Industry 4.0

Most discussions over Industry 4.0 focus on the technical side of the movement. While these new technologies are the field’s defining trait, they still rely on a human workforce to drive them.

Manufacturers cannot overlook the value of reskilling to sustain the human side of Industry 4.0. It will increase productivity, profitability and flexibility for employers while improving satisfaction and job security for employees. The benefits are too considerable to ignore.

Emily Newton

Emily is a tech and industrial journalist with over four years of experience writing articles for the industrial sector. She’s Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online publication exploring innovations in manufacturing, technology and science. 


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