The factory floor has long been a place of work dominated by human labor. However, with the advent of factory automation, that is starting to change. Machines are taking over many of the tasks that have traditionally been done by human workers. This shift is having a major impact on the workforce, and it is something that we need to pay attention to.
The Shifting Job Role
Even as recent as 10 years ago, many factory jobs involved manual labor on redundant tasks. Yet, as technology becomes more and more accessible, and labor becomes more and more scarce, this paradigm has shifted in the past few years.
What this means for the factory worker is that their role is changing. No longer are they needed to do the repetitive and dangerous tasks that can now be done by machines. Instead, they are needed to operate and maintain those machines. In some cases, they may even be responsible for programming them. This shift means that factory workers need to have a different set of skills than they did in the past.
Hiring Higher Skills, or Training Up?
The new factory automations available today are pressing a unique challenge to operators: How do I afford and source the higher skilled labor needed to run a more automated facility? Essentially, there are 2 ways of going about this: either hire upskilled workers from the marketplace, or support the upskilling of a lesser skilled, existing workforce.
The former option is often the more expensive and difficult to implement. It can be hard to find workers with the specific skillset required, and when you do find them, they may come at a premium.
The latter option – training up your existing workforce – has its own challenges as well. Many factory workers today do not have the academic background needed to learn the new skills required. Furthermore, they may not even have the time available, as they are still needed to perform their current job duties. If you’re interested in developing an apprentice program, there is also a cost associated with developing the program, but this can be offset by the gains in having a strong apprentice retention program.
What this all boils down to is that there is no easy solution when it comes to factory automation and the workforce. It is an issue that needs to be carefully considered on a case by case basis.
What This Means For The Future
The rise of factory automation is going to have a major impact on the workforce. As more and more jobs are taken over by machines, we need to make sure that our workers are prepared for this new reality. We need to provide them with the training and education they need to be able to operate and maintain these machines. We also need to make sure that they have the skillset necessary to program them. Only then will they be able to keep up with the changing landscape of factory work.
This can be uncomfortable for both operators and workers. But if we don’t embrace this change, we will be left behind. The factory floor is changing, and we need to change with it.
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