Many industries are accepting that the labor force will be changing in the future. But it is not going to disappear—it will change to meet the needs of advanced applications of automation in factories. The skill set needed for workers will be more technically advanced, so jobs are not necessarily going away.
In fact, U.S. production has been growing over the last decades. From 2006 to 2013, “manufacturing grew by 17.6 percent, or at roughly 2.2 percent per year,” according to a recent report from Ball State University (“The Myth and the Reality of Manufacturing in America,” April 2017).
Many jobs will be reconfigured and redesigned, causing job dislocations and requiring new employees to learn new skills, as KPMG International noted in its thought leadership, Rise of the Humans: The integration of digital and human labor.
According to KPMG’s findings:
- Despite gloom and doom scenarios for massive unemployment, cognitive technologies can spur new jobs and enhance human skills and expertise.
- The kind of jobs will likely change, especially middle-income routine jobs that are likely to be replaced by cognitive platforms.
- The challenge for leaders will be how best to integrate and make the most of increasingly diverse types of labor.
- A five-stage process of inquiry can help leaders systematically think through how the shape and size of their workforce should change.
- Arguments range as to whether digital labor will remove or grow jobs, and in truth the jury is still out.
Learn more about the integration of digital and human labor.
How companies manage through the likely disruption to the workforce from the evolution towards more automation and a digitalized factory will be critical.
Manufacturers should develop supporting systems to help with advancing the capabilities of the existing workforce. Job training and skill development, life-long learning investments, and other techniques will begin to adapt their workforce as the relationship between man and machine changes the elements of manufacturing where the human touch is relevant.
This will require an intergenerational perspective. To promote the interest of the next generation of the manufacturing workforce, there will need to be increased STEM education and hiring, and outreach to elementary and secondary school-age children. Skill training and development will be necessary to address the future needs for the human element of manufacturing in the next generation of the factory.
Also, manufacturers and the manufacturing industry will need to be more socially responsible to those whose skills do not meet the needs of the factory of the future. Outplacement support, retraining investment, promoting former employees to new areas of employment, and helping to build the skills for future success outside the manufacturing ecosystem will help forestall natural political and social barriers to more advanced applications of automation and increased competitiveness.
In this way, the United States can increase the Made in America footprint, remain competitive in a global ecosystem, and leverage our leadership in innovation and creativity.
So get ready for a labor force that is not vanishing, but rather transforming, as increased automation and advanced manufacturing transforms Industry to the next generation – I 4.0.
Learn more about the integration of digital and human labor and the workforce shaping process.
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