Industry 4.0, additive manufacturing, predictive maintenance, cutting-edge MES software—the technology underlying the massive performance gains in manufacturing have changed and are continuing to change the industry. However, some of the most thoughtful minds in the field say these high-tech tools are useless if workers aren’t on board with change.
At October’s 2022 Manufacturing & Technology Show: An IndustryWeek Leadership Event, manufacturing experts from Intel, Ford, Michelin, Ericsson, Johnson & Johnson and many other global companies shared their insights on what works on the shop floor. A common theme: Technology is great, but getting the people part right is key to manufacturing success.
As Ron Wilson, keynote speaker on the show’s second day and senior vice president of global operations at Moen parent company Fortune Brands Water Innovations, put it, technology and supply chain initiatives didn’t get his company through the pandemic—its people did.
“We wanted them to be able to come to work knowing that the place where they came to work cared about their health, cared about their safety,” Wilson said. “We have to walk the talk.”
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Talking about manufacturing excellence is great, but seeing high-tech production in action is more exciting. On the final day of the show, Charter Steel, General Motors and Vitamix opened their doors to about 100 show attendees, giving them a chance to see automation, continuous improvement and safety technologies in person.
A day before the main show, IndustryWeek, EY and JobsOhio gathered a group of top executives and human resources professionals for the Workplace Transformation Executive Roundtable. Held at the Nottingham-Spirk innovation hub in Cleveland, the small, focused event drew executives from Timken, Lincoln Electric, Sherwin Williams, Lubrizol and several other manufacturers to discuss the talent pipeline—arguably the biggest long-term challenge facing the industry.
Highlights included two presentations:
- “Building the Manufacturing Sector of the Future through Adaptive Skills” with EY’s Margaret Carlson and Steve Fuller previewed research that was presented with the Manufacturing Institute. The study spells out the scope of the talent shortage problem and what companies can do to tap into their current workforces to meet future needs.
- The Manufacturing Millennial, engineer Jake Hall, explained how younger people view manufacturing differently from older generations, how to reach those younger potential employees and why your factory should be smarter than a toilet (an example comparing information sharing in airport bathrooms to the lack of sharing on factory floors).
Following those formal presentations, executives broke into smaller groups to discuss how to identify and nurture talent and how companies can rebuild the bygone social compact between employees and employers that once promised the ability to grow and earn a good living without changing jobs every few years.
A few takeaways from the executives. Companies should:
- Develop personalized talent development plans for each employee or job type
- Conduct regular retention interviews to make sure they’re keeping their existing workers happy and supported
- Focus on visual learning, videos and other interactive formats when training younger, digitally native workers