Bridging the Skills Gap with User-friendly Technology

Bridging the Skills Gap with User-friendly Technology

The mismatch between the skills that job seekers possess and the skills that employers need to fill current and future roles is known as the manufacturing skills gap. If the current trend holds, there will be 2.1 million open manufacturing jobs in the US by 2030. As of November 2021, there were nearly a million open manufacturing jobs in the US.

The current industrial skills gap is the result of a perfect storm of circumstances. The main elements are:

  • Aging workers
  • Updating one's skill set to stay up with technological development
  • Misaligned training and education initiatives
  • Poor perceptions of the industry and a lack of interest in careers among younger workers

As we recover from the pandemic recession, the revival of manufacturing jobs has not been fueled by businesses bringing back manufacturing employment that had been outsourced, nor has it been fueled by the rough industrial sectors and locales frequently referred to by politicians and other proponents of manufacturing. Instead, ice cream factories, craft brewers, and pharmaceutical factories are driving this rebound. The Mountain West and the Southeast are more likely to host the newly produced employment as opposed to the traditional manufacturing regions in the Great Lakes.

Particularly for small and mid-size businesses, the manufacturing skills gap is a significant, complicated issue that may seem insurmountable. But when it comes to workforce development and creating a talent pipeline, there are practical steps you can take to be proactive.

Major corporations are pushing for increasingly easy to learn and operate manufacturing equipment to reduce the amount of time it takes new employees to hit the ground running. For more than 30 brands, the Anheuser-Busch factory in St. Louis serves as the center of innovation. Approximately 40% of its workforce is approaching retirement; inexperienced operators will soon be operating machinery and learning to understand HMIs, which have frequently been in use for decades.

The Anheuser-Busch Can Division's global director, Ken VonderHaar, is requesting that OEMs create devices that are much simpler to operate and learn how to use. He says, “Essentially, we're asking for simplicity. We would like for all of the complexity to be under the hood [of the machine], and we would like an operator interface that's very simple, easy to understand, and enables our younger employees to interface with some type of video screen. We also look for set-up procedures that are built into the operator screen. And we’d love it if [OEMs] could help train our operators.”

Industrial products incorporating graphic user interfaces like smartphones and even human-like movements, as seen on Universal Robots collaborative robots, are increasingly popular as they are seen as more user-friendly and easier to learn than some traditional equipment requiring special skills. To offload the majority of the maintenance issues, OEMs are taking note of customer requests and providing intuitive HMIs, like EXOR’s eX700 Series, and visual learning components, as well as augmented reality (AR), remote management, and diagnostic technologies.

In the past, the OEM had assumed that the operator was familiar with machine setup. But in many circumstances, that is no longer the case. "We are trying to take that mindset and put it into the machines,” says Alan Shuhaibar, president and chief executive officer of BellatRx. “You shouldn't need a PhD to run a labeler.”

Contact us today to learn how you can bridge the skills gap with user-friendly manufacturing automation products to make automation less complicated. 


Nov 17th 2022

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