Change and evolution are inherent to several industries and manufacturing is no exception. Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, had long been hinted at since well before the pandemic and now, in conjunction with said pandemic, the need for change has not only remained constant, it’s increased in intensity. 

Historically, this constant need for change has left leaders in the manufacturing sector scrambling in order to evolve and remain relevant for fear of being left behind by competitors. And these evolutions have often taken shape in the form of new partnerships, enhanced supply chain visibility, industrial grade computers and machinery, and more. However, many have begun to realize that it’s simply not enough to adapt to change with new gadgets- employees need to adapt as well in order to understand the new responsibilities and work environments that changing times will invariably thrust upon them. Reskilling the Workforce needs to be facilitated. 

Reskilling and Upskilling Definition

Unlike upskilling, which involves teaching employees new skills that are in line with their current job responsibilities, reskilling the workforce requires teaching employees skills that allow them to do a different job than the one they are already performing. Essentially, upskilling would mean learning new skills that allow an employee to perform their current job more comprehensively and competently, while reskilling the workforce would allow them to transition into a new career or job title. 

There are surely merits for both of these processes, however, for manufacturing, reskilling looks to be more applicable simply due to the insane amount of change being observed across US supply chains these past few years and in 2020 in particular. 

Naturally, there’s a number of ways a reskilling program can be created and enacted. Doing so, however, effectively requires taking a close look at the current state of the manufacturing sector and what new skills are needed to thrive in the current landscape. 

The Anatomy of Today’s Reskilling Programs

Manufacturing is no stranger to skilled labor shortages. Factory and supply chain managers experienced first hand the repercussions of not having employees trained to handle evolving needs and are likely adamant to ensure that never happens again. 

Taking a lesson from these shortages, observing what skills are needed today and will likely be needed in the future can help the proactive manager ascertain any gaps in their workforce’s skill set and quickly fill them with the staff they already have. As far as what those skills are, there are a couple we’ve observed growing in importance as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the US’ push for self-reliant supply chains become ever more emphasized.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing was on a steady rise since before the global shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, as early as January, surveys such as Industry Week’s were illustrating that over 80% of manufacturers emphasized 3D printing as a potential profit increaser. 

Cut to just a few months later, and this popularity has exploded as manufacturers increasingly turn to 3D printing in order to print products and parts they can no longer source from suppliers in China. Furthermore, additive manufacturing is also being leveraged to create PPE and nasal swab tests to aid in the fight against the pandemic.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that 3D printing is only going to continue its reign as a staple in more industry 4.0 optimized plants as the technology only grows in sophistication and the scope of its abilities follow suit. Thus, training employees to properly run 3d printing software and hardware will be a smart investment when reskilling the workforce.

Data-Based Critical Thinking

Data has been one of the founding tenets of the fourth industrial revolution and has only continued to prove its worth. Data from machinery on the floor, data from suppliers across different parts of your supply chain, and data from product yields in regards to quality all lend to efficiency and, more importantly, supply chain resilience

A supply chain’s ability to respond to disruption has jumped up a few spaces in importance as disruptions become more and more commonplace. Data drawn in from IoT connected devices can be analyzed and processed in order to prepare for several disruptions before they happen such as machine failure, supply chain partner shutdowns, drastic changes in demand, and more. As such, employees need to be able to read and understand the data being collected and critically adapt based on insights drawn from them. Teaching employees how to not only read this data, but to use it to inform decision making can help fortify your plant’s resilience down the road. 

How to go About Reskilling Employees

Now that there’s a little clarity as far as what skills need to be added to the current workforce’s repertoire, it now comes down to finding the resources needed in actually reskilling employees to perform these tasks competently. Thankfully, in the age of the internet, there’s an abundance of resources designed to train people in a variety of skills from their basic foundations up to advanced application of said skills. 

Several skill sharing digital curriculums can be found on sites such as Udemy for Business and Lynda. There are even sites out there that are more tailored to particular skills such as Coding Dojo that trains members specifically in programming and coding languages. Regardless of which site or reskilling programs you end up using, it would be advised to brush through the curriculum yourself once or twice to ensure the subject matter, training methods, and tools used in the training are all in line with what you want your team to be learning.

If you have training resources that were created in-house, you can even send these to employees on their portable industrial tablets, allowing them to learn as they travel the factory floor. For example,  when training an employee to operate a 3d printer, materials can be sent to their device and they can then follow along with the training while observing the machinery being used in person and in real time.

What are the Benefits of Reskilling the Workforce?

We’ve already discussed how reskilling programs can improve metrics like supply chain resiliency and adaptability. Aside from that, employee retention has also been proven to increase when employees are properly trained and re-trained for higher up positions. According to a study by Corbett Inc, 76% of employees desire opportunities for career growth and 40% leave jobs within a year if they were given poor job training. Reskilling programs help combat these two pain points, inspiring a chronically disengaged workforce and also saving money that would otherwise be lost training new employees.   

Reskilling Employees is a Form of Supply Chain Resiliency

Having reskilling programs in place for moments such as these where industry-wide changes in modes of operation occur helps improve resiliency. With these programs fully realized, your facility can seamlessly adapt and retrain a workforce to operate at max efficiency regardless of what the future of your particular industry looks like. For more information on how you can get started reskilling employees in your facility with a proper program, contact an expert from Cybernet today.