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Social Innovation

Manufacturing Future for Millennials Manufacturing Future for Millennials

Attention millennials:
A Career in Manufacturing Might Actually Be a Perfect Fit for You

By Bill Schmarzo,

CTO of IoT and Analytics, Hitachi Vantara

Millennials, there’s a lot of talk about you on social media these days. Of course, to be a millennial, you simply needed to be born between 1980 and 1996. In the United States, that’s about 73 million of you. But, like the baby boomers before you, it doesn’t work to pigeonhole you into one single mass of people. You’re unique in so many ways – perhaps the most unique generation on earth. Certainly, the most digitally-aware generation as smart phones have literally become your digital twins.

We do know you want jobs that pay well, and you want to work for companies that fit your unique sense of social responsibility. We also know it’s important for you to be engaged in your work. Yet, in a recent Gallup report, a whopping 81% of you report that you are not engaged at work.1 Maybe, for some of you, you’re looking in the wrong place. Have you ever thought of a career in manufacturing and the social potential of a career in manufacturing?

You might be surprised to learn that manufacturing isn’t the same industry of dirty factories and boring, repetitive work of previous generations. Digital transformation is impacting the manufacturing industry in the same way it is retail, finance and healthcare. As the world is being transformed by digital tools and processes, the digital transformation is delivering exponential business impact and the betterment of society.

The jobs today offer high pay, challenging and engaging work and ample opportunities for training in sought-after technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In fact, because of digital disruption, the industry is facing an ever-widening chasm of unfilled jobs as older workers retire and new positions need educated and tech-savvy workers.

AI And Robotics
Are Changing the Workforce, But Not in the Way You Think

Robotics and AI are taking on the repetitive, dull and dangerous tasks of the traditional factory job – making the factories safer and more efficient. Although those particular jobs will go away, the need for educated human workers will not. When routine tasks are automated, manufacturing workers are freed up to move into positions that use human talents around design, customer experience, data science, and analytics more effectively. And all of this is driven in highly-collaborative environments that seek to leverage the synergies of teams to derive and drive new sources of customer, product, operational and market value.

Manufacturers are also discovering that collaboration between humans and machines can lead to more efficient processes. Auto manufacturer BMW brought people and robots together to work collaboratively on assembly lines. The new robot/human teams were up to 85% more productive than when working separately – a dramatic improvement in plant productivity. And innovative retailer Stich Fix was influenced by the way millennials shop as well as their product expectations. As a result, the company uses AI to understand its customer’s tastes and then create personalized buying recommendations and a customized clothing package shipped directly to the consumer. They used AI to create a new design and assembly process, and a new supply chain and distribution process customized to the consumer.2

Across manufacturing today, workforces are evolving into teams of highly skilled, well-paid, tech-savvy professionals with skill sets that are in great demand. And this is not just a blip on the employment screen – recent reports suggest that by 2020 AI will create 500,000 more jobs than it will eliminate.3

Plant modernization through co-creation activities is one way in which new technologies are being implemented. The possibilities are limitless, but these emerging technologies need a highly skilled workforce to drive these opportunities forward.

Customers are looking
for an Enriched Experience – and Manufacturing Is Delivering

While manufacturers make products for consumers, today’s consumers are buying more than just products – they’re craving an experience that encompasses a product’s lifecycle, including buying, owning and maintaining that product. Customers now demand a customized and personalized experience and they want a relationship with the companies they purchase from.

Manufacturers are addressing this need for an experience by embracing design thinking, which re-evaluates how organizations provide value to both their customers and to society. For example, retailer Target is attracting millennials as consumers by asking them to collaborate with their designers. Target created an app called Studio Connect that lets invitation-only members tell the designers what they would like to see developed for purchase. Traditional marketing research cannot compete with the speed at which designers are getting the information they need to provide the products the customer wants.4

In fact, for many manufacturers, the customer experience around a product is becoming a primary consideration – and a key differentiator in the marketplace. This is good news for millennials looking for meaningful jobs in manufacturing.

Are Enriching Manufacturing – and Vice Versa

Moving beyond uniform, one-size-fits-all assembly line thinking, manufacturers today are utilizing cognitive computing, virtual reality, drone technology, robotics and much more – and they’ll need innovators and creative minds to get them there. That means you, millennials… lots of you. The technologies of tomorrow are being played out in the factories of today and they need your help.

So, check out manufacturing. With rapidly evolving technologies combined with a focus on social responsibility, manufacturers are opening a world of possibilities for companies and workers alike. And with competitive pay, engaging work, the opportunity for personal and professional growth, the chance to work with today’s leading-edge digital technologies, and a “double bottom line” impact on society, a career in manufacturing might just be the opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Get more information about the exciting changes occurring in the manufacturing industry today. See this informative point-of-view paper:

People Still Power Manufacturing