Recruiting a new kind of workforce: The key to smart manufacturing success

Posted on October 28 , 2020. 
By Ben McDonald

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The global smart manufacturing market is expected to grow from $181.3 billion in 2020 to $220.4 billion by 2025.

While COVID-19 has temporarily slowed the expansion of smart manufacturing, the pandemic should ultimately serve as a catalyst that accelerates the sector’s growth in the coming years.

Businesses around the world are looking for ways to digitalize and strengthen their manufacturing processes. Effective use of collaborative robots and the establishment of a robust digital twin will ensure that production can continue even with limited staff. This is now a crucial feature in a time when employees may need to social distance or even be sent home altogether in the event of an outbreak.

Even if we soon discover a coronavirus vaccine, smart manufacturing is here to stay. Digitally-enabled processes are far more resilient in the face of disruptions. Moreover, implementing smart manufacturing leads to a host of additional benefits, including increased productivity, greater sustainability, improved operations, and enhanced capacity for innovation.

But organizations can’t simply implement new technology and expect to reap these rewards automatically. The right people with the right skillsets are needed if smart manufacturing efforts are to succeed.

The manufacturing workforce of the future

Manufacturing has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Greater digitization has led to a 25% increase in productivity over that time. Even as technology enables greater output, fewer workers are needed to perform essential tasks. Despite these
trends, the current talent pool in many regions will not be able to meet the near-future demands of manufacturing. Manufacturing businesses must start upskilling their workforces today if they want to remain competitive in the post-COVID-19 landscape.

The sector has traditionally focused on technical skills. Increasingly, digital skills are required as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence become integrated into operations. Automation tools are fairly simple and intuitive to use, which means training can be done with relative ease. AI training, on the other hand, is a more complex process as AI tools can be used for everything from developing commodity strategies to informing pricing decisions. Employees need to understand these tools and how they work in order to make full use of them. The goal here should be two-fold: Improving productivity and efficiency to satisfy customer needs, while creating more meaningful and rewarding jobs for employees.

Of course, workers will need to be digitally literate in order to use new technologies effectively. But as technology begins to take over more and more repetitive and mundane tasks, workers will be increasingly expected to perform tasks that require a delicate touch. So, along with technical training, employees should also be given “soft skill” training to build up their creativity, critical thinking, and interpersonal abilities.

Bringing in millennials

Aside from training current workers, manufacturers must also develop a strategy to find and attract millennials. These young, tech-savvy workers can be just what organizations need to realize their smart manufacturing ambitions. However, they will face stiff competition for talent from nimble startups and tech titans like Google, which may seem like more promising employers.

In order to lure in younger workers, companies should make it clear to them that their ideas will be valued just as highly as their skills. Naturally they will need to fit into specific roles, but giving them the freedom and support they need to be creative can lead to increased productivity and greater job satisfaction.

Along with ensuring that they are offering attractive career opportunities, manufacturers should also consider cooperating with universities, research institutes, and other companies in order to capture digital talent.

The role of governments

Singapore – whose manufacturing sector accounts for about 20% of the country’s economy – has recognized the needs to address skill shortages in manufacturing in 2017. Since then, it has implemented numerous initiatives which offer an excellent
roadmap for success in this area.

For example, the country’s Professional Conversion Programs help workers move into manufacturing careers through retraining initiatives. The SkillsFuture Career Advisor Program connects workers with industry veterans who act as career advisors. The Place-and-Train and Attach-and-Train programs ensure that the skills of workers match the needs of companies

Such initiatives can be mutually beneficial for governments and the manufacturing sector alike. Smart manufacturing can be an excellent vehicle for growth, as governments seek to recover from the economic aftershocks of COVID-19. Ultimately though, the responsibility of finding the right people will fall with the manufacturers themselves.

Gaining a recruitment edge

We at Connexus Global are currently working with several high-profile companies to help them build up their smart manufacturing capabilities. Towards that end, we’ve been increasingly focusing on recruiting in fields like smart factories, Big Data, cloud systems, business analytics, robotics and automation, as well as the industrial Internet of Things.

Highly educated and skilled data scientists are among the most sought-after talents of the current era, and the COVID-19 pandemic will only increase their value in the job market. If your organization wants to hire talented individuals in these fields, we can show you the way forward. Contact us today to learn more.

Ben McDonald


Consumer & Industrial Markets


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