Manufacturing Transformation and the People Challenge


By Tom Hennessey | Manufacturing Transformation

Engineer In Factory Using Digital Tablet

A recent article at presents the seven biggest challenges faced by manufacturers today. The first challenge on the list? “Finding good people.”

Some things never change. With all the technology transformation taking place in manufacturing—big data, global platforms, flexible supply chains—it still comes down to finding talented people.

Too bad the technology transformation can’t help with that challenge. Or can it?

As manufacturers advance Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) strategies, they’re making huge advances in handling and extracting intelligence from data. Other improvements can be tied to tracking and synchronizing material flows between facilities, warehouses, and suppliers. Achieving a more robust approach to compliance with complete traceability data that can be recorded at every step in the process is another big improvement that can now be done far more cost effectively. All of this makes the enterprise more agile and responsive, and much better able to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.

But this transformation is also doing something else: it’s putting the latest tablets and smart phones—fully integrated with the manufacturing systems—into the hands of more and more workers. An increasing number of workers now have a much greater amount of information and intelligence than they ever had, available at nearly any time or place (learn more about mobility solutions here). No longer do workers have to be at their stations or in their offices to stay on top of operational performance. Now they can do it right on the production floor, in the warehouse, on the shipping dock, at a supplier—wherever they happen to be.

The enterprise benefits enormously when the tools of the last century are replaced with the tools of this one. From the maintenance worker to the QC manager to the executive suite, problems get addressed immediately. Not an hour from now, and certainly not the next day, but right now.

But here’s the thing—the workers benefit too. So much so, that manufacturers who have adopted the new technologies are using it to attract the best and the brightest people. “Come work here,” they are saying. “Use our state-of-the-art facilities and gain valuable experience in the tool sets of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

It’s a powerful appeal, mainly because it’s true. Workers at all levels want the latest tools. More importantly, they understand the value of being conversant with the technologies that will shape the future of manufacturing. That’s true for skilled people not directly involved in manufacturing operations as well, such as IT and compliance.

In the end, the ROI from investing in modern manufacturing technology goes beyond the considerable improvements to be achieved in performance and efficiency.  It includes the vital strategic benefit of being able to attract the right labor talent to your organization, helping you leapfrog even further ahead.

To borrow a line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you implement it, they will come.”