Manufacturing companies have received some extra attention recently with the gradual mainstreaming of IoT, news of self-driving cars already hitting the roadways, sophisticated 3D printing on the rise, and even "an informal deal" being negotiated for new, upgraded presidential planes in the US. (NOTE: The Transportation Equipment Industry represents a subset of Manufacturing, which includes companies that produce motor vehicles and aircraft).
Experts now refer to this age of smart manufacturing that we're in as "Industry 4.0, the next Industrial Revolution":
"When Industry 4.0 solutions are implemented, manufacturers can benefit in a number of ways: improved resource productivity and efficiency, agility in meeting customers' business needs, value opportunities through the development of new services, as well as increased speed to market."
How can these expectations even begin to be met without a serious commitment to training? Without a doubt, learning will be critical to improving resource productivity, greater agility to satisfy customer needs, developing new services, and speeding time to market.
Plus, there's the issue of the manufacturing industry having had high levels of employee turnover. Now, in Industry 4.0 with its faster rate of change, increased automation, and adoption of new tools -- the situation is made more extreme.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost per hire is $4,129, and the average time-to-hire is 42 days. It's no surprise then, that manufacturing companies are not only trying to keep up with the pace of the industry, they also have to add extra focus to reducing employee turnover to remain competitive.
A culture of learning can help solve many of these challenges. By upskilling current employees, companies can stay ahead of changes in the industry and reduce the need for new hires. By instigating more efficient training practices, the cost of onboarding new hires is also lower. Employees can keep their jobs and improve their skills, while employers get to save money -- it's a win-win.
From Unskilled or Single-Skilled to Multi-Skilled
Another of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers is that the unskilled and single-skilled workers that dominated the industry in the past are no longer a match for the type of employee these companies now require.
Advancing technology requires fewer workers at higher skill levels; the work previously done by unskilled or single-skilled workers is now increasingly provided by largely-automated tools. Instead, these businesses need multi-skilled workers who can oversee and direct a range of tasks. Developing continuous learning programs is an effective way of upskilling existing employees so that they can continue in their jobs while reducing the need to look for more skilled replacements. Plus, requisite training in compliance, safety, quality standards, and even sales training are other areas where continuous learning can be integrated into the day-to-day flow.
Continuing Professional Development
As demand for multi-skilled workers increases, businesses are also at risk of losing key employees to rival companies. When this happens, the organization is not only losing a valued member of the team, it's also left scrambling to fill the gap. By offering continued professional development (CPD) to employees using online learning tools, businesses can show loyalty, increase employee engagement and satisfaction, and shrink the chances that employees will leave for another role.
Increased Training Safety and Speed
Manufacturing can be a high-risk environment: Large machines and automated tools represent a real health and safety risk to untrained workers. By using online learning to enable employees to practice on new machinery using virtual simulations, manufacturing businesses can significantly reduce training risk.
Not only is risk reduced, but employees can practice more efficiently. In a busy manufacturing business, there may be limited time to train employees on the physical machines themselves; simulations enable as much practice as needed. This makes online learning ideal for onboarding new employees, upskilling existing ones, and training whole teams on new equipment.