With more jobs
to cobots to help ease
By Alex Wright
The U.S. manufacturing industry is at a crossroads. Faced with a shortfall of as many as two million workers between now and 2025, the sector needs to either reinvent itself by making it a more attractive career choice for college and high school graduates or face xtinction. It also needs to shed its image as a dull, unfashionable place to
work, where employees are stuck in dead-end repetitive jobs.
Added to that are the multiple risks caused by the increasing use of automation,
sensors and collaborative robots (cobots) in the manufacturing process, including
product defects and worker injuries. That’s not to mention the increased exposure
to cyber attacks as manufacturers and their facilities become more globally
interconnected through the use of smart technology.
If the industry wishes to continue to move forward at its current rapid pace,
then manufacturers need to work with schools, governments and the community
to provide educational outreach and apprenticeship programs. They must
change the perception of the industry and attract new talent. They also need to
understand and to mitigate the risks presented by the increased use of technology
in the manufacturing process.
“Loss of knowledge due to movement of experienced workers, negative
perception of the manufacturing industry and shortages of STEM (science,
technology, engineering and math) and skilled production workers are driving the
talent gap,” said Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting.
“The risks associated with this are broad and span the entire value chain —
[including] limitations to innovation, product development, meeting production
goals, developing suppliers, meeting customer demand and quality.”
THE TALENT GAP
Manufacturing companies are rapidly expanding. With too few skilled workers
coming in to fill newly created positions, the talent gap is widening. That has been
exacerbated by the gradual drain of knowledge and expertise as baby boomers
retire and a decline in technical education programs in public high schools.
“Most of the millennials want to work for an Amazon, Google or Yahoo,
because they seem like fun places to work and there’s a real sense of community
involvement,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance, Daimler
Trucks North America. “In contrast, the manufacturing industry represents the
‘old school’ where your father and grandfather used to work.
“But nothing could be further from the truth: We offer almost limitless
opportunities in engineering and IT, working in fields such as electric cars and
To dispel this myth, Holden said Daimler’s Educational Outreach Program
assists qualified organizations that support public high school educational programs
in STEM, CTE (career technical education) and skilled trades’ career development.
It also runs weeklong technology schools in its manufacturing facilities
to encourage students to consider
manufacturing as a vocation, he said.
“It’s all essentially a way of
introducing ourselves to the younger
generation and to present them with
an alternative and rewarding career
choice,” he said. “It also gives us the
opportunity to get across the message
that just because we make heavy duty
equipment doesn’t mean we can’t be a
fun and educational place to work.”
RISE OF THE COBOT
Automation undoubtedly helps
manufacturers increase output and
improve efficiency by streamlining
• Manufacturing faces a talent gap
as baby boomers leave and young
workers set their sights on tech-driven jobs.
• Technology and connectivity pose
new opportunities, but also new
• Collaborative robots are one
solution. Employers must educate
themselves on the ins and outs of
robot risks in the workplace.
“The risks associated with [the
talent gap] are broad and span
the entire value chain.”
— Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Collaborative robots can help fill the talent shortfall in manufacturing, but employers must proceed with caution.