Are you ready for industry 4.0 and learning through technological change?

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Technology is moving fast, which means its more important than ever before to upskill your team and ensure your business is ready for industry 4.0.

We’re currently in a period of rapid technological and social change, where artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and automation are fast becoming cornerstones of the new working environment. In manufacturing, we refer to this new landscape as industry 4.0.

The difficulty is that at the moment we don’t know which skills will be needed in future, and therefore deciding which areas people need training in is challenging.

For the manufacturing and engineering sector in particular, which is already drastically short of skilled labour, this poses an enormous problem. Unfortunately, this problem can lead to the worst of solutions – one that’s typified by the ‘wait and see’ approach:

  • ‘Let’s wait until we’re sure the technology is good enough’
  • ‘Let’s see what our competitors are doing before we take a chance on changing our way of working’
  • ‘Let’s wait until we’re certain we’re making the right choice’
  • ‘Let’s not invest yet in training until we can see there’ll be a return’

As we’ve seen with some of the other challenges the industry is facing at the moment, such as Brexit, there’s nothing quite like ‘wait and see’ to stifle innovation and creativity.

In fact, it can often stifle more than that. Whole systems can go into stasis as we wait for someone else to make the first move.

That shouldn’t be the future for British industry and manufacturing. We need to take the lead. We need to claim our place on the world-stage of the next industrial revolution.

To do this we need to think of training differently. We need to be training people not just in the technical skills that they’ll need, but also in the mindset and behaviour required to adapt to change effectively. We should start by training our people not to be afraid of change.

We should encourage them to embrace the unknown, to enter into this new era filled with hope and ambition about what it means for the country, for the organisation and most importantly for the individuals themselves and their families.

Training as part of the business strategy

There are some undisputed facts: the robots are definitely coming. In some industries they’re already here, and that will lead to jobs being lost - but as these jobs are lost, more jobs and opportunities are created.

Gartner predicts that in 2020, AI will begin to create more jobs than it makes defunct. Organisations just have to be ready to fill these vacancies as they emerge.

We know that people are afraid of the unknown. Personally I can attest to the fact that my imagination is always far more creative than the actual facts in front of me. Therefore, the first task for an organisation is to demystify the future.

It is far more beneficial for organisations to take the long-term view now. Invest in finding out more about your people and in training and development so that employees are ready, willing and capable of learning new skills.

Do your people understand what you mean by artificial intelligence? Do they know the components of industry 4.0? Can they see how these can be adopted as small steps rather than large-scale changes?

Now’s the time to embed a culture of curiosity within your organisation, rather than fear about what the future holds.

When you’ve got the interest and enthusiasm of your people, start to identify what special abilities and attributes they have.

Build an accurate picture of the talents and skills of the people you employ internally. This is not just about looking at past performance and past history - it’s also about identifying their hidden potential.

Perhaps it’s your maintenance manager who has a real aptitude for proactive fault finding. You might have an engineer who has created an app for their local football team and is pretty nifty regarding programming, or a marketing manager who seems able to ‘talk to machines’. Maybe your IT manager is better with analysing data than installing new hardware.

All of these individual abilities and aptitudes need to be recognised and by doing so, the training team can put in place a programme to develop these previously untapped skills and potential.

Training as part of business growth strategy

As training uncovers the latent potential in an organisation, the business will also be developing its strategic plan and growth trajectory.

It’s time to put training at the heart of your business strategy if you want to be equipped for industry 4.0.

With the insights and data gathered by the training department, more intelligence can be used when resourcing new projects by redeploying existing capabilities within the organisation. They can also be more specific about what skills are required with the recruitment of new staff.

As industry 4.0 takes off, there will be a war for talent and new skills. Organisations with big budgets and deep pockets will be in a prime position to attract talent.

Smaller organisations, on the other hand, will need to appeal to applicants with exciting projects and innovative ideas and opportunities. While this is possible, it is not ideal.

It is far more beneficial for organisations to take the long-term view now. Invest in finding out more about your people and in training and development so that employees are ready, willing and capable of learning new skills.

It’s time to put training at the heart of your business strategy if you want to be equipped for industry 4.0. If you choose to ‘wait and see’ you can be sure your competitors will not!

Invest in your people now and show them you value them, and they in turn will ensure you succeed.

Want to learn more? Read Digital technology: how to encourage employees to embrace change.

About Neil Lewin

Neil Lewin - Senior Consultant Festo Training and Consulting

It’s all about people development for me. From the company I work for and the job I do to the clients I help train and develop. I guess it started in my early days as an engineering apprentice. Improving my skills, lining up the next challenge and learning new things was a real motivation. As I moved into new roles, it was always about seeing people develop and progress.

Now as Learning & Development consultant the focus is on working with client teams. Helping them through the challenges they’re facing and improving their people management, employee engagement and leadership skills.

Today I’m leading the Industry 4.0 training within Festo. From running webinars and training courses, we help business leaders identify how to harness the potential of Industry 4.0 and what they – as leaders – need to do to improve their own skills. We term this Leadership 4.0.

I’m also an active STEM Ambassador, responsible for encouraging student and school children into an engineering career. It’s an immensely rewarding role and I’m looking forward to seeing the results in the years to come.

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