The manufacturing industry has a PR problem among American workers, especially with Generation Z. Three in four manufacturers report difficulty hiring and retaining Gen Z talent. Despite the innovative manufacturing solutions now available, such as AR and the industrial Internet of Things, many don’t consider it an attractive industry. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing jobs peaked at 19.6 million in 1979, even though production output continues to grow.
Part of this issue stems from legacy technologies still in use that hold back new ways of working. Last-generation technologies — including outdated equipment and legacy software and hardware solutions — are at the limits of what they can do without modern technological updates. Companies that continue to rely solely on these legacy tools leave their production workers stuck spending more time firefighting unexpected issues and performing monotonous routine maintenance tasks when they are capable of so much more.
This is why predictive maintenance is one of the most powerful innovations of AI in manufacturing. When workers have insights into the real-time condition of their machines, they can break away from traditional maintenance schedules and manual tasks, and innovation in production grows. Greater efficiency means more time for higher-level work and collaboration with other departments, which leads to stronger cross-functional teams. It also leads to further operational innovations, such as process optimization. The more insights workers can gain from their operations, the more empowered they become. When employees are faced with dynamic and not repetitive work, innovation can start from the plant floor, opening up new opportunities and driving new employment interest.
Even though many feel like manufacturing has limited career prospects, one survey found that 80% would be interested in the industry if there were roles with better training and clear development paths. Solutions that improve production health develop those paths and create opportunities for new tech grads — and current employees — to have a hand in shaping the industry.
3 Ways AI in Manufacturing Empowers Workers
Production health is the combination of machine health and process health solutions. More precisely, the correlated actionable insights into machines, processes, and operations can empower manufacturing workers to excel and develop better careers. Here’s how:
1) Production health increases collaboration.
When insights are wider and can be shared on the same platform, manufacturers no longer need regimented, functional groups operating in siloed spaces. Those boundaries dissolve, and the result is cross-functional teams who can share expertise and experiences. That pooled-together knowledge can lead to new ways of working; as the solution scales, that collaboration can be applied across sites. This more expansive knowledge- and skill-sharing is a fundamental way that AI insights are elevating innovative manufacturing.
Much like the way software engineering went from regimented code writing to a more democratized skill — with procedures, tools, languages, and communities popping up online and making programming more accessible — greater collaboration will benefit teams because they can build upon others’ creative solutions to the problems they face.
Upgrading manufacturing technology brings you into a worldwide community that can find creative ways to resolve any hurdles. That community is the essence of innovative manufacturing.
2) AI in manufacturing reduces inefficient labor allocation.
Not only does AI allow for a higher-level overview of the production line, but it also provides valuable and actionable insights. Accessing this information quickly and easily means manufacturers can make better-informed decisions. The result is a more agile way of working, in which factories can quickly pivot and iterate to changing conditions.
This, in turn, means better labor allocation. Workers can address issues as needed, gain control of their maintenance schedules, and identify inefficient processes faster. With the use of AI tools, a more flexible mindset is possible, and quicker pivots can be made when new conditions pop up. This dramatically reduces the amount of wasted human time, resources, and capabilities.
3) Greater diversity creates manufacturing innovation
Once you create a cross-functional environment where everybody on the team is building something together, you gain different perspectives that create a richer source of new ideas and creativity. This evolution will occur in any facility that provides access to data, sparking new conversations and spotlighting each person’s individual expertise.
The AI insights enabled by production health allow greater opportunities for everyone across the industry. Data is much more accessible, which also lowers the barrier to entry. Learning happens faster, and it becomes more feasible to widen the talent pool and develop better advancement opportunities. This is especially critical for recruiting and retaining women in the industry, as only 27% of women in manufacturing feel strongly about their career advancement opportunities.
Leading the Industry in Innovation
Empowering workers is the key to recruitment and retention. No matter their age, people want to work somewhere they can learn something interesting, have advancement opportunities, and be an active part of a community. Facilitating that environment is the most important manufacturing innovation needed for the future of the industry and its employees. That’s why Augury works to improve production health for our customers, so workers have more time to lead the next great phase of industrial revolution.
For more information on how we empower plant floor teams, contact us today.