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Industry 4.0 | I4.0 Impact on the Workforce

Written by Denise Rice. Denise is the CEO of Peak Performance and the Manufacturing Consultant to the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.She is a former plant manager with nearly 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry.

As the U.S. unemployment sinks to lowest rates in 50 years, manufacturers are seeking automated solutions to fill gaps. This breeds concerns that everything from cobots and low-code traditional robots to “smart machines” and artificial intelligence will replace jobs.

In 2013, researchers from the University of Oxford concluded a study that robots will replace 47% of jobs. This study has spurred automation anxiety with warnings of social unrest and widespread unemployment. While it is true that automation is impacting jobs particularly drivers, farmers, printers and publishers, cashiers and travel agents, we are still faced with a shortage of workers. Automation will take some jobs, but it will also create others. New cobots will take over tasks workers prefer not to perform and allow them to perform more cognitively challenging, less mundane tasks. It’s easy to see the jobs being replaced by machines but a lot harder to visualize the jobs that come from the technology advancements. These news jobs will require a higher skill and incumbent workers will be required to be retrained.

Today, there are over 350,000 Tennesseans working in the manufacturing industry. These employees will need to commit to a career of learning new technology in order to stay relevant. As for the emergent workers still in school? We need to train them on jobs that don’t exist yet. The best way to do that? Teach them how to problem solve, critical thinking skills, develop an aptitude for technology, focus on details and build strong communication skills.

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