Millennials In Manufacturing: Why The Next-Generation Workforce Is Ushering In New IoT Opportunities For The Industrial Channel

The industrial market is facing a massive transition as its more traditional workers retire and new digital-driven millennials enter the workforce, and the change is driving conversations with solution providers around retooling technology.

Manufacturers are under pressure to attract this next generation of workers, and solution providers play a vital role in helping these industrial companies revamp their operations with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to enable, connect and empower young workers.

"Companies need to think about that aspect of the new worker in terms of getting quality people when hiring in the future," said Darren Kline, vice president at Wonderware North, a Horsham, Pa.-based solution provider. "People who are just leaving school now, they don’t want to go to some old clunky place – we've talked to customers who are cognizant of that and are retooling their tech centers to look super shiny and sexy, because they can’t recruit kids to come work for them."

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Manufacturers also are under a time crunch as the current generation of workers is retiring at a rapid pace, as an estimated 3.5 million jobs will need to be fulfilled by 2025, according to a report by Deloitte.

However, the new generation of workers is vastly different than that of only a decade ago, said Kline. ’Their expectation of how life works is basically this vision of what we’re painting … they expect things to just work that way,’ he said.

The new modern-day worker, for instance, will be used to being connected through mobile devices and will be accustomed to app-based workloads.

Many industrial companies that want to attract these workers are still reworking their strategies to better incorporate digital processes, and some are even still at the stage where they are walking around with clipboards and papers collecting data manually, solution providers said.

"The expectations of the new generation when they enter the work environment will be totally different," said Luigi De Bernardini, CEO of Autoware, an Austin, Texas-based Schneider Electric partner. "They are used to apps, they’re used to different ways of communicating, and this is in some way … something we need to manage.’

Companies such as Schneider Electric and GE Digital are working with partners to design and implement tools that will help industrial companies beging to digitize their factory floors.

While many manufacturers see the new emerging workforce as a challenge, solution providers said this is a key incentive for them to begin talking about how they can digitize their operations and better incorporate new technologies like IoT, virtual reality and blockchain into their manufacturing floors.

Michael Grasley, vice president of technology and marketing at Callisto Integration, an Oakville, Ontario-based systems integrator, said the channel can help companies build up that ’digital backbone’ to help entice new workers – or, for those who have plans around digital transformation, to ’repackage that information to serve certain functions in a fashion that’s suitable to the people fulfilling that."

’We look at the app-centric world that [the next generation has] ... kids are used to having six apps open on their phone at once, dancing between them and doing different things. That model can work in manufacturing if you have a digital backbone. ... It’s not fundamentally doing anything different, it’s almost a re-skinning exercise.’