What the manufacturing employee of 2025 will look like – and how businesses can attract them

By Johan Carstens, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace 2025 - ArticlesManufacturing

Every business wants to get ahead of the game. If you can predict the changes that the next few years will bring, you can place your business in the best position to succeed – and secure the talent that will get you there.

That’s what we’ve tried to do in our whitepaper, which takes a hypothetical look at a day in the life of a manufacturing employee in 2025.

We follow the experiences of Klaus, the Head of Manufacturing for a German car company where smart manufacturing – and smart workplace technology – is built in.

And as the whitepaper shows, the whole employee experience is set to change in the near future.

We won’t need individual devices; even manufacturers won’t be tied to the factory floor; data will be physically encoded into the workplace around us, and, crucially, work will revolve around overseeing services instead of performing tasks.

It might sound complicated, but this shift promises to totally streamline operations on the factory floor. Manufacturers will be able to work more efficiently and profitably, while employees will take on a new and more challenging role directing services.

But this different kind of workplace will require a different kind of employee, and it’s up to businesses today to plan how to attract this talent.

I thought about how the manufacturing workplace will transform by 2025 – and the impact on employees – and jotted my ideas down…

Flexibility beyond the factory floor

We all have a business function that we carry out, whether it involves selling a product to customers, coming up with creative marketing campaigns, or physically assembling a widget in a production line.

And we need tools to do it. But in our working day, we don’t want to spend time looking for the right tools. If a worker can’t find the tools they need, or if they break down, then the whole production line will be affected.

To avoid this scenario in the digital age, manufacturers will need to focus on supporting the function that the user performs in the business, with seamless, flexible technology.

Take our Head of Manufacturing from 2025, Klaus. One day, while working from home, he gets a ping on his smartwatch reporting that one of the paint robots on the line is producing minor inconsistencies on its cars.

Klaus sends the alert to his data scientists to investigate the metrics behind the scenes. But in the meantime, he contacts Charlotte, his deputy, who is on the factory floor.

By sending a copy of his dashboard to her augmented reality display, he can alert her to the potential issue on-site and involve her in the solution.

In this scenario, no worker is dependent on a single application or piece of technology to accomplish their objectives.

The best employees are less process-orientated and ready to adapt to different challenges, using technology to solve them in the best way possible.

Free your workforce

In the future, an employee won’t sit at their desk and open a laptop, or stand at their station and launch an app on a machine.

Instead, they might put their phone on a table, where it will produce a hologram of a keyboard, allowing the user to type. 

This is a much more flexible, environmentally friendly approach. It allows employees to work from anywhere – the manager in our whitepaper, Klaus, works from home, from a meeting room, or on the road. He doesn’t need his own desk or office to be productive.

To solve the paint issue mentioned earlier, Klaus finds a face to face meeting location – aided by his smart assistant – and convenes his team.

Together, they examine a digital twin of the robot in question, a digital representation of its precise movements and measurements. Collectively, they can analyse and brainstorm the source of the issue.

One technology that is going to enable this new mode of working is digital ink. This is where data is encoded in ink, which you can use to draw on physical things.

This has huge implications for the workplace. The information a worker needs to carry out their job will be embedded into objects around them, and they will be able to use any device and means they wish to interpret it.  

Every employee will be enabled to work anywhere, with anything, creating a more productive and fulfilling experience.

Workers who can quickly access and interpret data from a wide range of locations, and act accordingly, will deliver even greater value to their businesses.

Services will be king

The “as a service” economy has existed for many years and it will only grow on the road to 2019.

A great example is car ownership today. As rates of car use decrease to just nine hours a week on average, more and more people are choosing not to own a car. Instead they are moving to a mobility as a service model, using rental cars as and when they need them.

The manufacturing industry is already evolving to reflect this service-based approach – and this is impacting job roles.

By 2025, to an even greater extent than today, car manufacturers will be assemblers and not makers. They’ll bring in high quality parts from specialist suppliers using mostly robotics, then piece them together and customize them for each individual consumer.

Even the machines used on the lines may be sourced and rented from other businesses.

A large part of workers’ roles will be overseeing the full supply chain, to ensure that components are both fully functional and ethically sourced.

In our factory from 2025, the data scientists are able to establish that the irregularity in the paintwork is being caused by an almost imperceptible difference in the paint’s molecular makeup, using artificial intelligence.

Within minutes, Klaus can use his smartglasses to communicate with his paint supplier to ask them to check the next batch being supplied – before establishing a monitoring system to check on the robot’s output when the new paint arrives.

Employees in manufacturing then will become managers of services. Instead of doing the actual work themselves, they will oversee and co-ordinate the service to ensure production can happen smoothly.

Businesses will need to attract employees who are adept at multitasking, working at speed and collaborating with a whole host of stakeholders inside and outside the organisation, to deliver the work needed. And of course, they will need to provide them with the workplace tools to make it happen.

2025 on the horizon

Ultimately, when it comes to the future we are all just guessing. Nobody actually knows what’s going to happen in 2025.

However, there are some fairly obvious trends. The function of factory workers is already changing, and will continue to shift as more and more manufacturers move to a service model.

Digital ink will enable data to be embedded into physical objects in an office or a factory floor. And, in contrast to the industry today, employees will be able to work wherever they choose.

Businesses will need to secure employees who are not only comfortable with using a range of technologies, but flexible, adaptive and able to quickly use data from a whole range of sources.

To get ahead of the game, manufacturers should begin today, by using digital workplace tools to create a simplified, intelligent workplace where everything just works.

This will ensure that manufacturers can attract and retain the right people for the factory of the future.

Download the ‘day in the life’ whitepaper here.

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