The Future of Digitization Within Manufacturing

Manufacturers can fill the ongoing talent gap and additional digitization solutions hindering productivity through modern technologies.

Advanced technologies enable enhanced knowledge capturing and distribution.

By Charlie Neagoy, SVP at Librestream

A global shortage of 85.2 million skilled workers is forecasted by 2030, meaning the talent gap organizations are currently experiencing will not only continue but grow exponentially and well beyond the upcoming coming year. Changes in workforce structures, including anticipated mass retirements and increased work-from-home popularity, are only making matters worse for talent retention and attraction, widening the already large knowledge gap.

One critical sector currently experiencing challenges with the knowledge and abilities needed for specific tasks is manufacturing. The main problem comes from technicians, auditors, and other workers in the field struggling to find the necessary resources to grow within their roles and complete their tasks on-site productively and safely.

As 2023 quickly approaches, let’s review some advanced technology solutions that will engrain themselves within the field workforce. From AI and NLP to AR, these technologies are anticipated to help solve the current skills gap, its long-term effects, and additional ongoing challenges critical industries are tackling.

Solving The “People/Knowledge Problem”

Manufacturers across the globe continue to face what I like to call the “People/Knowledge problem” (P/K problem). This is the combined scarcity of skilled workers and the lack of knowledge ubiquity throughout an enterprise. This issue stems from the now-perpetual employee turnover (averaging 2-3 years within the same role), the generational retirement of the most skilled employees, and business and economic complexities. 

The one solution that stands out to solve the P/K Problem is digital transformation. In 2023, critical manufacturing companies will start to actively look for solutions that help them address the need for digital knowledge networks. These networks enable companies to maintain institutional knowledge – for example, specific processes created for unique requirements within the company – within their organization for posterity.

Leaders have realized how paramount digitization is and what we expect moving forward is tangible steps toward capturing the knowledge of the best workers before they exit. This knowledge can then be embedded in a digital platform that never disappears, bringing contextualized and highly relevant knowledge to a worker at any time and place – whether to complete a current task or to re-skill / upskill newer workers.

Connecting Integration & Humanization

We will continue to see the human element shining through every new implementation and one of the largest challenges organizations face while undergoing digitization is successfully merging new solutions with the human role.

The challenge with integration is gathering all the various data and information that exists within the enterprise, contextualizing it into utilizable knowledge, and redistributing when needed. The humanization side will come from the ease of knowledge distribution and presenting the gathered knowledge in a user-first, human-centric interface.

In the interest of enhancing operations, manufacturing organizations will more heavily focus this coming year on addressing these two aspects.

Tackling The Supply Chain Issue

Manufacturing enterprises have shown they’re smart and adaptable – already responding to the existing and forecasted supply chain disruptions through conventional approaches of supplier and inventory management. However, they’ll need to go look a little closer to locate the common supply chain issue encountered this past year, which usually originates with a people availability problem. Hence, circling back to the P/K problem and its solution above.

Each year, more workers are considered to have been “born digital,” which means more talent who have never known a world without constantly connected devices. This natural familiarity with digital assets results in greater adoption of technology and it has already opened the door for a new term: “the new-collar worker.” A type of worker that is not only looking forward to using their devices within their roles but also expects their organizations to implement new technologies in their daily work activities.

Historically, consumer uptake of collaborative and wearable technology tends to precede that of commercial/enterprise use. For example, we saw smartphones and wearables first appear as personal devices, before their widespread adoption in the enterprise.

In the near future, newer technologies such as AR, AI, NLP, and many more will start making a more influential impact on businesses. Especially as “born digital” workers continue to enter the workforce requesting to work with these types of tools. Due to their ease of use and increased familiarity, these technologies will become a bigger part of on-the-job digital solutions.

Planning for the Future

As the new year approaches, strategies will arise among business leaders to help organizations operating within critical industries tackle the ongoing productivity issues currently plaguing their operations.

Companies will begin taking advantage of advanced technologies currently available, including NLP, AR, and AI, to face obstacles brought by the P/K problem, supply chain challenges, and digitization integration issues within their organization. The rules of the game will change for the field workforce as digitization becomes widely spread to minimize talent gaps, increase safety and productivity, and ultimately maintain business continuity.

charlie neagoy librestreamCharlie Neagoy

About the Author:
Charlie brings more than 20 years of experience in technical business development, sales, and product management to Librestream, where he leads the Customer Success organization, helping customers achieve their business goals through Librestream’s solutions and services.  His diverse industry experience includes digital media, optical communications, aerospace, and industrial process measurement. Prior to Librestream, Charlie was VP of Partner Sales at Inlet Technologies, a leader in live, over-the-top video streaming. In this role, he established relationships with systems integrators, content owners, and broadcasters to deliver live and on-demand video to any device, anywhere. His customers included ESPN, Major League Baseball, Apple, Microsoft, NBCU, and others. Inlet was acquired by Cisco Systems in 2011.

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