Manufacturing organizations are racing to digitize the workplace, but many leaders say they are hamstrung by a lack of skilled workers to support those high-tech plans, according to a Gartner survey released this week.
The firm interviewed 439 manufacturing leaders for its 2020 Smart Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation Trends Survey and found that 57% say they lack the talent required to push forward with smart factory goals. Such goals require “connected factory workers”—a team of people that can “leverage various digital tools and data management techniques to improve and integrate their interactions with both physical and virtual surroundings while improving decision accuracy, proliferating knowledge, and lessening variability,” as Gartner describes it.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitization journey toward smart manufacturing,” Simon Jacobson, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said in a statement. “They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency, and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how—and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
The survey also revealed that change management and developing a culture that blends technology and people are among the greatest challenges to implementing digitization plans on the factory floor.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge,'' Jacobson also said. “Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them–regarding technology, as well as talent.”
Although companies recognize the value and opportunity for smart manufacturing, simply introducing new technologies is not enough, according to the research.
“The factory workers must evolve alongside the technology and be on board for the changes to come,” they wrote.
Gartner surveyed executives from North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific for the report.