Breathing New Life into Manufacturing through Digital Transformation

The Defining Labour Challenge of our Time
Many industry leaders see digital transformation as an opportunity to revitalise the manufacturing sector. Much attention has been placed on the potential impact of artificial intelligence and automation on production lines. However digital technologies are also likely to overhaul another critical area of manufacturing in the years ahead: data.

Manufacturers generate more data than the vast majority of industry sectors. Yet most companies only use a fraction of it. Effective data analytics can enable organisations to become more efficient, productive and profitable. And, as manufacturers continue to push for better results with ever-diminishing resources, expectations for improved analytics are increasing. That’s why forward-looking companies are looking to harness data in such a new, innovative ways; which enables them to predict success, rather than simply reflect on it.

With this in mind, when reviewing how their organisation uses data, manufacturers must challenge conventional wisdom, invest in fresh thinking and ask new questions. In the past, many manufacturers used data to answer fairly pedestrian questions such as “How fast?”, “How many?”, “How much?”. However, in the future, it will need to answer far more advanced questions, which we likely haven’t even thought of yet. At the very least though, we know the questions will centre on the most important thing: “How effective is it?”.

New digital technologies and processes will enable organisations to transform their data management practices and get more value out of it. But having the right technology in place is just one piece of the puzzle. New skills will also be required, to augment digital technologies and transform data into actionable outcomes. Twenty years ago, the job title of Data Scientist did not exist. Now, it’s one of the most sought after specialities in almost any organisation, manufacturing included. Those companies that recognise the value of data will heavily invest in data science and economist mindsets in the near future.

Fuelling the advanced manufacturing renaissance

Data management is just one example of the ways in which digital technologies will transform the skill sets manufacturers need in the future. By 2020, more than one-third of in-demand skill sets that employers need will be comprised of skills not considered crucial or even non-existent today. In the manufacturing industry specifically, our research found that employers expect to see a significant turnover in headcount in the next couple of years. 24% of manufacturers expect to increase headcount in the next two years; while 19% expect their headcount to decrease across the same time period. It’s positive that this represents a net increase in headcount, but it also demonstrates that significant workforce churn lies ahead.

We’re facing skills disruption, at a pace and scale that’s never been seen before. To increase the resilience of both people and organisations during this time of uncertainty, leaders need to rethink and structure of work and focus on better understanding the skills their business will need in the future. This will enable them to embed a more co-ordinated, data-driven talent strategy that aligns to real-time business needs.

That’s why the Digital Manufacturing Design Innovation Institute partnered with ManpowerGroup and other employers in the sector last year – to identify and define the skills that will be most in-demand for 21st century advanced and digital manufacturing. Together, we created the first-of-its-kind Jobs Taxonomy, which identified 165 jobs that will define the future of manufacturing.

This research helps companies to bridge the skills gap by highlighting the advanced roles that are emerging on the forefront of the manufacturing sector. Armed with this intelligence, employers will be better able to upskill today’s manufacturing workers in a targeted way; ensuring they’re ready for connected, smart machine and augmented-technology jobs. In the future, digital technologies like will be commonplace factories nationwide. And, the sooner organisations get their workforce ready, the more likely they will be to succeed in the future of work.

To find out more about our expertise in manufacturing recruitment and workforce planning, visit or email us at [email protected].