Though it may have revolutionized production, the “just in time” mentality does not extend to talent. In the current labor market, manufacturers are finding that many workers are not walking through the door with all the necessary skills they may need. With that in mind, many companies are enhancing their training and development efforts to prepare their workforce for the factory of the future.
Training and workforce development was the topic at hand for the third installment of the 2022 “Build for Now, Build for Future” webinar series produced in partnership between the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center – West (The Center – West) and MiBiz. The webinar featured talent development professionals and manufacturing experts, who spoke about the tactics, tools, and intricacies of talent development.
“What I’m seeing in the market today is how critical it is to create those clear career and development pathways, especially in terms of employee retention,” said Anne Pentiak, a liaison with the Michigan Department of Labor and Opportunity, during the webinar. “When there is a clear, definitive pathway for your team, we see increased retention, but we also see new talent attracted to companies…This is where you can anticipate our future to grow.”
Pentiak noted the importance of distinguishing between training and talent development. Training typically refers to more defined objectives, such as learning a new skill or obtaining a certification. Whereas development is a longer-term strategy tailored for individual workers to progress through their careers. Both training and development must work in concert to create clear talent pathways for employees, Pentaik said.
Stay tuned for Two Additional Webinars
You asked and we listened. MiBiz and The Center – West are adding two additional webinars to the 2022 webinar series. These additional webinars will focus on integrating technology into manufacturing operations and models for creating workplace cultures for sustainable growth. Click HERE to register.
Watch the recording of the webinar HERE.
When creating those pathways, Pentaik said it is essential companies tailor them as much as possible to the individual needs of the staff members. Doing so will give a company the best chance of tapping into that individual’s specific life experiences, talents and interests, and foster further engagement in the process. It could also mean those individuals are more likely to stay with that company.
Additionally, Pentaik said that including workers who are subject matter experts on a particular machine or process as trainers alongside hiring and human resources managers, also helps build engagement and effective training.
“If someone is a superstar in a role, bring in that expert who is doing the work,” Pentaik said. “Those three together can really help develop an effective pathway for that job.”
For Mark Ermatinger, creating those talent development pathways helps companies demonstrate they are progressive and forward-thinking, both attributes that the upcoming generation of talent looks for in a workplace. Ermatinger leads Industrial Control, a Zeeland-based advanced manufacturing technology and services provider. The company also offers training courses, free of charge for its customers, on the high-end technologies it sells. Over the last 15 years Industrial Control has provided approximately 350 such classes, Ermatinger said.
“We feel that if people can understand the tech better, they’re more apt to use it, maintain it and be more successful,” Ermatinger said of the classes. “Our goal is to have West Michigan be one of the top competitors globally in technology.”
Preparing for Technical Change
In many cases, advanced manufacturing technologies are creating new and engaging opportunities for companies to train and retain their workforce.
While there are countless areas of industrial technology to track, Ermatinger sees some of the most prolific advancements coming from how data is gathered, moved, stored and analyzed. He specifically referenced companies creating a “digital twin” of a part in the cloud which serves as a sort of digital prototype that can run on its own or in parallel with physical assembly, allowing manufacturers to compare the models and make tweaks to improve production.
Advanced Manufacturing Expo
he 2022 Advanced Manufacturing Expo (AME) will take place August 11 and 12 at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. The show includes hundreds of exhibitors, featuring the latest advanced manufacturing technologies, and is separated into three halls, each dedicated to vendors specializing in automation and manufacturing services, metalworking, and mechanical technologies. Last year’s event drew more than 3,000 participants from across the globe. Register to become an exhibitor or as an attendee. AME is completely free to attend, with the first 2,000 attendees receiving a voucher for free two-hour parking.
Another area of advanced tech is in autonomous mobile robots, including self-driving forktrucks, used to ferry material around the shop floor, Ermatinger said.
These forms of Industry 4.0 technology allow companies to free up valuable talent from conducting simple, mundane or repetitive tasks, and reassign them to more value-add processes. In addition to freeing up workers, these advanced technologies can also serve to spark workers’ curiosity.
“Some of these companies that are experimenting and researching (with Industry 4.0 technology) on their own, can identify some of the people who want to get involved,” Ermatinger said. “I’ve seen a lot of times where an advocate comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden they start to spearhead that technology.”
During the webinar the speakers noted the importance for executives to communicate to their employees that advanced manufacturing technology is not meant to take jobs, rather that it opens doors to new opportunities – opportunities that often pay more and offer more long-term job security.
Overall, manufacturers that dedicate resources to workforce development are helping ensure their ability to weather future industry and economic disruptions. A company that invests in the long-term goals of its people is more likely to maintain an engaged workforce, increase efficiencies, and innovate. “There are people who want to move up and do more important things,” Ermatinger said. “Why not promote from within, they’re already invested in your company to begin with.”