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Emerging Technology, Training for the Future, and the Next Industrial Revolution

 Emerging Technology, Training for the Future,
and the Next Industrial Revolution
 
Technology isn’t just a tangible entity. It
moves beyond what we can see, feel, and touch.
It is ideas and theories. It includes philosophy
and risks. In a way, technology itself is like the
stock market. Different industries hedge their
bets on emerging trends. These trends develop
into useful products that change our world. It
isn’t just enough to simply guess where a new
technology may fit, or how emerging technolo-
gies will advance the industry. You must under-
stand how the ebbs and flows will impact your
business, and how new technologies will lever-
age against existing systems.
So, to be successful, we need to do our best
to first spot trends in the industry, and under-
stand how these trends point to a paradigm
shift in the way we operate. You see, every few
years, technology finds a way to revolutionize
the entire manufacturing process. Dating back
to the first Industrial Revolution, when manu-
facturing started to move from hand produc-
tion to steam power, there was a great shift in
how manufacturing impacted the economy.
From there, the utilization of electric power to
create mass production, and then the usage of
electronics to automate has opened the door for
where we are today.
We are on the doorstep of the fourth great
revolution in manufacturing, which has put an
emphasis on connecting the factory, the work-
force, and the end-user. It is this connected fac-
tory and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)
that has created never-before-seen opportuni-
ties to include new technologies ranging from
robotics to 3D printing.
But as technologies continue to advance so
quickly, some may find it difficult to anticipate
what comes next. Just because there are new
technologies doesn’t mean you should be com-
placent with new improvements. Even the best-
connected factory today will experience shifts
in production down the road. Adjusting is more
than a single upgrade. It is creating a dynamic
environment that can adapt to fluctuations to-
day, while adjusting to include emerging tech-
nologies tomorrow.
And one of the best ways to ensure that we
are adaptable to all coming technologies is to
make sure our workforce is competitive. As dur-
ing previous Industrial Revolutions, the econo-
my is expected to grow. This indicates a growth
in jobs as well. But to truly grow, manufacturers
need to reinvest not only in innovation, but in
employees. Now is the time to focus on train-
ing employees on new technologies. A report
on advanced manufacturing [1]  released in 2016
by the Subcommittee for Advanced Manufac-
turing of the National Science and Technology
Council stated that, “Over the next decade, we
will need to fill nearly 3.5 million manufactur-
ing jobs, although two million of these posi-
tions may remain unfilled due to a skills gap.
In fact, at this moment, 80% of manufacturers
currently report a moderate or serious shortage
of qualified applicants for skilled and highly-
skilled production positions.”
Much like when Henry Ford rolled out the
assembly line, there is a push for workers to
further hone and specialize their skills. The re-
sult of this is reduced waste, and a higher qual-
ity end-product. Investing in new technologies
may require funds up front, but this is worth it
when you consider the reduction in assembly
time and the increase in production rate. So, it
isn’t enough to simply adopt these technolo-
gies, but rather adopt a shift that includes train-
ing and preparing a workforce that can handle
current technologies and be adaptable to adjust
to whatever may come down the road.
In the end, the technology we have today
comes as the result of hardworking individu-
als. Sure, Ford made great strides to advance
the way factories produced goods in 1914. But
he also put an emphasis on his employees, en-
suring they knew how to operate the machines
that would change the world. Thus, he pro-
duced quality automobiles and revolutionized
the American class of blue collar workers.
While the digitization of our factories is a
great example of improving production while
decreasing waste, there needs to be a focus on
ensuring the employees can operate machines
across the entire connected factory floor and
train others to do the same. Much like IPC’s
Connected Factory Initiative states, it is impor-
tant to establish a baseline of communication
to achieve Industry 4.0 benefits. For “plug and
play interoperability” of devices to succeed, em-
ployees need to be able to understand and uti-
lize the technology.
Until the fifth Industrial Revolution comes,
we will need to innovate our processes and un-
cover new ways to make today’s systems work
better. Manufacturing will continue to grow in
the United States and across the globe, but it
will require a concerted effort to learn, adapt,
integrate, and evolve. PCB
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