Medix Engineering teammates were among the thousands in attendance for the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2022 (IMTS), hosted in Chicago, Illinois. Noted as the largest and longest-running industry trade show in the Western Hemisphere, IMTS is a hub for innovation in digital and traditional manufacturing. This year’s event was launched under the banner of “Digital Manufacturing. Implemented.”, which set the tone for what was ahead. As noted in a recent recap compiled by the editors of Modern Machine Shop, Additive Manufacturing, and Production Machining magazines, “Automation is Everywhere” was highlighted as the show’s number one takeaway.
While it is certainly an exciting time for the interaction of technology and manufacturing, there has always seemed to be a creeping dread underpinning the rise of automation in manufacturing. After all, if everything from inspections, quality control and fully integrated production environments begin to run themselves, where will the human workforce factor into the future of the industry?
As it turns out, the reports of the death of the modern manufacturing jobs have been greatly exaggerated.
A Pandemic Rebound
To be clear, there were certainly grim days during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the New York Times, roughly 1.36 million jobs were during the first two months of the pandemic alone. As it became clear that working conditions were unsafe for employees, consumer buying habits were also rapidly changing. Seemingly overnight, the industry was forced to rethink everything about the way it worked.
Flashing forward to August 2022, manufacturing employers have added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above pre-pandemic levels. This translates into roughly 30,000 jobs being added per month since June 2020. Why was this bounce back different from previous moments of crisis for the industry?
It all comes down to supply chains. As the rippling effects of COVID-19 brought global supply chains to a halt, U.S. manufacturers had to increasingly look to domestic options. The pandemic represented a unique circumstance as skilled laborers were now seen as essential and Americans dealing with lockdowns disrupted demand. In fact, now companies face a different challenge – hiring enough skilled talent to address the ever-growing backlogs of product requests.
Debunking the Automation Fallacy
No, robots are not rising up to remove human beings from the manufacturing industry. If that were the case, a worldwide shutdown brought about by a virus spread from human-to-human interaction would have been the death knell of the industry. Instead, automation represents an opportunity for evolution. As indicated by the World Economic Forum, “the negative impact of automation on the job market can be offset by new tasks.” Their research goes on to predict that, “by 2025, digital technologies will create at least 12 million more jobs than they eliminate, as people with the right skills will be needed to program, maintain and repair them.”
Therefore, manufacturing employers do not have an automation problem; they have a reskilling/upskilling opportunity. Instead of facing difficult decisions, such as mass layoffs, it’s time to invest back into a changing workforce. Digital transformation has the potential to make manufacturing careers more accessible, attainable and essential than ever before.
Are you an employer looking to hire skilled talent to do the manufacturing jobs of the future? Medix Engineering is here to help with solutions tailored to organizations with automation in mind.