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SKILL DEVELOPMENT The manufacturing workforce of tomorrow

Jun 17, 2021

It is the 'new normal'. Looking back, nothing seems the same anymore. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the manufacturing industry immensely, followed by the lockdowns, which brought the daily processes & facilities of the sector to a halt. But with the vaccinations being available and the efforts made to maintain social distancing, there is a hope that things will go back a tad bit to what they were like before. These factors hold true for the manufacturing industry as well, where another element holds importance - skilling specifically. It is said by many that skilling is what will get the industry and us out of the pandemic. Besides, with the remote working culture and change in the way industries are currently functioning, skills will certainly change too. And haven't the workforce & skills always been above everything else in any industry to move forward? The Viewpoint finds out what the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow will be like in the post-COVID world, the skills that will make a world's difference in the industry and what the current organisations are doing to upskill their workforce.

Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group - Leadership skills will be pivotal in mitigating performance gaps

It is very rightly said that skilling is the only way out to overcome the current situation. When things were normal, upskilling was always required, and at present, the situation demands it even more aggressively. The skilling of the workforce is important to keep abreast with newer technologies and ensure that work is not affected. Our company’s Skill Development Centre (SDC) has been recognised at the national level for promoting National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) by providing training opportunities in designated trades, including advanced courses approved by DGT, Ministry of Skill Development, etc.

Plus, staying in demand by upskilling for the future of manufacturing has never been more important to bridge the growing machine-human gap. Leadership skills will be pivotal in mitigating performance gaps and driving up workforce productivity along with communication-based soft skills for better team coordination. Time and money must be invested in ensuring employees are proficient in using the most innovative equipment. Leveraging VR alongside the video for training would be effective as workers would retain 75% more information while receiving hands-on environment exposure.

Dr Amitabh Saran, Founder & CEO, Altigreen - EVs require a different skillset to understand and appreciate

Our company is using this time to upskill its workforce and make it aware of other aspects of EVs besides their area of expertise. For example, the motor assembly team is getting a better idea of the mating gearbox and power-torque curves governing the output to the wheels. Start-ups are known to disrupt the market for incumbents by bringing about change in the status quo. Case in point: electric vehicles. While EVs are a lot simpler in architecture, they require a different skill-set to understand and appreciate. Instead of engine tuners and ECU flashers, we need electric motor designers and power electronics experts. The workforce will need to understand the difference between laying a 12V wire harness and a high-voltage harness in EVs and the list goes on. Similarly, service engineers and workshop mechanics will have to be upskilled to work with ampmeters and voltmeters along with hammers & wrenches.

Farrokh Cooper, Chairman & Managing Director, Cooper Corporation - Now is the time for corporations to increase their learning budgets

The first step for manufacturers is to contact their local community colleges to see what programmes are available and then talk to college authorities about their interest in collaborating to build a more adequately suited programme. Now is the time for corporations to increase their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Companies may also consider collaborating with other manufacturers who have comparable skill requirements to create a mutually beneficial skills initiative. Today, skill development is critical in the immediate endeavour to limit the effects of COVID-19.

The extension of digital technologies and cloud solutions, such as AI, IoT, etc to simpler & everyday operations will also lead to increased productivity. Companies were cautious to integrate digitalisation prior to COVID. However, in the post-COVID era, operations will be steadily changing toward digitisation, and it sure is time to learn & relearn.

Gary Bateman, Managing Director, LAPP - Workers will need more than just technical skills to compete

In the new normal, post-COVID-19, manufacturing must match the needs of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. The new normal also demands new skillsets, and hence, skilling is the only way to adapt to the pandemic. COVID-19 has levelled the playing field, and we all need to unlearn and learn.

Increased automation and hardware & software skills will be in demand and workers will need more than just technical skills to compete. Problem-solving skills, critical thinking & adaptability to fast-changing trends will be as important. Hence, high-end skills, such as AI, Machine Learning and data analytics, will be integral to manufacturing. Our company focuses on training people across levels – shop floor, supervisory and the management level – to ensure greater productivity.

When it comes to initiatives or investments, periodic trainings help, if possible, in partnership with universities so that workers are well versed with the latest technologies. Live case studies also help improve the reaction time of workers if situations occur at work.

Raghavendra Rao, Chief Executive Officer, Kaizen Hansei - ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’ is no longer a taboo

It may not be that skilling is a way out of the pandemic. Rather, COVID-19 has painfully taught us how to operate differently and, yes, possibly more efficiently. The rapid redeployment of labour to make up for the unavoidable absenteeism, though not desirable, has resulted in some awesome stories of how some great set of dedicated people rose to the occasion (and possibly above it) to stand up & deliver. Going ahead, the skills that will count the most will be the conscious effort to focus on pandemic de-risking and identifying tasks/activities and functions that can be automated/digitised. As for the unlearning part, ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst’ is no longer a taboo.

We also need to spend on automation and robots/cobots – for critical areas and for areas that were manual-intensive until the recent past. Besides, there must be a more empathetic investment in the well-being of the contract workforce.

Zurvan Marolia, Senior Vice President, Godrej & Boyce - New skills required will need to be built up ‘on the job’

The last one year has given us the rare opportunity to pause, review and reset business processes to make ourselves leaner and more competitive. To do this, we have to reorient ourselves to be an even more agile organisation and hence, the need to rapidly upskill our employees using digital means has never been higher.

Furthermore, the digitisation initiatives of the company were accelerated during the pandemic, and strong efforts were made to prepare the organisation to deliver on its objectives while ensuring the safety of employees. The use of digitisation and robotics on the shop floor ensures consistency in the manufacturing processes. Moreover, there is a large number of young skilled manpower resource in our country. However, we are at the transition phase where the new skills required will need to be built up ‘on the job’, but it is only a matter of time for our technical training institutes to start providing inputs required to equip our upcoming workforce with the required skillsets to work in the new paradigm.

Jagdeep Khattar, Founder & CEO, Hongyi Jig Rapid Technologies - Developing countries should not only be consumers but also active players

The demand for skilled labour will be the new currency in the post-pandemic world. One would need to reskill to be at the centre of the economy. Skill development also holds the key to reinventing the Indian workforce during COVID times. Our company is effectively implementing a database of our workers along with their skills. The key lies in training programmes, apprenticeship programmes and approach to skill development.

To a certain extent, it will be the time to unlearn and learn since COVID has taught us many things. Amid the slowing economic activity, the pandemic has led to a surge in digital transformation. Developing countries should not only be consumers but also active players and thus producers of the digital economy, even in the manufacturing sectors. The Government of India is already doing its bit to reskill and make the workforce better in the manufacturing industry.

Vikas Bajaj, President, AIFI (Association of Indian Forging Industry) - Digital marketing is essential

COVID, indeed, has led to both challenges and opportunities, and right now, with the markets slowly reopening, there’s a high demand for very specific job roles. The pandemic has increased the urgency to bridge this gap further, as future jobs will require redefined skillsets and competencies. To upgrade the workforce’s skill levels in our industry, we organised several trainings, seminars and invited experts to speak on automation & technology.

The adoption of the Industrial Revolution will speed up and become the need of the hour. These challenging times have taught us to adapt to the new normal and learn quickly from the changes around us. Employee training in terms of courses and programmes that will help them upgrade will always benefit both parties. Whether it’s the B2C or B2B sector, digital marketing is essential, as having an online presence is vital for business in all industries.

Aditya Vazirani, CEO, Robinsons Global Logistics Solutions - Having a training schedule of various hard & soft skills is critical

Communication will always be at the top of the pyramid – being able to speak up, having a manager who is willing to listen and change based on suggestions. We have also changed the roles around for our teams so that they understand and learn what other customers’ operations are rather than just the accounts they are working on. It serves four purposes – the first being creating backups in the event there is attrition; the second is that it gives them an opportunity to learn something new; thirdly, it eradicates the mundane day-to-day operations they are used to and lastly, it creates curiosity, which drives them to try different ways of making the operations more efficient, as their view is holistic rather than blinkered. What’s more, having a training schedule of various hard & soft skills that are actually being implemented is critical for the betterment of the company.

Dr Ambrish Kumar, Founder, Zipaworld, Group CEO, AAA 2 Innovate - Digital skills are the need of the hour in any sector

The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown have cost the jobs and income of people. Organisations have had to reduce costs and lay off employees. A lot of unskilled labourers had to flock to their homes to survive the lockdowns due to the temporary closing down of their sources of income. Hence, this has made us realise the need of upskilling or learning based on the market and industry requirements. Also, the need of having multiple skills, knowledge and certifications help in finding alternate sources of income during such times.

In truth, digital skills are the need of the hour in any sector. It is definitely time to unlearn the orthodox skills and learn the modern techniques & automation technology. The manufacturing sector should further look for sheer automation and robotics. Furthermore, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence should be used widely as that will help in planning production and manufacturing activities as per demand, also mitigating risks & forecasting any odds.

Image Gallery

  • Nishant Arya

    Executive Director

    JBM Group

  • Dr Amitabh Saran

    Founder & CEO

    Altigreen

  • Farrokh Cooper

    Chairman & Managing Director

    Cooper Corporation

  • Gary Bateman

    Managing Director

    LAPP

  • Raghavendra Rao

    Chief Executive Officer

    Kaizen Hansei

  • Zurvan Marolia

    Senior Vice President

    Godrej & Boyce

  • Jagdeep Khattar

    Founder & CEO

    Hongyi Jig Rapid Technologies

  • Vikas Bajaj

    President

    AIFI (Association of Indian Forging Industry)

  • Aditya Vazirani

    CEO

    Robinsons Global Logistics Solutions

  • Dr Ambrish Kumar

    Founder, Zipaworld

    Group CEO, AAA 2 Innovate

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