Manufacturing is changing more quickly than ever before. Even though we’re already in the middle of a period of rapid automation, businesses need to keep one eye on the future.
The next phase of industry will see the “convergence of humans and machines,” writes the team at Micron. While Industry 4.0 has been characterized by a move to smart manufacturing plants, ones operated with very minimal human involvement, Industry 5.0 will put human-machine collaboration at the heart of manufacturing.
“That could mean workers giving their personal care to items like car interiors, high-spec watches and jewellery, craft beers and foods, designer clothing and even software,” writes Publitek account director Lee Hibbert. “It’s only through man and machine working seamlessly together that manufacturers will be able to meet the rising expectation of an increasingly discerning customer base.”
While the current phase of industry is about replacing low-skilled workers with robots that carry out repetitive tasks, Industry 5.0 will be about marrying highly skilled workers with those robots. Here’s what experts believe manufacturing in the year 2030 could look like.
Manufacturing With a Human Touch
The most salient point of Industry 5.0 that manufacturers need to be aware of is the shift toward customization and personalization, made possible by the cooperation of humans and robots.
There will be a significantly greater demand for customization and personalization in mass-produced goods, writes Robotics Online. This level of customization is only possible with advanced collaboration between humans and robots. But rather than putting robots at the forefront of production, as is the case in Industry 4.0, the Robotics Online Marketing team believes that robots will take a backseat to human intelligence.
Universal Robots founder Esben H. Østergaard thinks of Industry 5.0 as “the return of the human touch.” That’s why his team imagines the factory of the future accelerating innately human talents and capabilities. High-impact roles won’t mean programming algorithms or maintaining robots. Those roles will call for workers who can add particular value to products.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean an end to robots in manufacturing. Far from it.
Instead, there will be a division of human and robot labor, engineer and tech writer Cabe Atwell says. Robots will take over all of the monotonous and repetitive tasks, leaving humans to take charge of the creative aspect. “This will allow staff to take on more responsibility and increased supervision of systems to elevate the quality of production across the board.”
Automation Will Remain Essential
Human-machine cooperation is only possible when machines are able to take care of a significant portion of manual work. That means that robots will be replacing more and more factory floor jobs currently handled by humans.
There’s no way of getting around the fact that some manufacturing jobs will be lost. Adrian Cooper, CEO and chief economist at Oxford Economics, has pegged the figure at almost 20 million worldwide manufacturing jobs lost to robots by the year 2030.
What kind of jobs are going to be automated? Dogtown Media CEO and Cofounder Marc Fischer believes “repeatable task-based jobs, like warehouse roles, are likely to be the first to be automated.” That’s because AI is significantly better at performing repeatable tasks with much higher accuracy than we are.
Parts of particular jobs will also be automated. Take the quality assurance professional, says the team at InfinityQS. They’ll use similar charts and data to monitor the factory as they do today. The difference is data collection will be more automated than it is at the moment, allowing the factory worker to make quicker and better decisions. In many cases, this will mean preventative steps are taken to avoid issues before any occur.
New Skills Will Be Required (and New Jobs Created)
As automation replaces repetitive tasks, it will free up more space for human skills, note Deloitte researchers Paul Wellener, Ben Dollar, Heather Ashton Manolian, Luke Monck and Aijaz Hussain. As a result, soft skills such as creativity and critical thinking will be in high demand. “Companies need workers that can exhibit these skills as well as the digital skills necessary to work alongside automation,” they write.
New jobs will be created as a result. François Barbier, president of global operations and components at Flex, points out that manufacturing companies will need employees who can build hardware and software, design AI algorithms, and look after robots. He points to a stat from Forrester Research that suggests almost 15 million new jobs will be created to meet that demand.
What’s more, if demand for better customization and personalization materializes, specific industry experts will also be required to help deliver the personal touch.
A Potential Skills Shortage or a More Attractive Industry?
Industry 5.0 is still merely something on the horizon, but it’s something manufacturers need to start preparing for.
In 2030, it will be essential for manufacturing companies to automate in order to simply remain competitive, writes SkyHive Founder and CEO Sean Hinton. This will mean two things:
- Cost pressures will require companies to downsize or reassign a large portion of workers.
- These organizations will need to recruit employees who understand these new technologies in order to adapt to changes and remain agile.
At the moment, these kinds of professionals are still rare, and they’re more commonly found in other sectors of the economy. Conrad Leiva, VP of strategy and alliances at iBASEt, believes that will change in the future, however, to the point where manufacturing jobs will be much more sought after in 2030.
“There will be more incentives provided by employers, better pay, health plans and work schedules,” Leiva says. “Manufacturing becomes a high-tech career where employees train collaborative robots and program smart machines to handle the tediously repetitive and unsafe tasks.”
This vision of the future of manufacturing isn’t far-fetched. Automation is happening now, and in-demand skills are already changing. The manufacturers that make changes now will be much better placed to survive in the future, whatever it holds.