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Industry 4.0 to Alter Jobs, Not Kill Them

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Industry 4.0 will change the nature of manufacturing jobs while not killing off such work.

That was the message of a Feb. 9 webinar produced by the Smart Manufacturing Institute in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“Industry 4.0 changes the nature of work,” said Mary Beth Hudson, the institute’s executive director. “Robots aren’t taking over.”

Industry 4.0 refers to machines connected by software. With Industry 4.0, employees can monitor and manage manufacturing equipment. Preventative maintenance can be planned and anticipated.

The shift will require more skilled employees, she said. “There’s a lot of anxiety,” Hudson said. “Jobs are changing to be strategically oriented.”

Industry 4.0 may also encourage recruiting from groups who previously were underrepresented in manufacturing, such as women and physically challenged people, said Denise Rice, president and CEO of Peak Performance.

Industry 4.0 “opens up additional pathways” for such groups, she said. “It allows for a greater recruiting pool.”

At the same time, Industry 4.0 will require “bigger budgets for training and development,” said Chris Cunningham, UC Foundation professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Manufacturers, he said, will be “looking for you to be an active partner.” Larger companies will be early adopters but smaller manufacturers “have the most to gain” from Industry 4.0.

Such technology puts information “at people’s fingertips,” he said. That will cause workers to feel they have more ownership in their work. “You won’t see as much job-hopping,” he said. 

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