Creating workforce for future factories: A skilled workforce is a key element for the adoption of Manufacturing 4.0

From mechanisation to electrification to automation, industrial revolutions over the centuries have brought about major technological developments in the world. We are now witnessing the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, which is taking technology adoption in manufacturing to a whole new level. The auto industry has been one of the first adopters of the latest manufacturing trends, making it incumbent to participate in high-end automation of the entire manufacturing value chain, or Manufacturing 4.0.


In India, the adoption of Manufacturing 4.0 is at a nascent stage. The industrial sector is an integral part of ‘Make in India’. Skilling is the most critical and complex component of manufacturing transition; a skilled workforce forms a key element for the adoption of Manufacturing 4.0.


Integrating technologies like AI, cyber-physical systems and cloud computing into a seamless stream of actionable intelligence, the Internet of Things is the nerve centre of modern manufacturing. While enabling deployment of ‘smart machines’ with varying degrees of autonomy, the present-day workforce has to be retrained to fill the new roles these changes create.


Building the next-gen workforce


An understanding of the digital domain is imperative for the next-gen worker. India is struggling with low vocational training capacity and low percentage of formally-skilled workforce. The quality and employability of engineers have been questioned. To live up to the expectations of Manufacturing 4.0, we need to develop a robust training infrastructure. This emerging era will also depend on access to professionals who are endowed with the necessary domain knowledge. Thus, the country’s challenge is two-fold—propel the growth of manufacturing industry and improve the availability of skilled workforce.


The ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives provide the necessary framework for propelling industrial growth and creating a skilled workforce. However, the economy’s growth and job creation necessitate a holistic approach that includes in its ambit the educational system, on-the-job training, certification by professional and industry organisations, company or industry-initiated skill development programmes and, above all, the workforce commitment to continuous learning.


It is likely to create widespread disruptions in the labour market. Key stakeholders—government, industry and academic institutions—must rethink the way educational system functions and encourage re-skilling. They need to change the skill map and take remedial actions to accommodate fast-paced technology trends.


Role of government and industry


While the government is keen on generating employment with ‘Make in India’, it should involve the private sector in PPP models to conduct relevant training. This must happen alongside the creation of infrastructure and development of innovation centres and test labs. The government needs to provide supportive policies and adequate financing for skill development while promoting industry-oriented training.


On its part, the industry can create and define emerging roles for the factories of the future, provide re-skilling opportunities by identifying a core set of industry-relevant skills and delivering them to employees. The auto industry, in particular, should provide cross-functional exposure to employees.


Corporate cultures with continuous training and development in the workplace and lifelong learning are becoming a core competency. A lot of collaborative and cross-cultural competencies will be required to be able to work in network environments sustainably. For manufacturing in general, and automotive industry in particular, competitiveness in the era of digital manufacturing workflows and processes in India will be defined by investment in these new essentials.

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