Report: Finding Solutions to Manufacturing Skills Gap

Written By: David Immerman
  • 9/27/2019
  • Read Time : 3 min

The World Manufacturing Forum published its 2019 report discussing critical issues facing workforce skill development in the manufacturing industry.

The challenge of optimizing current workforces is of increasing consideration for manufacturers as the industry faces an estimated 2.4 million unfilled positions over the next decade. The report delves deeply into this skills gap conundrum, as well as the roles technologies will play for skills development in Industry 4.0 environments. It includes case studies from leading manufacturers and key recommendations for the industry.

According to a study by the National Association of Manufacturers mentioned in the report, attracting and retaining a quality workforce was cited by 71 percent of manufacturers - the highest current business challenge in 2019. The shortages are across the board with the number of days to fill a job reportedly growing; in 2015 it took 70 days to fill a skilled production worker job, now it takes 93.

The prevalence of automation is also shifting the skills required and pushing the need for new skill sets for different tasks. The report finds that skills for complex reasoning, creativity, and socio-emotional intelligence are growing in importance, while tasks and skills favoring the machine such as sensory perception are less desirable.

New Training Methods Emerging for Manufacturers

In the report, two of the key recommendations are ‘use digital technologies to innovate delivery of education and training’ and ‘ensure that relevant skills are being taught’. As a solution for these recommendations, PTC is featured in the report with its case for just-in-time learning to replace traditional ‘just-in-case’ training models currently commonplace in manufacturing. Education and training programs today deliver all the information an employee might need to know and hope they’ll retain all of the excessive information and apply it in the precise real-world situation.

This out-of-context training method limits knowledge retention and skills development and is expensive. The most effective training delivery method is on-the-floor pairing/shadowing, but this presents substantial bottlenecks and costly challenges for interrupting expert operators and trainer availability.

Volvo Group Leveraging AR for Workforce Skill Development

Seeking to minimize pressing industry issues like the skills gap and move away from traditional and ineffective training delivery methods, the Volvo Group is rethinking the way it develops new quality operators.

The automaker is revolutionizing its engine quality control lines with PTC’s augmented reality underpinning in-context experiences that overlay up-to-date engine configurations and quality checks in 3D. This eases the cognitive burden for operators from traditionally used paper-based manuals, as well as reduces the training time of new quality operators from five weeks to less than two weeks. This will result in massive gains in productivity, quality, control, and overall process efficiencies across the Volvo Group’s plants.

These cases of empowering the industrial worker with just-in-case learning models through augmented reality will alleviate many industry-facing worker concerns and enable manufacturers to effectively compete globally.

In his keynote at the World Manufacturing Forum event, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann spoke to the power of digital, in particular AR, to enhance human capabilities. "Digital has never had to replace people, digital only makes them stronger," he said, noting that augmented reality helps reduce the cost of training by 70 percent.



  • Augmented Reality
  • Digital Transformation
  • Industry 4.0

About the Author

David Immerman

David Immerman is as a Consulting Analyst for the TMT Consulting team based in Boston, MA. Prior to S&P Market Intelligence, David ran competitive intelligence for a supply chain risk management software startup and provided thought leadership and market research for an industrial software provider. Previously, David was an industry analyst in 451 Research’s Internet of Things channel primarily covering the smart transportation and automotive technology markets.