There’s no doubt millennials are changing the look and feel of the current work culture across industries — taking over leadership roles and set to enter the c-suite in the next seven years.
However, success with this generation is not uniform. A 2019 survey shows there’s one sector the millennial workforce is reluctant to experiment in and finds rather boring: Manufacturing.
Compared to just 68% of millennials, the survey found that 86% of baby boomers and Gen-X agreed that manufacturing jobs make a difference to the economy.
Millennial and workforce concerns
Skills, rigidness with the older generation, the kid-glove treatment, generational dichotomy, pay, sustainable ways of working and being open to change — especially, automation and ways to act with new skills — are some of the key areas that need to be addressed to attract millennials.
With the change of perception and a shift in the industrial culture that’s forging a sustainable path forward, Forbes reported that DayGlo — the world's largest manufacturer of daylight fluorescent pigments — now allows flexible, remote work for administrative positions, with many at the plant opting to four 10-hour shifts as well.
This helps to create a better work-life balance, which is what millennials want in the workplace, according to a CBRE survey. This contradicts the millennial view of the manufacturing sector as “tedious” and “boring.”
Tedious, you know now. But how can boredom be removed? Millennials are tech-savvy and this is where AI-powered new-age and transformative and sustainable jobs are gradually taking over the manufacturing sector, making it much more efficient and with better control quality.
The survey also found that 62% of millennials would ideally prefer “changing jobs as infrequently as possible,” provided roles challenge them, show significant career growth and provide opportunities to upskill and reskill.
However, these sets of priorities do not bind their loyalty to any organization. Finding better opportunities in this digital age, especially if a new role — where AI plays a major role in a sustainable way — allows a remote working environment and a free space to be creative, away from the collaborative workspace or workplace clamor, is also much desired.
Millennials can’t be blamed after all. Technology has proven in the last five years that a collaborative work environment can even be created while working remotely and connecting through collaboration tools, extended reality or a digital twin presenting a replica of the shop floor of a factory.
In such a smart factory, now AI is changing the production processes with analytical capabilities of humungous data, real-time decisions and automation. Mostly, AI is being used in predictive maintenance, quality control, process optimization, supply chain management, better decision-making and collaboration between humans and robots.
By 2030, there will be at least 300 million more people aged 65. According to a McKinsey report, this is set against the backdrop of the upcoming workforce transition with AI automation taking over many areas, requiring 75-375 million people who are likely to switch occupations and learn new skills.
Interestingly, the report added that factors like development of technologies, renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate adaptation, would give rise to new jobs that require new skills.
Some of the new skills are giving rise to a variety of jobs across industries including the manufacturing sector. Here AI product managers, AI research scientists, robotic engineers, big data engineers, business intelligence developers, computer vision engineers, software engineers, data scientists, machine learning experts and natural language processing engineers are creating the differences in a much more sustainable way if compared to the past.
Is sustainable growth the answer?
“From the earliest days of the pandemic, consumers around the world said that they planned to make more sustainable choices about how they spend their time and their money. Many people are willing to pay more for products and services that reflect their specific beliefs. We found consulting data and preliminary research in this domain that shows consumers are looking beyond the brand to consider sustainability across an organization’s full value chain,” says Shevy Magen, Corporate Innovation Leader & Partner - Digital Re-Invention, Avasant at the Tech2Sustain discussion on sustainable consumerism.
“We think this opens the doors for many companies to create products or solutions that reflect the nuanced concerns of their target customers. The demand is not yet there with millennials, but we expect it to grow exponentially over the coming generations,” adds Magen.
It’s estimated that the global manufacturing sector accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions and 54% of the world’s energy usage.
Building a more sustainable business — a key priority for millennials — through sustainable engineering for manufacturers offers a path forward.
“A few of the imperatives that sustainable engineering practices can impact include bringing out energy-efficient products, product optimization, recyclable materials, circular design, sustainable packaging, optimal usage of resources for manufacturing and operations, sustainable supply chain and ecosystem, product lifecycle assessments, including less CO2 emissions and supporting a greener planet,” says Prasanna Oruganti, Associate Vice President, Industrial Manufacturing, ERS, at HCLTech.
While millennials are concerned about climate change and the way the planet is deteriorating every day due to manmade disasters and the use of fossil fuels, they look forward to utilizing new technologies to drive sustainability initiatives in industries like manufacturing.
At this juncture, Industry NeXT — HCLTech’s forward-looking industry framework — is helping customers become expansive, adaptive and future-proof, irrespective of their industries or technology adoption maturity.
This is because Industry NeXT enables businesses, including those where millennials are at decision-making positions, to experiment beyond just operational efficiency at scale with accelerated speed. The framework takes the Industry 4.0 capabilities as its baseline to enable enterprises to transform industrial operations into resilient, sustainable and experience-driven, create new revenue models and value streams by evolving products and services and eliminate the digital silos through security and network convergence.
Sustainable engineering keeps the environment in mind, while latest technologies, including IoT, AI, digital twin and cloud, are stitched in such a way that stakeholders are well-informed of the benefits from shop floor to top floor.
The four key drivers of the Industry NeXT ecosystem are data intelligence, compute smart, embracing convergence and micro capability. This integrated ecosystem connects people, stakeholders, enterprises, operations, products, services, data and assets with a digital thread to rethink the entire value creation process and reinvent customer experiences.
“The Digital Manufacturing pillar of HCLTech Industry NeXT brings many opportunities for the manufacturing industry to meet evolving business needs. Leveraging digital thread, digital twins, intelligent sensors, cobots and 5G will enable next-generation manufacturing enterprises to create a data-driven connected factory backed by a solid IT/OT architecture with complete autonomy over manufacturing equipment, operations and product attributes,” says Ralf Schulze, Associate Vice President, Manufacturing (IoT WoRKS™), at HCLTech.
For example, a global manufacturer of machine parts and tools with more than 150 connected manufacturing factories worldwide needed them to seamlessly work together and be integrated into a global physical supply chain and a digital ecosystem.
Leveraging cloud as a technology and Industry NeXT’s capabilities, the benefits the customer received included a 30% reduction in operation costs, 40% reduction in major incidents, 99% adherence to major KPI’s and SPI’s and 40% reduction in TCO with AI/ML base automation.
The customer was also able to achieve 10% reduction in water and electricity consumption for its core manufacturing operations as well as data centers. The real-time data powered intelligence powered by AI also helped the customer advance on their sustainability aspirations.
As manufacturing companies strive for resilience, this sustainably transformed digital ecosystem — with smart manufacturing services powered by AI — can enable modern manufacturing companies to discover transformational business potential through this cognitive and secured ecosystem.