Leveraging Technology for Workforce Improvement
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Leveraging Technology for Workforce Improvement

Bruce Wisnefske, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Systems, Sargento Foods
Bruce Wisnefske, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Systems, Sargento Foods

Bruce Wisnefske, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Systems, Sargento Foods

It is hard to look around today without seeing businesses posting signs looking for workers. Manufacturing, Food Service, Transportation, along with many other sectors are all experiencing significant shortfalls on available labor resources and the cost associated with hiring and retaining those employees continues to climb. According to Emsi, a leading economic research company, due to declining birth rates in the U.S. in the next 7 years there simply will not be enough people to address a labor shortage of 6 million workers. With millions of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce over the past 2 years, hastened by the pandemic, the need to utilize technology is becoming greater than ever. The post-pandemic world may be the perfect storm to drive changes in how, when, and where companies engage and incorporate technologies to develop, support, and enhance the overall employee experience and help meet the increasing needs of employers.

In the past, there was a thought of technology improvements as being simply the addition of automation, robotics or other autonomous technologies. These technologies would help to reduce or eliminate repetitive activities to improve employee safety along with providing some operational efficiencies. Now, however, utilizing improved augmented technologies to support employee development along with improved data and analytics to enhance the delivery of information will be key to a company’s success in the next few years.

As new employees enter an organization, companies need to have tools and systems that are built to support those employees and provide the necessary content for them to be successful. One technology that can help pull this lever is Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies. With these tools, employers can provide an improved and immersive structure that can assist with the onboarding time, on-the-job training, along with continuous training needs to develop and upskill employees. Additionally, it can drive efficiency through the elimination of some paper-based systems. 

Another major step to assist employees is to improve the overall access to actionable information. Through the utilization of processes and systems within Industry 4.0 to assist with improved understanding of systems, materials, and processes, employees can more efficiently react and support the teams and systems around them. This will be done through a more connected enterprise where we can access, review, and respond to data that was either not available in previous environments or was not timely enough to make meaningful decisions.
 
  As new employees enter an organization, companies need to have tools and systems that are built to support those employees and provide the necessary content for them to be successful   
 
With improvements to machine system controls we can provide improved condition level reporting that can help to support maintenance activities and reduce downtime events and increase machine availability and reliability. This will also cause a continued blurring of the lines between IT and OT (overtime) and how each area supports the other in a continuous manufacturing environment.

Finally, how do we as employers, create knowledge and excitement about the opportunities that are available within this new, ever-changing workforce? As the use of technology continues to expand, the skill needs that businesses will need from the next generation of employees will provide opportunities that may not have existed in the past. Through partnerships with schools and universities, it is imperative for manufacturers to show all the advancements that are currently underway and the potential opportunities that may be available in upcoming years as technology continues to expand. The current generation of students may be the best equipped to support and utilize these new technologies so we must engage them early and generate an interest in entering these exciting new jobs within Supply Chain.

In conclusion, we are currently living in rapidly-changing yet very exciting times. Beyond just our investment in technology, our investment in our employees will be a critical component for business success. Systems, processes, and technologies will be changing more than ever before, and we need to make sure that our new and existing employees are well supported as we make these changes. I look forward to all the exciting things on the horizon and can’t wait to see the new American workforce in the next few years.

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