People key to future of manufacturing

By Seo Jee-yeon
  • Published : Aug 12, 2014 - 21:21
  • Updated : Aug 12, 2014 - 21:44
Last June, the Korean government announced the manufacturing industry innovation 3.0 strategy for creative economy to promote projects to intellectualize and optimize the entire production process at 10,000 smart plants by 2020 with an investment of 1 trillion won ($972 million).

Germany also has been pursuing “industry 4.0” to boost its national competitiveness.

In the future of manufacturing, smart factories will become a true convergence of the real and virtual production worlds, and there are some concerns that people may lose their jobs as plants evolve with automation. 
Guenther Klopsch, head of industry sector at Siemens Korea

However, that kind of environment is impossible without qualified workers as well. Human beings still have crucial roles to play in the future of manufacturing, but with new responsibilities and qualifications.

People now working in production will still be irreplaceable for designing and developing innovative products, planning the production, handling unexpected incidents and making decisions in daily operations.

That’s because even the best computers and machines will never be able to relieve people of the most important things they do ― deciding on the best solution from a number of alternatives, managing unforeseeable events, and deriving new and creative ideas from their experience to produce innovative products with a shorter time to market and higher quality.

Traditional factory work will be less required in the future, especially, for the heavy manual and routine work.

Instead, retooling, maintaining and repairing systems will play a greater role. In smart factories, highly individualized products will be manufactured in small lots. One key task to be carried out by employees will be to manage the constant modification of production lines in the shortest possible time. Or to upgrade production lines with a smart approach simply by linking a component to where it should be located for operation.

The industry primarily will need a mix of trained workers and engineers for its future factories.

Until now, production employees could be divided roughly into two groups: blue-collar workers and their white-collar colleagues ― typically engineers or managers who are responsible for the planning and operation of the factories.

Manpower, a multinational human resource consulting company, sees the age of gray-collar workers on the horizon.

In addition to programming skills, the new gray-collar workers also must be able to interpret complex data and work on teams with members of management.

In the future of manufacturing, employees will remain one of the key factors of success. This requires the availability of researchers, engineers and other skilled employees, educated in high quality schools and universities, as well as immigration policies that reflect current needs and are clear and focused.

By Guenther Klopsch
Head of industry sector at Siemens Korea