For years, we’ve heard warnings about the “graying workforce” in the manufacturing sector, that there weren’t enough fresh faces appearing each year. The graduates coming out of tech schools these days, the very people who should be replacing retiring baby boomers, aren’t showing up to take the available jobs in industrial sectors.
Instead, new graduates are seeking out careers in Silicon Valley to work on consumer products. These career paths often require longer hours and higher costs of living, with less job stability than similar positions in industrial careers. So what’s keeping young graduates away? And what can manufacturers do to change this trend?
The answer is not just providing good salaries and benefits, but embracing the mindset of this new generation that is poised to change manufacturing floors everywhere for the better.
The oldest members of Gen-Z (generally defined as the people born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s) are just starting to graduate from college and enter the workforce. This generation is unique. They aren’t just young millennials; they come to their careers with a perspective on the world that’s different from any generation that’s come before them.
Gen-Z hasn’t just been online their whole lives, they’ve also been using tablets and smartphones since they were teenagers. They are truly a cloud-native, mobile-first generation who can’t remember a time before touchscreen. Simply offering them a great career isn’t enough to draw them away from consumer industries, where they get to work on cutting-edge technology. Industrial spaces need to start thinking like Gen-Z and embrace the way this generation thinks about tech.
That’s not exactly a small challenge for a space that’s known to be a slow adopter. The tech refresh rate has always been slower in manufacturing — and that’s not likely to change overnight — but industrial technology can be modernized. And it can be done affordably. The growth of IIoT technology provides a chance to bridge that glaring generation gap while strengthening stability and improving production.
Industrial technology needs to be more dependable than consumer tech. Small issues can result in downtime, lost profits, and safety hazards on the floor, so stable technology tends to be favored over the newest, most cutting-edge option. In addition, the equipment is much more expensive in industrial tech than consumer devices.
Industrial companies aren’t dealing with investing in new laptops or phones when it comes time to upgrade – they rely on massive, very expensive machinery. It’s simply not realistic for industries to approach tech adoption like consumers and replace hardware every few years.
On the other hand, going too long without updating equipment can pose serious issues too. As machines get older, the parts for those machines become harder and harder to find — that’s just the unfortunate reality. If a machine breaks and the parts to fix it are no longer easy to find and buy, the floor can be faced with extended downtime and lost profits.
But that doesn’t mean industrial tech is fated to lag behind. Connecting machines to advanced analytics and “big data” programs can drive new efficiencies and appeal to a younger workforce. IIoT can connect old equipment to the new and provide the industry with an opportunity to hold on to stability while embracing new technology.
ProSoft can offer a smoother way to modernize equipment, providing a way to invest in updates and replacements in phases instead of replacing expensive machinery all at once. Instead of stopping production for weeks at a time and spending millions in capital, ProSoft customers can replace the riskiest pieces of the machine and keep the peripherals.
In addition to improving reliability and reducing risk, this approach can make the machinery more appealing to a new generation. It’s time to get data off the factory floor and make it accessible to all the people who need it. ProSoft devices can help bridge the gap.
In this way, the new technology folds into the processes and equipment already in place, allowing the industrial sector the chance to update without starting from scratch and blowing the budget. The Industrial Internet of Things offers us a chance to improve production and profit at once.
It’s time for industrial companies to use the perspective of Gen-Z as a resource. This generation is different, that’s for sure. And the old ways simply aren’t going to cut it anymore. The reality is that industries need this generation. They’re different in exactly the way industrial spaces need. They ask more questions and see possibilities the rest of us don't. Because they grew up with internet-enabled devices at their fingertips 24/7, they’re an incurably curious, smart generation that expects to have access to information at all times. They intuitively understand tech and are already improving the standards for user experience.
This generation holds the key to finding solutions to huge challenges industries have been facing for decades. Instead of trying to convince them to adapt to the way manufacturing has worked, it’s time to see the world from their perspective and embrace it.