Artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics are all making inroads into manufacturing. On the one hand, this sector faces a looming labour shortage with less foreign nationals choosing to work in the UK. On the other, widespread automation threatens the displacement or removal of many existing jobs.
Adjusting and Adapting
“The problem has been that the whole issue of AI and robotics has been seen in very one-dimensional terms: what will happen to people’s jobs? In fact, the wider perspective is more complex, more challenging, but also means more opportunities.”
A PwC survey has recently suggested that around 30% of UK jobs could feel the impact of automation and AI.
“This doesn’t mean these jobs will simply disappear, however, but rather they will change as a result of AI. It will be a key task of HR to help employees adjust and adapt to these kind of changes.”
In manufacturing, integrating robotics into the production process will move more people away from repetitive, time consuming work, but towards more knowledge-based tasks.
“Human beings will still man production lines, but they will be monitoring, supervising and analysing robotic activity, and for this to be effective, though, there should be a systematic programme of learning and development”
The emphasis must shift away from simply providing the necessary training for current skills to continuous development for how jobs and roles will evolve in the future.
“For many companies, they already have a commitment to continuous improvement. What AI will do in many cases is make this integral to business objectives and productivity.”
The Impact of AI on HR Strategies
In the manufacturing sector and beyond, the spread of AI and automation is going to make HR departments and professionals have to rethink strategies.
The software company CIPHR has released a 2018 survey that indicates over half of HR professionals expect automation to have an immediate impact on their strategy.
“A narrow focus on the impact of AI on existing jobs, and on potential job losses, is not enough.”
“AI represents a cultural change in the world of work, and therefore requires HR strategies that look at the bigger picture of workplace planning and the skills that will be needed”
“Many of today’s children will eventually occupy roles in jobs that have yet to be invented. These will require different skill sets, and a willingness to continue learning, training and adapting.”
The challenge, for both manufacturers and the HR professionals supporting them is to keep pace with change, to anticipate workforce roles and requirements, and to adapt accordingly.
“AI represents the next industrial revolution,” Lisa concludes. “It will clearly be better to be an active participant in it, rather than a victim of it.”
For an additional read, please visit How Can Manufacturers Improve Staff Retention?