SACA - Industry Must Build Career Pathways to Close Skills Gap

It’s no secret that United States manufacturers still struggle with an ongoing labor shortage. Those unfamiliar with the manufacturing “skills gap” might assume that it’s a result of the upheaval that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the problem existed long before 2020.

For many years, manufacturers have encountered difficulty filling open positions, particularly for jobs that require highly technical skills. The industry-wide embrace of advanced automation technologies, often referred to as “Industry 4.0,” has created a growing demand for highly skilled workers, but the supply of such workers has yet to catch up.

In fact, a 2021 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute projected that more than two million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by the end of this decade. As post-pandemic recovery continues, manufacturers must find a way to close the skills gap as soon as possible.

According to a recent IndustryWeek article by Josh Cramer, “career possibilities in the fields of additive manufacturing, robotics, automation and AI” will “require candidates who are properly trained in critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and innovation.”

Cramer notes that “[t]o generate a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S., we must tackle this workforce need with a multifaceted approach that includes building awareness—among both youth and adults—of pathways to entering the industry.”

Moreover, he believes that “[o]n the technical side, it is imperative that the candidates are equipped with enhanced skills, particularly for the benefit of small- and mid-sized companies that make up the majority of manufacturing in our nation (and must do more with less).”

While the manufacturing skills gap is a national problem, Cramer advocates for local solutions. For example, he believes “[t]here is great strength in leveraging national resources on the local level to create manufacturing skills programs. Bringing in local leaders in industry, government and academic to define skill sets, competencies and career pathways will both strengthen the local economy and help further a national manufacturing resurgence.”

In the author’s opinion, “[t]he future of US manufacturing involves innovation, education, and collaboration to empower the next generation and strengthen the nation’s manufacturing sector.” He envisions “local teams leverag[ing] the nation’s best practices and strategies, including outreach, onboarding programs and training for reskilling and upskilling.”

The collaboration needed will involve educators following the lead of industry partners to ensure that they’re teaching the advanced skills that industry needs most. Educators would also do well to prepare their students for career pathways that are defined by industry-standard certifications that represent a set of skills defined by industry as necessary to thrive in the modern workplace. For example, if workers possess a certification from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), employers can feel confident they’ve already proven they have the knowledge and hands-on skills needed for working with advanced smart automation technologies. SACA has been hard at work collaborating with industry leaders to develop a wide variety of industry-standard certifications that will help employers find workers who possess the advanced connected-systems skills they need to take their businesses to the next level. Be sure to check out SACA and all it has to offer!

Instructor Profile: Maroun Nehme

Maroun Nehme, director of Buena Park High School’s Advanced Robotics and Mechatronics program, started folding SACA into his program shortly after he became the head of it. He said it started off as a way to get something in the hands of students along with their diplomas, but it’s turned into a lot more.

He got his Gold SACA instructor certification and began testing his students for the Gold credentials. After seven students passed the Silver exam, six attempted and passed the Gold exam.

“We became the very first college or high school in California to have Gold Certified students and a Gold Certified instructor,” Nehme said.

He said he wanted to make sure his students got a little recognition, so he began posting their projects and accomplishments on social media.

That’s when his community began taking notice. A councilman for the Buena Park City Council saw the hands-on training in action, and asked Nehme to bring his students to a public meeting to honor them and their work. He also said industry began taking notice and wanted to see how they could benefit from Nehme and his lab.

“Their parents were super stoked and I think it just gives more recognition to the program,” Nehme said. “And now we’re beginning to partner up with some companies that may use my classroom as a training facility for their employees, which is pretty big for a high school.”

He said it was a big deal, especially since he wasn’t sure how to deliver SACA curriculum at first. Nehme said a presentation from Joe Russo at Klein Educational Systems helped him see how to keep things moving. Working with students in pods helped him make sure he could keep 30 students going at once and still give them time to test on the necessary skills.

 Watching them gain interest in the first year is huge, he said, and part of that is how the initial curriculum is built.

“I like the 101 curriculum because it gives students a taste of everything,” Nehme said. “It doesn’t go super deep into anything, but it gives them a taste of all these different things, whether it’s electrical, pneumatics or robotics. They go into year two, they’re doing the same thing and they can decide what they want to learn, what they want to pursue.”

He said that gives them opportunity once they graduate outside of just going to a four-year institution. He said it helps motivate students while they’re in high school, and find paths to high-paying careers once they graduate.

“I think one of the roles that SACA fills is provide for not just the students, but their parents, a purpose for them to go to school,” Nehme said. “They would like them to get into some kind of career where they can learn a trade and earn a decent living, especially in Southern California. If a student wants to go into a field, they can stack those certifications and use them to get a job.”

Some of Nehme’s Buena Park High School Students with SACA Certifications
SACA Gold Training at Buena Park High School
Believe the Hype Featured

It’s no secret that technology has changed our personal lives in ways few could have foreseen decades ago. But to what extent has technology changed the way we work?

People unfamiliar with the manufacturing sector might assume that factories where people work with their hands to make things might not be on the frontier of technological progress. However, they might be surprised to learn that the nation’s manufacturing facilities are driving forces when it comes to advanced technology.

There’s even a name for the technological revolution taking place throughout manufacturing: Industry 4.0. This term refers to the fact that we’re in the midst of a fourth Industrial Revolution, in which advanced automation technologies powered by Internet-connected systems are transforming the way modern manufacturing facilities operate.

This phenomenon goes by a variety of different monikers, including Smart Factory, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and Smart Manufacturing. It’s gotten a lot of attention over the past several years, leading some to question whether all the hype is justified.

After all, there are plenty of people who work in facilities that remain largely unchanged from the way they’ve always been. Is technology really transforming manufacturing the way the media portrays?

In a nutshell, the answer is yes. If you haven’t jumped aboard the Industry 4.0 train yet, it’s time to make your way to the station. Believe the hype. The current state of manufacturing is smarter and more automated than ever before, and it’s only growing and accelerating. As Blake Moret, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rockwell Automation, recently noted, “We’ve experienced 20 years of evolution in 2 years.”

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a few of the conclusions reached by experts at Rockwell Automation and Plex, in association with Sapio Research, in their Eighth Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report (the “report”).

Challenges Spurring Technology Investments

Why are so many manufacturers choosing to invest in advanced smart automation technologies? That’s one of the questions the authors of the report looked at when developing questions for their survey of 1,353 global manufacturers across 13 of the top manufacturing countries.

What they learned is that many manufacturers see technology as a means to address one or more of the many challenges they face in today’s manufacturing environment. For example, “[s]killed labor – and labor of any kind – continues to be elusive across the globe. As manufacturers continue to seek opportunities for profitable growth, they’re finding that uncertainty in workforce availability is impacting quality, along with their ability to meet their customers’ needs and transform at pace. They are addressing this impact by using technology to extract data from their operations and assemble actionable insights.”

As manufacturers compete for skilled labor, they’re also competing with other manufacturers globally for customers and market share. The authors of the report “are also seeing how technology is helping the industry accelerate their agility and competitive differentiation.”

In fact, “manufacturers view technology as an advantage for improving quality, agility, innovation, and to attract the next generation of talent. Manufacturers expect to mitigate risk through technology tied to processes and people to build resiliency and drive future success.”

The Current State of Smart Manufacturing

Knowing that manufacturers are increasingly turning to advanced automation technologies to address the many challenges they’re facing, the authors of the report sought to gauge both the current levels of technology adoption and manufacturers’ plans for the future.

Before jumping into those findings, though, it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we refer to “smart manufacturing.” According to the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (“MESA International”), “Smart Manufacturing is the intelligent, real-time orchestration and optimization of business, physical, and digital processes within factories and across the entire value chain. Resources and processes are automated, integrated, monitored, and continuously evaluated based on all available information as close to real time as possible.”

Manufacturers embracing smart manufacturing technologies are doing so “to mitigate risks, open up new opportunities, and remain competitive.” In terms of risk management, manufacturers face both internal and external risks.

According to the report, “[t]he top two ways respondents are addressing internal risk are to adopt new technology aimed at minimizing disruption from workforce or supply issues (53%) and to shift their operations to the cloud for purposes including increased cybersecurity protection and business continuity (50%). When it comes to external risks like inflation, supply chain, and workforce shortages, the top-ranking mitigation tactic is adopting new technology (44%).”

So exactly how many respondents are we talking about? The report concludes that “[e]ighty-four percent of respondents have adopted smart manufacturing or are actively evaluating solutions with the intention to invest in the coming year.” That’s an astounding adoption rate, which shows clearly the role these technologies play today and will continue to play in the future.

The report did note a difference in adoption rate based upon available revenue: “Companies with higher revenues are more likely to have adopted smart manufacturing technology, with a 58% adoption rate among respondents in the top third for revenue, compared to 40% among the lower revenue bracket.”

This finding is unsurprising, but the report indicates it “may indicate an opportunity for small and mid-size organizations to leverage an incremental, lower initial cost and resource approach to smart manufacturing with modular solutions that provide strong value and quick time to payback and ROI.”

With manufacturing becoming a more global phenomenon every year, it’s worth noting that investment in advanced automation technologies isn’t limited to the United States. Indeed, the top three countries with the greatest adoption rates of smart manufacturing technologies are “China (70%), the US (60%) and India (57%).”

‘technology is helping the industry accelerate their agility and competitive differentiation’

Smart Manufacturing Solutions Abound

So what exactly are these advanced automation technologies we’re talking about when we discuss smart manufacturing? The report summarizes a set of ten smart manufacturing solutions manufacturers are adopting:

  • Smart Devices

“Smart devices are self and system-aware assets that acquire and process operating data – and monitor and report on asset conditions such as self-diagnostics and energy usage.”

  • Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

“Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) track and document the transformation of raw materials into finished goods, providing real-time production management to drive enterprise-wide compliance, quality, and efficiency.”

  • Quality Management Systems (QMS)

“Quality Management Systems (QMS) standardize and automate quality documentation, processes, and measurements.”

  • Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS)

“Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) help organizations track and manage maintenance and repair activities for their facilities, equipment, and other assets in one place.”

  • Asset Performance Management (APM)

“Asset Performance Management (APM) combines process, operational, and machine-level data through dashboards to monitor machine and plant health, ensuring optimal uptime, throughput, and maintenance needs.”

  • Production Monitoring

“Production Monitoring provides seamless connectivity to machines on the plant floor, delivering transparent, real-time operational KPIs like OEE and dashboards to drive continuous improvements.”

  • Distributed Control Systems (DCS)

“Distributed Control Systems (DCS) use decentralized elements to control dispersed systems, such as automated industrial processes or large-scale infrastructure systems.”

  • Supply Chain Planning (SCP)

“Supply Chain Planning (SCP) combines data from multiple departments across the business or from outside market resources to sync demand and supply forecasting to improve inventory accuracy and production management.”

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

“Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) automates front- and back-office processes, including financial management, revenue management, human capital, order management, billing, and inventory.”

  • Analytics

“Analytics use data to solve manufacturing bottlenecks, optimize output and quality, and provide new insights.”

Contact SACA to Learn More about Smart Automation Certifications

As manufacturers incorporate these new advanced automation technologies, they’re finding they need workers with more advanced technical and technological skills than ever before. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough workers with these skills to fill the many roles available today, creating what is known throughout industry as the “skills gap.”

How can manufacturers find the highly-skilled workers they need so desperately? One promising solution is the development of industry-standard certifications that focus on connected-systems skills. The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) sits at the forefront of the effort to certify students and workers who demonstrate the required knowledge and hands-on smart automation skills employers so desperately need.

To learn more about Industry 4.0 certifications and how SACA can help both educational institutions and industry employers begin the task of bridging the Industry 4.0 skills gap, contact SACA for more information.

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

Identifying specialists within the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Featured

Supply chain issues persist within the global manufacturing industry. Although nimble companies have found ways to navigate the issues brought about by COVID19, experts still anticipate concerns continuing through 2022, caused by the lingering effects of the pandemic and other global events.

One of the most pervasive issues stems from the reality that domestic manufacturing relies heavily on components made in other countries. While efforts are being made to mend this, in particular  attempts to re-instate the component manufacturing industry in the US, it’s clear that this industry will reemerge in a different way with a focus on mechanization and automation.  

The foundation of a long term strategy to mitigate these problems in the future will involve leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which presents a groundbreaking opportunity for data capture at each step of a manufacturing process.

This extensive study by Inmarsat indicates that many manufacturing companies are either already using or anticipate using IIoT to enhance their productivity. A smart factory can track all elements of the production chain and communicate information and even anticipations within the network.

Photo by Carol Jeng on Unsplash

In addition to valuably capturing data, a smart-automation chain can perform pre-emptive actions based on the needs of the incoming workload; for example submitting a work-order for components required on the production line, utilizing a company’s secure industrial WLAN.

Unlike residential (or office) WiFi, an industrial system transfers small amounts of data, and as such requires a small amount of power but must remain uninterrupted. Knowledge of the specificities of these systems is essential to optimize an efficient order-to-customer pipeline.

Because of innovations like re-programmable robots and even rent-a-bot companies emerging, there is much less danger of expensive built-in obsolescence and more opportunity for network, automation and programming specialists within manufacturing companies. 

Photo by Lenny Kuhne on Unsplash

Companies searching for highly-skilled workers to ease their supply chain disruptions want to make sure that potential employees actually have the skills to excel without significant additional training. That’s why industry-standard certifications are important for supply chain workers. They provide employers with evidence that a worker has the knowledge and hands-on skills to work with today’s advanced technologies. states that ‘new developments in automation are allowing small manufacturers to meet demand while helping with American competitiveness’. Today’s workers need more advanced technical and technological skills than ever before. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough workers with these skills to fill the many roles available today, creating what is known throughout industry as the “skills gap.” Modern businesses must ensure that their workers have up-to-date, relevant accredited skills. How can companies be sure that their employees are at the correct skill-level?

The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) focuses on connected-systems skills and leads the effort to certify students and workers who demonstrate the required knowledge and hands-on smart automation skills employers so desperately need. SACA professional development opportunities provide extensive training courses to equip teachers to promote Industry 4.0 certifications. These professional development opportunities are offered throughout the year at regional centers. Courses last 3-5 days each. Upon successful completion of each course, teachers will be certified in the process of examining students for a given credential and administrating a certification preparation course.

To learn more about Industry 4.0 certifications and how SACA can help both educational institutions and industry employers begin the task of bridging the Industry 4.0 skills gap, contact SACA for more information.

Header Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

SACA - Can Smart Manufacturing Transform the Food Industry

What types of products do you buy online? Today, the answer to that question for many people is just about anything and everything. Things haven’t always been that way, though.

In the earliest days of e-commerce, consumers got their feet wet in the online marketplace purchasing products that were known quantities that could be shipped safely and cheaply. More personal items, such as clothing and shoes, retained a foothold in brick-and-mortar stores where customers could try things on to ensure a good fit.

Fast forward to today and it’s easy to see how drastically e-commerce has changed the retail landscape. Some people now purchase all of their goods exclusively online. There are still certain areas, though, where e-commerce has been slow to gain traction. For example, the food industry has yet to replace a trip to the grocery store with an online experience…until recently.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed much about how we live our lives, including that once-simple trip to the grocery store. Now, more and more people are doing their grocery shopping online or via a smartphone app and having their groceries delivered directly to their car at the store.

As a result, the food industry finds itself in need of a transformation to respond to changing realities driven by consumer demand. Experts believe that transformation will come through a variety of new smart manufacturing technologies.

Consumer Demand Driving Changes

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, no one fully understood the ways in which our lives would change over the course of the coming months. Routine, everyday tasks, such as shopping for groceries, were suddenly fraught with the potential for exposure to the deadly virus.

Retail grocers were faced with simultaneously managing intense supply chain disruptions that left many shelves bare and customers who wanted as little contact with other shoppers as possible. The solution for many was to pair online shopping (often via an app) with curbside delivery.

Shopping for food online was a new experience for most customers. It didn’t take long, however, for most people to figure out that they could compare prices across various stores just like they would for any other online purchase.

The effect of these changes on the food industry has been significant. As author Katy Askew notes in a recent FoodNavigator article, the food industry is being forced “to rapidly adapt their processes and products to keep up with changing markets” resulting from “elevated consumer expectations.”

Smart Manufacturing to the Rescue

How can food and beverage companies keep up with these rapid changes? Askew spoke with Andrew Smith, Regional Segment Leader – Process & Packaging OEMs at Rockwell Automation, which recently became a Platinum Member of the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).

According to Smith, “To remain competitive, food and beverage manufacturing systems must optimize productivity and perform at the highest standard. This requires comprehensive and continuous operations improvement.” Increasingly, the food industry is turning to smart manufacturing to achieve those goals.

Smith believes in the potential of smart manufacturing:

“Connected, information-enabled manufacturing – or smart manufacturing – can make all the difference. New technologies are helping food and beverage manufacturers better understand and use their food processing operations. Smart manufacturing can help improve asset utilization, increase yield, drive workforce productivity, optimize resource management, and mitigate security risks.”

Not convinced yet? Smith points to Hillshire Brands as a prime example of what smart manufacturing can do. After the company began using a manufacturing intelligence system at a Texas plant, “the food manufacturer reduced inedible product and waste goals to 0.8% – saving about 5.5 million corn dogs per year.”

Technologies Changing the Game

The impact of smart technologies is not lost on the average person today. Whether it’s the smartphone in your hand or the smart thermostat keeping your home the perfect temperature, nearly every aspect of life has been impacted by advances in technology

Modern manufacturers are no exception, including food and beverage companies. According to Smith, “New developments in technology are redefining food and beverage manufacturing. By combining the Internet of Things, wireless and mobile technologies, data analytics, and network infrastructure, companies can access and act on the data from their operations before a potential problem arises.”

Askew notes in her article that Smith identified five advanced technologies he believes will drive greater adoption of smart manufacturing technologies in the food industry:

Flexible Manufacturing

Flexible manufacturing focuses on how quickly a company can adapt to change. As Matt Graves and Rachel Wilson explain in an article on the Rockwell Automation blog, “It’s about creating a seamless flow from need to delivery. True flexibility empowers manufacturers to stay in tune with their market, by replacing rigid and static operating models with levels of control and responsiveness never previously thought possible.”

When it comes to integrating new technologies, though, the authors stress that companies must not forget about the people using those technologies:

“When it comes to embracing Industry 4.0, integration between departments is key. While new technology can bring data and systems together, getting your people to communicate/collaborate is just as important – and absolutely essential if you want to gain the maximum return on investment.”

Augmented Reality

As Askew notes in her article, “Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that allows users to view and interact with real-world environments through computer generated superimposed images. It enables workers to perform better and avoid safety and compliance risks by providing easy access to the information they need online.”

In smart manufacturing, companies use AR to help technicians troubleshoot problems in real time. For example, maintenance personnel can use an AR app on a smartphone or tablet to zero in on exactly what component of a machine may be malfunctioning and develop a solution more quickly, thereby reducing equipment downtime.

Predictive Maintenance

The heart of smart manufacturing is the collection, processing, analysis, and application of the tremendous amounts of data (sometimes called “big data”) generated by the production process. According to Askew, companies will use “powerful machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics software to offer predictive and prescriptive maintenance.”

Practically, this means that machines equipped with smart sensors can monitor their own performance. Technicians will receive alerts from machines when maintenance needs are imminent, allowing them to maintain and repair equipment before breakdowns occur, thereby reducing downtime and increasing productivity.

Edge Computing

A Rockwell Automation article explains edge computing in this way:

“Edge computing combines a machine’s control and computing hardware into one platform, either with a controller that has a built-in computer or with a computing module that sits on the same rack as the controller. With this two-in-one approach, you can put all your machine’s digital content — such as custom code, the controller’s human-machine interface (HMI) application and any third-party software programs — right where the controller resides, rather than in another location. This creates inherent benefits for end users, including space savings and access to data right at its source. But it also creates new opportunities for you to build entirely new solutions for production applications.”

According to Askew, “Edge computing will complement existing cloud infrastructure by enabling real-time data processing where work is done (for example, motors, pumps, generators, or other sensors). Implementing integrated analytics from the edge to the cloud will help these companies maximize the value of investments in digital systems.”

Digital Twin/Digital Thread

In addition to augmented reality apps, companies are also using advanced digital tools to assist with troubleshooting, such as digital twins and the Digital Thread. According to Askew, a digital twin is “the collection of data created in software representing a real-life system. Machines, controllers, processes, workflow, and any other aspect of a system can be represented digitally, without any interruption to ongoing activities.”

Similar to a digital twin, the Digital Thread “creates a virtual representation of how data travels within a company. The Digital Thread enables supervisory enhancements throughout the supply chain, including delivery of work instructions to operators, quality control sampling, and automated activation of components and materials from vendors, suppliers, and partners”

What can these technologies do for the food industry? Askew paints an interesting view of a future that’s probably a lot closer than we think:

“In the near future, we will see that by interconnecting business systems through the Digital Thread, companies will practically start up new production lines. Using the digital twins, manufacturers will run machines virtually before parts are ordered, discover control issues before support personnel review them, predict future performance challenges and opportunities, simulate line changes to stay keep up with changing customer demands, and will train new staff in non-stop systems of activity.”

SACA Certifications Validate Industry 4.0 Skills

Employees in the food and beverage industry would do well to complement their current skillset with advanced Industry 4.0 skills that will help them change and grow with advances in technology. For those workers wanting to specialize in Industry 4.0 technologies, the certifications offered by the Smart Automation Certification Alliance are a great place to start. SACA offers industry-standard certifications that focus on “connected systems” skills. To learn more about the different types of SACA certifications, visit SACA online.

Oh, how five years can change things.

Turning the clock back all the way to 2015, gasoline had fallen under $3 nationally for the first time in four years, NASA was confirming the presence of water on Mars, and the smash-play Hamilton was the hottest ticket on Earth (you know, back when we could still go to concerts…).

Even manufacturing of those times now feels slightly antiquated. Promises of big data driving efficiency and predictive maintenance technologies, which were introduced on a national scale in 2015, are now commonplace around Smart Factories. Today, more efficient strategies are practiced by companies, leading to a manufacturing boom – another prediction-come-true from 2015.

While we could spend time reminiscing about the “ol’ days”, innovation doesn’t take a break. With more products being created daily than we’ve ever experienced before, it only makes sense for manufacturing to keep focused on improving production for future endeavors.

And it begs the question: where do we see manufacturing five years from now? Based on its history, changes are expected, according to Deloitte. Specifically, they predict several important themes will be reflected in these changes, including:

  • Putting Humans in the Loop: Organizations are working harder to keep humans in the loop, such as rethinking work architecture, retraining people, and rearranging the organization to leverage technology. The hope is to not only eliminate routine tasks and cut costs, but create value for the customers (and meaningful work for the employees).
  • Expanding Digital and “Soft” Skills: Despite the rise of automation, and technology replacing many mundane tasks, manufacturing requires human workers to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The essential human skills deemed most useful over the next decade include critical thinking, creativity, and people management.
  • Leveraging the Digital Toolbox: Manufacturing workers are becoming more reliant upon digital tools, such as collaboration platforms, work-based social media, and instant messaging, to effectively complete their work.

In addition to these themes, Deloitte also anticipates five future skillsets that each manufacturing worker should possess, including being proficient in: Technology / Computer, Emerging Digital Technologies, Programming for Robots / Automation, Working with Tools and Technology, and  Critical Thinking.

So how can these themes and skills work in combination to create future jobs?

According to Deloitte: 

“As digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to redefine manufacturing jobs of the future, leaders and workers alike need to embrace a work environment that is expected to blend advanced technology and digital skills with uniquely human skills, to yield the highest level of productivity. Understanding how work might change can help the industry as a whole prepare for a future that promises to be transformative.”

With that transformative future comes a new onslaught of smart careers – many of which have been created as a direct correlation to the ever-changing industry. In this article, we will highlight five of the jobs that Deloitte has tabbed as the most promising future smart automation careers in manufacturing, as well as what that position could potentially look like.

Job #1 – Digital Twin Engineer

SUMMARY: A digital twin engineer creates a virtual representation of both the physical elements, as well as the dynamics of how an IoT-connected product operates and interacts. Simply put, a digital twin engineer makes it possible to virtually see inside any physical asset, system, or structure to optimize design, monitor performance, predict maintenance, and improve the overall experience.

Used throughout a wide range of industries, digital twin engineers rely upon their engineering tooling to integrate necessary digital elements to produce the high-quality product. In addition, they act as a working link between the product twin and the performance twin, which can help enhance collaboration with customers, accelerate innovation, design smarter products, and create new services.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Using 3D software and simulations, a digital twin engineer will create digital twins to measure product performance throughout a variety of conditions. The insights discovered through the data help design new products and business models. Engineers also use machine learning, real-time usage, and performance data to optimize product performance and service.

SKILLS NEEDED: In creating virtual replicas of major industrial products, as well as helping companies predict and respond to customer problems using real-time data analysis, digital twin engineers need to be well-versed in simulations, analytics, and software development. Systems engineering, as well as research and development, are also critical.

Job #2 – Smart Factory Manager

SUMMARY: A smart factory manager is a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. From production and quality, to IT and cyber responsibilities, a smart factory manager takes on an expanded, and often times unique, role of integrating advanced manufacturing, securing connectivity, and understand data analytics to drive a new level of overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE.

The goal of the smart factory manager is to identify data patterns that can help predict quality issues, as well as direct actions in response to these insights. In addition, they will leverage predictive maintenance analytics to identify issues before they happen, and direct preventative maintenance to address future issues.

RESPONSIBILITIES: A smart factory manager must be able to identify and aid in the addition of advanced technologies that enable self-optimization. They must be able to build a variety of automated manufacturing capabilities, such as robot cutting, 3D printing, and more. Finally, they are responsible for managing the installation, operations, and maintenance of all levels of the smart factory solutions “stack” that delivers continuous connectedness and ensures cybersecurity protocols are followed.

SKILLS NEEDED: Being skilled in applied technology, automation, and connectedness are a must for smart factory managers. In addition, operational excellence, deep learning, and innovation are also key to finding success in the field. Digital prototyping and client management are also plusses.

Job #3 – Robot Teaming Coordinator

SUMMARY: With increased automation comes a larger need for robots. And robots, like any other industrial component, needs to be able to effectively perform its predetermined tasks. As a Robot Teaming Coordinator (RTC), it is their task to oversee robots that interact with humans to enable a human rapport with robots, ensuring optimal human-machine interactions.

Generally, the RTC is responsible for monitoring robot performance, and giving feedback to programmers to perfect robot value. However unlike robot programmers, a robot teaming coordinator are often not experts in programming languages, but should have the knowledge to understand how robots are supposed to behave in work environments.

RESPONSIBILITIES: In addition to observing and evaluating robot performance, an RTC is responsible for sharing its feedback with robot programmers, recommending areas for improvement. They will train human team members to help them work more collaboratively with robots, as well as work in tandem with robot coordinators from other departments to identify opportunities to enhance productivity. Finally, all of those results are delivered against key performance indicators to view overall customer experience, improvements in productivity, and more.

SKILLS NEEDED: An RTC needs to be proficient in robot behavioral analysis by enabling a collaborative human-robot working environment, which applies a mixture of digital, social, and human skills to help humans and robots leverage each other’s strengths and improve productivity. This means a robot teaming coordinator needs to be well-versed in human-machine collaboration, as well as robot management.

Job #4 – Smart Safety Supervisor

SUMMARY: In most workplace environments, safety is the number one concern. That’s no different in a Smart Factory – only this time, it’s the Smart Safety Supervisor who is responsible for overseeing proper safety procedures are being utilized. A Smart Safety Supervisor works with operational, logistics, and technology teams to ensure safety, as well as finding new synergies that can improve the safety of workplaces.

With Smart Factories dealing with autonomous equipment, unmanned drones, and advanced materials, a Smart Safety Supervisor needs to be fluent in advanced technologies, and match those applications – such as smart helmets or augmented reality (AR) glasses to help create a safe and efficient work site. They will also use their broad knowledge of regulations, Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) standards, and available technologies to help companies develop technology implementation road maps, or help leverage the digital twin of a construction site to oversee health and safety of workers and machines.

RESPONSIBILITIES: When it comes to keeping workers safe, a Smart Safety Supervisor has a laundry list of responsibilities. From identifying new technologies to meet set safety targets, to formulating safety procedures and plans to reduce potential safety hazards, a Smart Safety Supervisor will be responsible for taking all of the necessary steps to ensure workplace safety. The job also includes incorporating specialized risk management principles between machines and humans, supervising safety specialists, and acting as a field safety inspector on incident investigations.

SKILLS NEEDED: The most necessary skill is having an advanced working knowledge of construction safety, safety management systems, and occupation and health regulations. Smart Safety Supervisors are skilled in EHS, workplace inspection, and risk assessment, as well as understanding digital tools and technologies to aid in keeping everyone safe. Finally, having experience developing and implementing multiple health and safety programs for various projects is a plus.

Job #5 – Smart QA Manager

SUMMARY: A “smart quality assurance (QA) manager” manages product quality using digital technologies. That means a smart QA manager will oversee an ecosystem of machines and work center sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) support technologies to proactively detect quality escapes and machine maintenance issues, as well as develop solutions to address those root causes of quality issues.

From developing requirements for AI and machine-learning (ML) algorithms that identify products defects as early as possible, to reducing the number of defects per part produced, the main task of a smart QA manager is to minimizes production downtime, and maximize productivity by reducing manual inspection.

RESPONSIBILITIES: A smart QA manager will be looked upon to work with the facility manager to develop and maintain the production schedule, as well as plotting historical data to develop predictive quality controls and detection algorithms. In addition, they will be responsible for conducting quality issues root cause analysis, providing corrective actions, and identifying new technologies to incorporate into QA systems.

SKILLS NEEDED: An experienced QA manager is trained in leveraging smart technologies to reduce the number of defects per part produced, with goals to enhance overall productivity. Other useful skills include operational excellence, innovation, automation, and digital prototyping. Like all future smart positions, it also requires a passion for deep learning.

Need Help Certifying Your Workforce for Smart Automation? Consider SACA!

With all of these future careers on the horizon, industry-endorsed Industry 4.0 certifications will become even more valuable. That’s why the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), a non-profit organization, has made it our mission to develop and deploy Smart Certifications for a wide range of industries.

Thanks to the help of our partners, SACA has created certifications that are industry-driven, developed for industry by industry. They are developed through a rigorous process that begins with the creation of truly international skill standards, endorsed by leading experts in Industry 4.0 technologies throughout the world.

SACA’s Smart Automation certifications use a modular structure to enable them to fit a wide range of individual needs, industries, and educational environments, and are available in three categories – Associate, Specialist, and Professional. Each certification is stackable, allowing individuals to start with one certification and add other certifications to customize their documented skills.

All SACA certifications are occupationally focused, so they prepare individuals for specific careers in the world of Industry 4.0. If you would like more information into SACA’s world-class Smart Certifications, please visit our website!