This week’s Special Report on advanced manufacturing highlights how Triad companies are using technology to increase efficiency and remain competitive in today’s global marketplace.
Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, 3-D printing and design and highly streamlined processes are helping these manufacturers increase their output, improve consistency and quality, and most of all, grow revenue.
One of their biggest challenges is attracting skilled workers. While area schools are drawing more students into advanced manufacturing careers, too many parents still believe their children deserve “better.” They picture a grimy, dimly lit, smokestacked factory that belches out exhausted, grease-covered workers with a loud whistle at the end of the day.
As someone who once held that same mental picture, I admit we need to do better job of educating not just students, but parents. For example, here are a few common myths:
• Manufacturing is dirty: To the contrary, the floors of these advanced facilities are clean, safe and full of shiny equipment in well-lit spaces.
• Manufacturing is for people who can’t get into college: In fact, the skills needed at today’s plants demand training in STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Much of the work involves computers, calculations and precision monitoring to make sure the machines are doing their jobs properly. For many students, devising a career path toward advanced manufacturing is a far more sensible way to find rewarding employment than a traditional college degree.
• Manufacturing jobs are for men. Last week’s panelists described a diverse workforce that includes female employees who are handling technology and equipment as skillfully (or even more so) than men, advancing their careers and pay opportunities in the process.
• Manufacturing jobs will just be replaced by robots, anyway, so why bother? People will always be needed to monitor, trouble-shoot and direct the computer-run equipment. And there are still many tasks that require hands-on work and human problem-solving.
• Manufacturing is old-school. For an eye-opening reality check, take a tour of any of the factories mentioned in our special report.