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Why Technology Adoption in 2023 Means Adding Staff and Skills

State of Smart Manufacturing
September 5, 2023

One of the biggest headlines from the 8th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report isn’t just about technology — it’s about technology and people. 

As manufacturers aim for profitable growth without sacrificing quality, adopting the right technology is high on their collective to-do list. But for that new tech to truly be beneficial, our respondents tell us there must be an equal priority on hiring and training the right workforce.

In 2023, 97% of participants are reporting plans to use smart manufacturing technology. However, technology cannot drive success without people, and vice versa. That’s why 89% of manufacturers say they expect to maintain or grow employment as a result of technology adoption.

More than ever, when manufacturers talk about adopting new technology, the conversation turns to the role their employees will play in determining its success. Finding the right people and training them with the right skills to get the most out of the new technology is a priority. But it’s also something that manufacturers consider to be a challenge.

Addressing Workforce Challenges

More than two-thirds of manufacturers believe that technology can be very helpful or extremely helpful in addressing workforce challenges such as the shortage of skilled labor and retaining critical internal knowledge. The technology-people connection was demonstrated again when we asked manufacturers if increasing their use of technology would affect staffing:

  • 36% plan to repurpose existing workers to new or different roles
  • 31% need to hire more workers
  • Only 4% said they would make no change to staffing

From repeatable quality and reliable supply chain relationships to dependable leadership, manufacturers are seeking a skilled workforce to strengthen the tech-human connection and yield enterprise-wide advantages.

Knowledgeable workers are needed to meet both short- and long-term goals. While adding the latest technology can help attract the next generation of workers, manufacturers must also ensure they are creating a culture where people want to stay — especially as baby boomers retire and take their industry knowledge with them. Understanding how to manage next-generation workers is also a pressing concern, which manufactures ranked third on the State of Smart Manufacturing Report’s list of leadership obstacles.

Finding the Right Skills

This year’s report revealed that manufacturers seek employees who can adapt to changing requirements and collaborate in teams. In fact, knowledge of smart technology ranked sixth behind a number of soft skills:

  1. Communication/teamwork
  2. Flexibility/adaptability
  3. Employee engagement
  4. Employee initiative
  5. Analytical thinking
  6. Knowledge of smart technology

It makes sense that manufacturers see a growing need for workers who have mastered soft skills. Even with the increase in technology and automation, people skills are equally - if not more - in demand as the industry changes rapidly.

The State of Smart Manufacturing Report indicates a growing sense that manufacturers who can attract, retain, and upskill the right team will outperform their competitors. In last year’s survey, just 35% of respondents reported that their organization lacked the skilled workforce to outpace the competition over the next 12 months. That figure has leapt to 46% - and represents the top concern for manufacturers in relation to competitiveness.

Accelerating Your Technology Adoption

Adopting new technology is a giant leap toward a solution. But to truly create sustainable change, the human component cannot be ignored. This year’s report has proven that adding technology also means hiring and training. With an eye on the future, strengthening the tech-human connection is more important than ever.

Download the 2023 State of Smart Manufacturing Report here for a deep dive into these workforce issues and many more stats, tips, and insights from over 1,300 manufacturers.

About the Author

Gerry Abbey Product Marketing Manager, Plex Systems

Gerry joined Plex in 2021 as a Product Marketing Manager with over twelve years of experience in software marketing. Leading the State of Smart Manufacturing Report creation and promotion, Gerry is also responsible for MES, QMS, and F&B product marketing. Gerry brings a wealth of content experience to the product team, having founded corporate blogs and collaborated on thousands of blog posts, white papers, and industry reports. Outside of Plex, Gerry has published two books, loves to travel, and enjoys spending time with his wife and kids exploring nature in Rhode Island.