Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

A digital skills crisis is looming in manufacturing – but there could be a game-changing solution

According to recent research, there’s an escalating talent shortage in the manufacturing industry. As the sector benefits from advances in technology, including implementation of automated processes and robotics – the digital skills gap has only widened.

In the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute skills gap and future of work study, researchers predicted a potential shortage of around 2.4 million workers over the next 10 years.
The study was US-based, but the findings are likely to resonate with manufacturing firms worldwide. Job openings have been growing at rapid rates, but employers are struggling to find the skilled talent needed to fill them.

Companies have named digital skills as one of the key categories in which shortages are “very high”. When asked about the most crucial skills needed to support manufacturing in the decade to come, executives named the following as their top five:

  1. Technology and computer skills
  2. Digital skills
  3. Programming for robots / automation
  4. Working with tools and technology
  5. Critical thinking

The industry is rapidly moving towards automation across multiple functions, which creates new challenges in the ways that human and machine workers will need to work together.

With manufacturers all chasing the very highest levels of productivity, it’s clear that a whole new set of tools, training and skills will be needed to meet the challenge.

How one firm overcame its digital skills gap

For cloud-based sheet metal fabrication platform Fractory, the digital skills gap in manufacturing is a challenge they feel equipped to meet. The company, established in Estonia in 2017, was set up with one clear goal – to digitise the manufacturing process.

One of the key barriers for manufacturers and engineers wanting to digitise their own processes is access to suitable CAD programs. According to Fractory CTO Rein Torm, suitable solutions simply didn’t exist. So Fractory decided to create their own algorithm.

Torm explains: “Pretty much everything you see on the Fractory platform runs on proprietary algorithms that belong to the company as intellectual property. We were very open to using existing solutions to spur our development but there has been very little to grab onto.”

He also explains why solutions don’t seem to exist: “Big corporations are behind the development of CAD programs. They have the solutions but communication with them is a long and complicated process.

“Their solutions are also tailored for desktops and need human interaction in the decision-making process.”

The unique Fractory cloud manufacturing solution allows engineers to upload CAD files directly to their cloud-based platform, for instant pricing.

The bespoke algorithm was designed and honed to meet what the Fractory team saw as a real, pressing demand in the market.

The workflow innovation that Fractory has created is able to streamline processes and drive efficiencies, as well as relieving the pressure caused by manufacturing skills gaps.

This could be excellent news for the manufacturing industry, which according to the Deloitte study could see $454 million manufacturing GDP at risk by 2028 due to skills shortages.

2020 could well be the year that an increasing number of firms start to digitise processes, with cloud manufacturing pioneers such as Fractory leading the way.


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