Advanced 365 Limited

02/21/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 06:12

Can AI fill your manufacturing skills gap

As the manufacturing sector faces increasing difficulties finding the requisite skilled staff, could Artificial Intelligence (AI) be the solution? Our 2024 Manufacturing Sector Trends reportrevealed that 21 per cent of firms are already using AI to address staff shortages.

From this statistic alone, it is easy to assume that AI is replacing workers. However, it is not that simple. The manufacturing skills crisis applies primarily to roles that require more experience and niche training, with three in five manufacturersexperiencing challenges accessing a skilled workforce. This is where AI is primed to help. Its intelligent capabilities can work alongside worker "co-pilots", enhancing their human capabilities in a way that allows HR executives to open their applicant searches to a wider range of individuals. Less skilled workers are augmented by AI-empowered automation and robotics, creating a new human/machine hybrid workforce with the potential to move beyond the skills gap issue.

Conduits of human knowledge

Defined as computing power able to mimic human intelligence, AI becomes more effective through a process of machine learning. Input data is fed into the program, and it progressively teaches itself to perform tasks better. Unlike the classic machinery of the manufacturing plant designed to take care of menial jobs - for example, pick-and-place arms or painting machines - the power of AI lies in its ability to learn, adapt and mirror a skilled human capability.

An issue arising as higher-skilled workers retire out of the sector is that there is no one to pass on accumulated, specific knowledge. AI digital assistants can capture and share specialised manufacturing information and learnings, providing support to workers through data and guided instruction. With domain-specific vocabulary and alerts to keep teams on top of actions, these assistants empower frontline workers to take on more highly skilled tasks. In a real-world example, the generative AI powered Siemens Industrial Copilotassists maintenance staff with detailed repair instructions, meaning less experienced workers can take these roles. It has access to all the relevant documentation, guidelines and manuals, allowing workers to identify errors and generate step-by-step solutions, even if they are not a specialist in this area.

Expanding the talent pool

Much of the innovation in AI is around making the operation of machinery intuitive, so individuals do not need extensive training to thrive in the manufacturing environment. Toronto-based startup Xaba Inc is developing technology to allow workers to guide robots with voice commands, bypassing the need for complex programming knowledge. Technology like this allows manufacturers to recruit groups that have not had access to technical training, with 35 per cent of manufacturing organisations addressing the skills gap with tools that do not require users to know how to code. HR mangers can hire from less represented demographics, and prioritise non-technical skills, like communication. There is vastly more potential for learning on the job, tying into a wider trend of hiring for potential, rather than boxes ticked on a CV.

AI holds the greatest opportunities at the novice or low-skilled end of the talent spectrum, with a 34 per cent improvementwhen usinganAIassistantreported for these workers compared to 14 per cent on average,with a minimal impact observed with experienced and highly skilled workers. HR executives should consider candidates in the hiring process as part of a package with AI tools that boost their potential or fill in gaps on their CV. AI's potential goes beyond sector-specific tools. For example, AI writing models and language translation might mean that non-native speakers could become more suitable for roles that require communication. Experts are claimingthat AI will make people without a higher education qualification equipped to do a far greater range of jobs, equalising the labour market. Jobs in manufacturing that were reserved for highly educated workers could be open to a far greater range of candidates - combatting the skills crisis and diversifying the workplace.

The power of AI to address the manufacturing skills gap lies in expanding human potential, rather than eliminating the need for people altogether. Instead, it is shaking up the traditional requirements for a manufacturing worker and requires HR leaders to consider technology in their hiring plans. See your workforce as a blended mix of the AI tools you invest in and the people that they guide to success. The manufacturing skills gap does not seem such a bleak prospect when you consider the wealth of human ingenuity and machine capabilities at your fingertips; the key lies in marrying these resources together.