Industry 4.0 Will Promote Job Growth, but Stakeholders Must Help the Workforce Adapt

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The FINANCIAL — The new digital industrial technologies collectively known as Industry 4.0 will transform the industrial workforce. Although more jobs will be gained than lost, workers will require significantly different skills. By applying technologies such as augmented reality, manufacturers can help people remain in or return to the workforce in entirely new roles. These findings are presented in a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) titled Man and Machine in Industry 4.0: How Will Technology Transform the Industrial Workforce Through 2025? The report is being released on September 28.

To understand how the industrial workforce will evolve with Industry 4.0, the authors looked at the effects that these new technologies will have on Germany’s manufacturing landscape. Detailed modeling forecasts a net increase of approximately 350,000 jobs in Germany through 2025. Greater use of robotics and computerization will reduce the number of jobs in assembly and production by approximately 610,000. But this decline will be more than offset by the creation of approximately 960,000 new jobs, particularly in IT and data science.

“Although the deployment of Industry 4.0 will result in the loss of many traditional production jobs on the shop floor, that’s only part of the story,” says Markus Lorenz, a BCG partner and a coauthor of the report. “On the positive side, technological advancements promise to benefit many workers who might otherwise confront a bleaker outlook for employment,” he says. These advancements will create many jobs in areas such as human interface design and data handling, for example. Moreover, by deploying technologies such as robotic assistance systems and augmented reality, manufacturers will help people come back into the labor market, especially those who were forced out due to their lack of education and experience.

BCG conducted the research jointly with IoT Analytics, a provider of market insights for Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. The authors analyzed Industry 4.0’s quantitative effects on the industrial workforce by studying how the ten most influential use cases for these technologies will affect the evolution of 40 job families in 23 industries in Germany. To determine the extent to which each use case would affect the number of employees required for specific job families, the authors worked with 20 industry experts to analyze how each use case would promote productivity gains for existing roles or create new ones.

The Workforce Will Need to Keep Pace with the Changes

Industry 4.0 will foster significant changes in how industrial workers perform their jobs, and entirely new job families will be created while others become obsolete. Although the extent to which Industry 4.0, especially robotics, will replace human labor remains a matter of debate among experts, manufacturers will increasingly use robotics and other advancements to assist workers. This means that the number of physically demanding or routine jobs will decrease, while the number of jobs requiring flexible responses, problem solving, and customization will increase. “To succeed in their evolving workplace, employees will have to be even more open to change, possess greater flexibility to adapt to new roles and work environments, and get accustomed to continual interdisciplinary learning,” says Michael Rüßmann, a BCG partner and a coauthor of the report.

“In addition to transforming the frontline industrial workforce, Industry 4.0 accelerates the need for new types of leadership skills and intensifies the competition for talent in many countries,” says Rainer Strack, a BCG senior partner and a coauthor of the report. To master the variety of challenges ahead, companies need to direct significant attention to strategic workforce planning. Supply and demand modeling can be used to produce a comprehensive gap analysis that gives insights into the necessary measures, such as people development, transfers, insourcing or outsourcing, and adoption of new recruiting goals, that companies should undertake.

Stakeholders Must Prepare for the Transformation

The shifting employment landscape has significant implications for industrial companies, education systems, and governments. The authors offer recommendations to business leaders and policy makers for how they can foster the adoption of Industry 4.0 and thereby enhance the productivity and growth of the industrial workforce. Companies need to retrain their workforces, revamp their organization models, and develop strategic approaches to recruiting and workforce planning. Education systems should seek to provide broader skill sets and close the impending gap in IT skills. Governments can explore ways to improve the central coordination of initiatives that promote job creation. 


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