Part of the reason we love Indiana so much is the overlap between exciting and upcoming tech companies and the more traditional manufacturing organizations that have built the Hoosier state for many years. And if new reports are any indication, that overlap is only going to be growing larger.
The recently released 2017 Indiana Manufacturing Survey essentially asks Indiana companies, “what is manufacturing?” and goes in depth to report a healthy sector within the state; one with lots of room for growth. There are two exciting trends playing out right now in Indiana that give us a glimpse into the direction for the manufacturing industry as a whole. Larger manufacturer investments in the “future factory” and figuring out how to recruit the workforce of the future are points that will become more and more pressing in the coming years.
Continuing to invest the future factory
This survey was sent to hundreds of organizations around Indiana, receiving a diverse set of responses on different topics, but one thread remained true when asked about good manufacturing decisions: investment in new manufacturing technology. When asked about “their best manufacturing decisions” in the past year, the direct quotes from manufacturers spoke volumes:
- “The purchase of additional automated machinery; doubling the rate of growth and expansion.”
- “New state-of-the-art equipment.”
- “New factory investment to facilitate debottlenecking of existing factories.”
These quotes aren’t alone either. In the past few years, manufacturers were asked what their modernization priorities were. In 2014, Human Resource Development was far and away voted the top priority of the moment, picked first 55% of the time. Investment in Facilities, Machinery and Information Technologies lagged behind at 27%. Contrast that information with 2017, where manufacturers voted investments in Facilities, Machinery and Information Technologies their top priority 52% of the time, whereas Human Resource Development fell to 39%. The amount of manufacturers that realize the importance of innovative manufacturing in their facilities has nearly doubled in that three-year span. The report explains that one technology in particular has seen growth in the past few years, “Data analytics, in particular, is increasingly deployed in a host of manufacturing-related areas.” Of Indiana Manufacturers:
- 71% use data analytics in planning and scheduling production to some degree or a high degree.
- 73% use data analytics in managing raw materials and finished goods inventory to some or a high degree.
- 74% use data analytics in managing shop floor production to some or a high degree.
- 60% use data analytics in planning and coordinating inbound and outbound supply chains to some or a high degree.
These are all signs that as the manufacturing sector, in Indiana and abroad, search for that competitive advantage to provide superior products, they are increasingly turning to new technology, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, like industrial data analytics to close the gap.
Preparing a new manufacturing workforce
According to the report, this uptick in modernization of facilities doesn’t mean that employee jobs will be lost. Over half of Indiana manufacturers surveyed believe that automation by new technologies will increase the number of employees that they need to remain competitive. Unfortunately, the demand for the jobs is there, but the workforce trend seems to be going in the opposite direction for Indiana and the industry as a whole.
Finding a way to train the next generation manufacturing workers is a very real issue here in Indiana. When asked if there were any problems in recruiting young people into manufacturing, 87% of organizations agreed that there was. As college becomes more of a staple of today’s youth, manufacturers are having a hard time breaking through a perceived stigma attached to working a blue collar job. This was apparent when surveyed manufacturers were asked to share advice they had for young people interested in a manufacturing career:
- “Having a blue collar job is still honorable and can provide a healthy pay and benefits for family.”
- “Manufacturing today is not the sweatbox of yesterday. It’s more video game than hard, manual labor.”
- “It’s not your grandfather’s industry. This is becoming a high-tech industry with clean working environments.”
Indiana, and the manufacturing industry as a whole, will continue to see this trend as more young employees come into the workforce for the first time and more tenured workers eventually retire. However, the as the overlap between high-tech positions and manufacturing positions continues to widen, the industry could very well see a resurgence in youth join its ranks.
The manufacturing industry has changed a lot in the last few years and if these trends are any indication, there’s still a lot of growth left. As Indiana grows as a state known for the technology companies headquartered there, the manufacturing industry might very well see a boost in finding new and interesting ways that partnership can increase production and help with workforce-related issues.
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