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Developing digitally enabled engineers

28/03/19 Sarah Cook Consultant, R&D and Engineering

Difficulties finding skilled employees is the biggest challenge facing engineering and technology companies, according to the Professional Engineering survey of engineers on the state of the industry. The report found that more than 40% of respondents across a wide range of sectors cited skills shortages as the single biggest issue facing their industry, with Brexit being the second. 

Although concerns over skills are weighing heavily on the engineering and manufacturing sector, and some are slow to adopt digital technologies and implement Industry 4.0, there were reasons for optimism too. 

Sarah Cook, Redline’s R&D and Engineering consultant discusses the lack of understanding of Industry 4.0 and how it may be holding back technology companies in today’s digital world. 

“A critical consideration for any company looking to go down the Industry 4.0 route is ensuring that it has the right skilled workforce to fully understand and exploit this rapidly evolving area of technology,” says Sarah. 

The report also found that the hype around the Fourth Industry Revolution had only been implemented by a small fraction of high-technology companies. 13% of the engineering respondents worked for companies that have already implemented Industry 4.0. One in ten engineers stated that the businesses they worked for had a strategy in place to implement Industry 4.0 in the next 12 months. The principal reason behind this was simply due to a lack of understanding. 

“4.0 is demanding a much more diverse skill set within the engineering and manufacturing industry,” says Sarah. “There is a requirement to understand data flows, and the potential value of data, while at the same time retaining expert knowledge means we are now developing the need for more digitally-enabled engineers.

Skills required include knowledge of what data could be useful to capture. This allows the right identification of the right sensors to capture the required data; of data flows and the interpretation of data and the use of artificial intelligence and analytic tools to convert the data into vital information.

Companies need to first understand the domain and process skills of their workforce and ultimately understand how things are processes at the moment and how technology can possibly automate the procedures. Industry 4.0 will augment human effort, rather than replace it, but there are also many new roles emerging in application development, sensing, robotics, data analytics and virtualisation. This means today’s employees will need to develop new capabilities and embrace new tools and digital methods.

Overall, there will be more automation, process control and software engineer jobs such as Software Application and Java Jobs. Professionals who can operate between the virtual and real worlds as we adopt increasingly sophisticated digital twins of products and production processes. New entrants to the industry will need to be agile, digitally competent, creative, collaborative and practical. It's really important we work together as industry and academia to develop the right applied learning and training pathways to help achieve these outcomes.

Employers need to focus on the skills gap and develop the training available to their existing staff. Businesses need to recruit talented professionals for the future ‘now’. New employees should be influencing the business and actively shaping the business and its culture. There should be an active approach to problem solving and technology adoption. 

By 2022, the UK's industry needs to recruit 1.8m engineers. The UK needs to increase the number of engineers who are receiving training and ensure that people are multi-skilled and understand Industry 4.0 trends such as virtualisation, mass-customisation, data analytics and servitisation. 

Today’s trends will increasingly impact companies regardless of size which is why it’s worth investing in skills and pilot adoption activity today to help start a productivity journey anchored in emerging Digital technologies. Businesses need to develop a road map for digital transformation within their business, ask where the business will be in 2,5 and 10 years and identify what skill-sets will be required. 

Industrial digital technology adoption is not all about ‘techies' – there are a variety of skill-sets required, from analytical thinking, information management, problem-solving, understanding and interpreting data. Think broadly about the skills most useful for your business and transferable skills which will play a key part.”

Some of Redline’s engineering clients have been responding to engineering recruitment in several ways, including looking at ‘Why Candidates Decline Offers’ and enhancing their interview process by learning more about Competency Based Interviews in Engineering. Click here to download a copy. 

To find out more about careers in engineering or to see our latest job opportunities, please click here or alternatively contact Sarah Cook on 01582 878842 or email SCook@RedlineGroup.com