Yesterday’s manufacturing jobs required mostly strength with some tasks requiring specialized smarts. Today, robots handle these tasks and processes. Human interaction has evolved to analysis and problem solving—finding ways to make manufacturing even more efficient with more throughput.
Manufacturing has been altered by the shift to digital technology. Even if longed for manufacturing jobs returned to the U.S., potential employees would find those jobs handled by automation. It’s harsh, but the world has shifted to “digital” today. You must be able to work with automation for gainful employment. Today, that means the ability to work with additive manufacturing. Soon, it means working with the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.
Yet, most Americans, 71% according to a survey conducted by ORC International on behalf of Proto Labs, do not perceive manufacturing jobs as high-tech occupations. On the one hand, this view accounts for the frustration of pockets of U.S. workers struggling to find a job. They are not prepared to work in manufacturing anymore, lacking the high-tech skills needed.
On the other hand, those with the skills do not see the manufacturing opportunities in front of them. They seem oblivious to how digital technologies have transformed industrial production. This situation will be a problem; U.S. industrial companies will need workers to fill an estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs during the next decade, notes the Manufacturing Institute.
Said Vicki Holt, CEO of Proto Labs, “The same skills required of software developers at places like Google, Facebook and Amazon are now being applied in the manufacturing industry.”
Noted the survey, only about 10% of the respondents associate a software developer in front of a computer screen with today’s manufacturing jobs. These manufacturing workers develop software that expedites the front end of the manufacturing process — before a machine gets involved — and enables more efficient work on the plant floor.
These are high paying jobs too, even though 33% of the respondents don’t believe so. Software developers for manufacturing often earn more than $100,000 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
For U.S. manufacturing to return to its former days of glory, everyone must do their part, “….to ensure that we have the talent needed to reach our full growth potential,” said Holt at the Oct. 6 launch of Proto Labs new 77,000 sq ft additive manufacturing facility in Cary, N.C.
An example of the new manufacturing, this facility houses the additive technologies once housed in two separate Proto Lab centers. Now, stereolithography, plastic laser sintering, and direct metal laser sintering are together in one place. The Cary facility houses more than 70 additive machines. Soon, Proto Labs will have an HP Multi Jet Fusion system.
Manufacturing is a high-tech career choice, and additive manufacturing is part of the new technology.