Published On: May 23rd, 2024Categories: Industry 4.0, Manufacturing Industry, Productivity

As Industry 4.0 and digital transformation are changing every aspect of manufacturing companies and the way they are run, the types of workers needed to build a successful organization are also changing. Over the last few years, manufacturing as an industry has embraced data and connectivity, analytics, human-machine interaction, and improvements in robotics. Companies are seeking out these new technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency. According to a Deloitte study, 86% of manufacturing executives surveyed believe that smart factory solutions will be the primary drivers of competitiveness in the next five years. Manufacturing companies need to innovate their processes, technologies, and workers to succeed in today’s competitive climate.

When hiring for manufacturing roles, companies should look at a candidate’s skills and experience working with new technologies as well as their ability to adapt and be flexible in a dynamic environment. For example, industrial engineers need to have a firm understanding of digital twins and cyber-physical systems. Welders need to be able to interface with robotics, and production planners should be well versed in predictive analytics.

Operators are historically in charge of production equipment before, during, and after manufacturing processes. They have been trained to be highly specialized and experts on a specific piece of the larger machine ecosystem. Today, however, companies need to hire and train operators differently to succeed.

Operators of the Past

Operators are typically trained on one product line or machine, so that their knowledge is highly specialized and deep. When gaining the skills for the job, operators typically learn from their predecessors through hands-on practice. To be successful at their job, they rely on institutional knowledge, supervisor instruction, and personal judgment when making decisions.

Operators often follow processes based on predefined procedures and rules, since what has worked in the past continues to help them keep machinery in good working order. However, this system creates risk of human error, since a critical piece of the manufacturing system is reliant on one operator’s judgment and experience. This system is not inherently wrong, however, but for an operator to be successful in tomorrow’s manufacturing industry, they’ll need to see beyond just their individual machine or product line.

Operators of the Future

Today’s operator has an increased scope with more responsibilities than ever before, requiring them to be more of a generalist than a specialist. Instead of focusing on one element, they need to monitor multiple product lines and machines at once. Much of this change has come about due to technological advances. With new software and automation, operators can monitor more systems at once. Tools like HMI (human machine interface), SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), MES (manufacturing execution systems), and MI (manufacturing intelligence) mean that the machines are able to provide real-time data back to the operators, reducing the amount of time operators need to spend inspecting and maintaining individual machines.

In this new role, operators move away from using institutional knowledge and standard processes and towards problem-solving skills and data analysis. Now, they receive data and information from multiple sources, and they need to quickly analyze and synthesize it to understand underlying problems. From there, they must collaborate with co-workers, machines, and robots to find quick solutions. By relying on data, predictive models, and information directly from machines, they are able to reduce the risk of human error in the process.

How to Hire Operators for Tomorrow

How can you make sure your company has the right operators to fill the role’s changing scope? First, look at how you are advertising the job. Are you focusing on skills like data analytics, problem solving, 3D modeling, and working with digital twins? If not, rewrite your job description with the technical and soft skills of tomorrow in mind.

Next, look at how your team is conducting interviews for prospective operators. Ask questions about their ability to synthesize information and make data-driven decisions. You’ll want to ensure they are willing to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and change their opinion when new information is introduced to the decision-making process. A successful operator is an agile, highly analytical team player.

Lastly, work with a staffing agency to help you narrow in on the top candidates. A staffing agency partner can help your team quickly and effectively sift through potential operators and bring you the right people for the job.

Find your Operators of Tomorrow with LSI Staffing

The role of operator has shifted from a specialized to a generalized role, and with that the skills required of an operator have dramatically changed. To stay competitive, many companies need to rethink how they hire operators and the types of skills they prioritize for the position.

Manufacturing businesses need to adapt and find data-driven, problem-solving operators who are willing to collaborate. If you’re seeking the right talent to keep your company ahead of the competition, contact LSI Staffing to get started.