With all the focus on automation, artificial intelligence, and digitalisation, it’s easy to assume that Industry 4.0 will replace opportunities for human workers in factories, mines, ports, and other places. In fact, as today’s jobs evolve as Industry 4.0 technologies move forward, the new skills required of Workforce 4.0 will create new job opportunities. It may also help alleviate the challenges of labor shortages. These new ways to work in 4The tenth The Industrial Revolution will lead to a streamlined, agile, technology-enabled workforce that is safer, happier, healthier and better equipped to do their jobs while driving new levels of productivity for the companies that embrace it.
Discharge of hazardous and harmful materials
400 meters underground, Finnish nuclear waste disposal company Posiva is building a sustainable facility where remotely operated robots transport hazardous waste through underground tunnels where it will be safely stored for thousands of years. No human needs to work with waste, which helps Posiva keep its employees — and the environment — safe.
This is just one example of how augmenting the workforce using Industry 4.0 technologies can create experiences that are more convenient for human workers. Another can be seen in mining, where autonomous dump trucks are on their way to take on the chore from human drivers in open-pit mining, as these operations are now performed from a remote operations center at a safe distance from the open pit rather than from the truck cabin. And in manufacturing, robots perform physically demanding tasks. Exoskeletons and cooperative robots – called “cobots” – can assist with or handle heavy lifting tasks. Fast and agile, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can precisely deliver parts and tools to skilled workers who need them, as well as handle potentially hazardous materials, keeping humans out of harm’s way.
Not only do these technologies, and many others, increase operational efficiency and productivity, but they can also help protect the health and well-being of employees—and enable them to stay longer in the positions they prefer.
Boost engagement and productivity while getting rid of the mundane
Just as these automated machines can handle difficult and dangerous matters, they can also handle menial and repetitive matters. By doing so, they free up the human workers to focus on the work that is most involved and valuable. Many tasks such as cleaning at the end of the shift, documentation, supplying tools or restocking can now be done in an automated way. Automated robots can take on time-consuming and redundant tasks, relieving pressure on human workers and supply chain congestion by quickly and safely moving goods and clearing backlogs from warehouses and other storage locations.
Technologies like augmented and virtual reality can also help companies mentor new workers by making on-the-job training and troubleshooting more engaging, shortening downtime while improving results.
Better work experiences attract employees
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a significant labor shortage. In Canada, 55% of entrepreneurs reported having difficulties finding employees, 26% saying they had trouble retaining them, and 64% saying labor shortages are limiting their growth. The UK workforce shrank by 561,000 between 2020 and 2022. In the United States, there were 10.7 million job openings in June 2022.
Technology is essential to deal with this deficiency. Industry 4.0 apps and devices allow companies to do more with less as they look to hire more people. These technologies can also help attract, hire and retain needed talent and improve the work environment. According to a study by Dell, 80% of Generation Z workers want to work with the latest technology, and 91% take technology into account when making decisions among employers.
Make the enhanced workforce a reality
It takes a certain type of network to support Industry 4.0 technologies that can power a workforce: low latency, extremely fast, robust and reliable. Private wireless networks are essential for connecting devices, sensors, and technologies on premises to provide large-scale, mobile resilience to operations, while fixed connectivity, such as optical and IP networks, provides a critical connectivity that connects individual facilities to larger hubs, corporate data centers, or the public cloud.
In the end, Industry 4.0 is not just about technology. It’s about driving efficiency and profitability while ensuring that employees are happier and more productive – no matter what industry, sector or business they’re in. In addition to the modern network, there are clear benefits for workers from Industry 4.0 to increase the workforce. Automation and robotics are not about replacing the workforce, but rather, improving it and providing work, life, and business benefits to all involved.