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Talent management in manufacturing: finding the balance between humans and machines

Collaboration between humans and machines may seem like something typical of our time, but the truth is that this is not the case. It was in the 18th century when the first automation tools began to reach the industrial field.

Little by little, the use of technology in manufacturing became commonplace. For example, the presence of robots in automobile assembly lines has been implemented for decades. Or the use of bottling machines in factories producing beverages such as juices or wine.

Nowadays, we are in a time when technology is advancing especially rapidly. We are seeing and we will continue to see how machines are gaining more and more prominence in the industrial sector. Taking on those tasks that are dangerous or painful for human beings, and multiplying the productive capacity of companies in a way that we are not even able to imagine.

Does this mean that employment levels in the manufacturing sector are going to go down? Not necessarily, What is going to happen is a change in the way of working. Because we need to move towards a human-machine symbiosis that allows us to take advantage of the best capacities and abilities of both parties.

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Automation and digitalization versus the importance of human talent

Employment is something alive, which changes as time passes. We can verify this by thinking about any profession.

For example, a lawyer does not work the same now as he did three decades ago. While jurists years ago had to do complex research tasks reviewing compendiums of jurisprudence, today they have all the information they need for their cases available in a single click. They can even present the documents to the court electronically.

The same goes for a cabinet maker. Not only are your work tools now much more efficient and safe, but you have advanced software that allows you to make high-precision designs. There are no longer errors in the calculations, and it is possible to see a 3D representation of what the final result will be like, before even starting to work with the wood.

In the field of manufacturing, where the investment capacity is very high, the presence of technology is greater than in other areas. It's about a sector that advances very quickly and must be able to adapt to the changes that arrive. But this does not imply that there is a fight between the capacity of machines and human talent. As we said before, the objective is to create a symbiosis.

Technology improves precision, speed and efficiency in production. For their part, the Human beings bring unique skills, experience and creativity. which are basic for solve problems. In this way, we contribute to the optimization of processes and innovation in production.

As much as machinery is increasingly present in the industry, There are stages of the manufacturing process in which human presence continues to be essential, such as in the maintenance of that machinery, or in making complex decisions.

How do we reconcile human talent with automation and digitalization?

The key is to find balance, and this is precisely the challenge that industries are facing right now

Identify the right tasks for automation

No production process can be automated to 100%. Human talent is still necessary for tasks such as:

  • Product design.
  • Design of the machinery and software involved in production.
  • Equipment maintenance.
  • Problem resolution.
  • Design of marketing campaigns.

Furthermore, we must not lose sight of the fact that the automation process is long, complex, and extremely expensive. Therefore, the first thing industries that want to update should do is decide which tasks should be automated.

It is advisable to start with the repetitive and low complexity tasks. For example, certain parts assembly tasks. While tasks that involve creativity, judgment and social skills will continue in human hands.

Develop digital and change management skills

The attitude of the human team members will be essential to the success or failure of automation.

State-of-the-art machinery and software are complex and unfamiliar, and this can create certain access barriers them. To overcome them, companies have to train their employees in digital skills and change management.

This includes providing a complete information about what technology is going to be used and what objectives are pursued with it. Highlighting in any case the value that human work will now acquire. Of course, training must also be provided in the use of machinery or new computer programs, in process control systems, and do not neglect the development of soft skills whose weight grows within professional profiles, such as the ability to solve problems, adaptability and effective communication.

If employees are well trained and informed, they feel empowered and secure. They stop seeing technology as something that can get in the way of their professional aspirations, and are more willing to learn to use it and get the most out of it.

Encourage collaboration and teamwork

Teamwork is one of the pillars of work in the manufacturing sector. In these jobs there is little room for individualism, because The success of the production process depends on a group of people being able to collaborate efficiently with each other.

That now human beings are not going to be on the front line of the production process, or not as much as before, does not mean that collaboration and communication must be neglected. Because these are going to become more important than ever.

Direct interaction with AI tools or certain machinery is something new, and the knowledge sharing and collaboration They will be essential so that everyone feels integrated into the work team, supported, and has the security that they are not going to be left behind.

Encourage innovation and creativity

Innovation is, has been and always will be a source of competitive advantage, and even more so in a sector as complex and competitive as manufacturing.

Machines can do many things, but They do not have the human capacity to be in contact with the real world, detect problems and opportunities. And it is precisely the skills of innovation and creativity that must be promoted now.

With workers freed from repetitive, low-value tasks, we must direct your talent to tasks with greater added value. For example, the development of ideas that can drive the continuous improvement of products or processes and, with it, the competitiveness of the company.

Work in the industry becomes less and less demanding on a physical level, and more on a mental level. To enhance this change, companies can implement incentive programs, or create work spaces that encourage creativity and active participation of staff members in identifying threats, searching for solutions, and identifying opportunities. improvement and optimization.

A complex process that requires flexibility

Achieving the balance between human talent and state-of-the-art machinery is not easy, and it is not something that needs to be achieved overnight.

Both companies and employees must be aware that This is a long road to travel, which will require continuous learning. What's more, it is a path that never ends, because the potential for improvement of technology is infinite. Luckily, human talent and the ability to adapt also know no limits.

All those involved have to understand that this is a gradual and flexible process, which will encounter some obstacles such as a lack of technical knowledge or digital skills, which will have to be resolved as they become apparent.

On the other hand, it is advisable that the human team members are more involved in decision-making processes that are related to the implementation of technology and process improvement. The decision will ultimately be made by management, but include the teams in the decision making It helps people feel valued, and increases their commitment and motivation towards change.

What we conclude from all this is that, although automation and digitalization offer multiple benefits in terms of efficiency and quality, it is essential to recognize and value the unique contribution made by workers in the manufacturing sector. This is the starting point to start working on a strategy that achieves a balance and takes advantage of the best of the capabilities of technology and human capabilities.

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