Experts using scare tactics in order to drive page views and notoriety get daily publicity talking about “robots” taking manufacturing jobs away from people. They never even dig deeply enough even to find the broader “automation” that they really mean.
I’ve written a couple of recent posts about this including a response from Jeff Burnstein of the Association for Advancing Automation.
Digging deeper, here is a new survey by Leading2Lean that measured public perception and understanding of the manufacturing as a whole – from its economic impact to awareness of job opportunities. It found stark differences between older generations (Gen X, Baby Boomers) and Millennials.
Given a greater variety of jobs and careers today compared to when I (boomer) entered the workforce, I’d have to say the results are not dire. But they do reveal a failure of our leaders to get the word out about the importance of manufacturing to our society and the great careers that are available for people with many different levels of education and training.
A recent Manufacturing Index survey by Leading2Lean, a manufacturing software technology company and creator of CloudDISPATCH software, found that generation-affiliation significantly affected how Americans view manufacturing careers, the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy, and the industry’s growth.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the U.S. economy. Older generations, particularly those born between 1946 and 1964 (Baby Boomers), and those born between 1965 and 1980 (Generation X), appeared better informed about the significance of these jobs to the U.S.
Eighty-six percent of Baby Boomers and Gen X respondents agreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the economy, while only 68% of Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1998, agreed.
“We were surprised by how the responses varied by generation,” said Keith Barr, CEO and President of Leading2Lean. “We are seeing some of the highest demand for skilled manufacturing jobs in recent history, yet it seems the industry has failed to keep younger generations informed about the skills gap or availability of great jobs.”
This difference in generational perspective was also reflected in a question about whether respondents agreed that manufacturing offers fulfilling careers. Only 49% of Millennials agreed, while 59% of both Baby Boomers and Generation X agreed. This underscores that Millennials are less convinced that manufacturing offers desirable career paths.
It is estimated that approximately 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next ten years, and 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled, according to recent data from The Manufacturing Institute. Despite this urgent industry need, half of Millennials indicated that they do not believe there is a shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. In comparison, 63% of Gen X and 60% of Baby Boomers indicated that they did understand there is a current shortage of skilled workers.
“We see from this data that we need to do better as an industry to show the younger generation how the industry has changed,” said Barr. “Manufacturing is more dynamic than ever before. Jobs in the industry involve complex problem solving and interesting technology. They’re not mind-numbing jobs that take place at dilapidated factories. And they offer competitive pay, benefits and opportunities for advancement.”
Millennials may not be aware that manufacturing jobs pay on average nearly three times the federal minimum wage for production and nonsupervisory employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For managerial roles, manufacturing offers pay competitive with tech sector jobs, according to 2018 data from Glassdoor.
Leading2Lean commissioned survey provider ENGINE to conduct the national survey at a 95% confidence level, surveying 1,002 respondents representative of U.S. demographics.
The point of manufacturing is to design and make a product then deliver the right product to the customer. Sometimes we just churn out a large quantity and hope they will sell. Sometimes we configure to order or “mass customize” products.
For example, I once had a job where I reported to the Vice President of product development for a manufacturing company. Two of us reported to him. The other guy headed the engineering teams for all of our standard products. I had a small team and we did special projects. One task was to help sales people go through complex specs and configure our product to meet the specs. My technology was a 4-column accounting ledger, pencil, and Singer adding machine.
I bet I made mistakes.
Frederic Laziou, CEO of Tacton, a Swedish company with a product in the CPQ space, just talked with me about what’s happening with his company and the technology.
CPQ stands for Configure Price Quote recognized by Gartner with Tacton firmly situated in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in CPQ.
A SaaS company born in the cloud from a research institute in Sweden, Tacton used AI plus search research to become a product search engine. Among CPQ companies, Tacton is unique as a niche player in manufacturing with key domain knowledge in manufacturing.
CPQ would have made my job from the late 70s easier, more accurate, and better documented. Good stuff.
Laziou states Tacton has presence in Europe, Japan, and North America. There is a common thread—they cannot compete on price. Mass customization or individualizations helps companies compete.
The company was seeking to deepen its North American presence, niche player in these areas:
- Production lines
- Power Generation (Dresser/Siemens)
- Medical Technology (Siemens and GE)
- Heavy commercial vehicles
- Fluid and air flow
30-40% of that business is in the US. In order to sustain leadership, need to be closer to the customer and partners, therefore have US headquarters. It established an office in the Chicago area. Two additional reasons for the Chicago location include direct flights to Stockholm and a wealth of necessary talent in manufacturing, software, and sales and marketing.
Putting Tacton in context of Industry 4.0, it puts customer in the center of the customer’s digitization.
Laziou says that as more people are bringing consumer technology into the business context, Tacton developed AR to enhance customer engagement. Not to mention that AR addresses big pain point—errors in quotes.
To fuel the expansion and drive increased sales, the company is making a $12 million investment over the next three years to establish joint headquarters in Chicago
In conjunction with its expansion and investment in the U.S. market, Tacton is also announcing new capabilities in its cloud-based CPQ platform. The new features include augmented reality (AR)-powered visualization and expanded integration with Salesforce that makes it even easier for manufacturers to design, configure and sell complex products.
Founded in 1998, Tacton CPQ software and design automation solutions help the world’s largest manufacturers, such as Bosch, Siemens and Caterpillar to manage the complexities traditionally associated with producing customized and configured products that meet strict customer requirements.
For example, the Industrial Power division at Siemens uses Tacton’s sales configuration software to slash the time it takes to prepare price quotes and simplify product configuration of custom solutions. It used to take Siemens eight weeks to produce a custom quote for its gas turbine units, With Tacton’s CPQ, the sales team now produces the same quote in a matter of minutes, without requiring any help from product specialists.
“The beauty of the Tacton Configurator is that it will guide the sales representative and get the product configuration for an accurate price quote each time. It now takes us only five minutes to generate a complete budget offer including pricing. This saves us tremendous amounts of time and money,” said Siemens Senior Engineer CRM process & IT Development Jan Nilsson.
Tacton CPQ now includes visual product configuration, including real time, interactive 3D drag-and-drop functionality. Sales engineers can interact directly with a sophisticated configuration tool, powered by AR to visualize the configuration within the actual environment.
The new capabilities extend Tacton’s integration with Salesforce to boost sales with features including needs-based configuration. Salesforce Sales Cloud customers can now connect to the full power of Tacton CPQ leveraging its best-in-class AI-driven configurator for the manufacturing industry. Tacton CPQ for Salesforce features automated CAD drawing and engineer-to-order (ETO) processes with out-of-the-box integration to all leading CAD solutions, integration with SAP ERP and Variant Configurator (SAP LO-VC) and open APIs that enable full integration with the existing IT stack.
“We experienced significant customer adoption for Tacton CPQ solutions among European manufacturers over the last two years, making it the ideal time to meet a similar demand in the United States,” said Frederic Laziou, CEO of Tacton. “By continuing to add breakthrough enhancements like AR-powered visual configuration to our CPQ solution, we can drive even greater efficiency for manufacturers, making it even simpler and faster to sell complex products.”
We should be so beyond talk of The IT/OT convergence.
This has not been a technology issue for years. If anything it is an organization and personal issue.
Executives continue to view their organizations as constructed of a variety of separate domains. This is often because there are all these SVPs running around who need an organization to lead. So, one has operations, another IT, another design, another marketing, and so forth.
When senior management wakes up to the fact that technology has broken the barriers long ago, maybe they can get their organizations to follow suit.
This year we should be talking about how all technology is meant to serve leaders and managers who are trying to build safe, productive, profitable companies.
The story should be about benefits of using technology; not about pitting one against another.
Another Podcast. Sponsored by Ignition from Inductive Automation and the 23rd Industry Forum from ARC Advisory Group. (See banners.) Stuff happening. Siemens (cyber security, growing digitally). Emerson (growing and acquisitions). GE (divesting Digital). ABB (divesting power grid). Rockwell (new product with PTC). Keep an eye on IT companies with powerful compute packages for OT–Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
I highly recommend putting Seth Godin on your radar—both his blog and his podcast. He always makes you rethink your assumptions.
He discusses problems—crisis versus chronic in this blog post.
We all live to the crisis. Pumps go down. Motor bearings freeze. Valves stick.
I’ve lived the situation of the plant manager threatening bodily harm if I don’t get the machine running—now.
Chronic? That’s an entirely different situation.
The problem exists. We just are not aware of it. That is, until it becomes a crisis.
Chronic is a system problem. We got used to it. A small, but nagging, pain that we learn to live with.
These require a change to the system to repair. Think the advice of W. Edwards Deming.
This is where a good IIoT system with solid analytics and visualization can save your bacon.
What little problems are you letting slide until it becomes a crisis?
I am always interested in how companies go to market. I’ve had several years experience in product development and marketing trying to figure that all out. Inductive Automation is an interesting case study. It began life with an innovative cost structure and then went to market with quality systems integrators.
Recently, it has designated Primary Systems Inc. (PSI) as an Inductive Automation Premier Integrator—its highest level recognition.
Founded in 1989, Primary Systems Inc. is based in Old Bridge, N.J. PSI designs, implements, and troubleshoots systems for the process and manufacturing industries. Its engineers have systems expertise in batch, machine and motion control applications.
PSI’s data logging solutions for IIot and Industry 4.0 put pertinent information in clients’ hands in real-time.
“For 10 years, Ignition has proven to be the most robust and flexible solution for our customers’ SCADA and data-handling needs,” said Eric Alter, president of Primary Systems Inc. “Whether we use it in packaging, in processing areas, or in Auto ID applications, Ignition provides us with the platform and tools to solve problems on the plant floor and in higher-level applications such as MES.”
Scott Alter, vice president of control and automation solutions, added, “As an independent systems integrator, it’s our job to recommend the best solution for each of our clients’ projects. Inductive Automation’s Ignition is, more and more often, the solution that best gives our customers the flexibility and economic advantages they need to upgrade and expand their production operations.”
“We’re proud to welcome Primary Systems Inc. as a Premier Integrator,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer at Inductive Automation. “The team there has proven to be proficient with Ignition software, and has done numerous successful projects for their customers. We’re happy to be working with this vibrant and dependable company.”
Inductive Automation has relationships with more than 1,800 integrators worldwide. The company has deep roots within the integrator community. Inductive Automation President/CEO Steve Hechtman was a control system integrator for 25 years before he founded Inductive Automation.