According to a recent report by Deloitte, 78 million baby boomers will retire over the next decade in the United States alone. As the baby boomer population across the world retires they will be replaced by a new generation of workers. This new beast is Generation Y (signifying those born between 1982 and 1993) and they have a completely different set of expectations about the workplace to their parents’ generation. Connecting with them and convincing them to take up jobs in the manufacturing domain will be a major challenge for industrial organizations.
It’s no surprise that Generation Y is tech-savvy. They also demand a work-life balance with access to online problem solving and learning tools. A workplace with desktop computers and a fixed work schedule will be a complete turn-off for these workers of the future.
The need for industrial companies to embrace the technology of the future has never been more acute; if not for the sake of the efficiencies it will deliver (which are many) but to cater to and attract the workforce of the future.
This particularly impacts the industrial automation workplace, even in terms of the skillsets that Gen Y workers will bring. Many of the engineers of the future are educated in IT programming languages rather than the traditional operational software of the past. This affects how they will interact and work with network engineering software and they will almost certainly seek a workplace with modern technology. Many factories and industrial applications are still operating on systems that were installed long before Generation Y was born! In an age where Information Technology and Operational Technology are starting to converge, Generation Y engineers are likely to become a real asset to have around.
One of the often cited characteristics of Generation Y is that they will move to a new role frequently (typically every 2-3 years), which means they will never achieve the longevity and knowledge base that the baby boomers had, many of whom have been in roles for 30-40 years. This means that the technology of industrial plants, including SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems of the future needs to be simplified to cater to these job-hopping workers. Smart SCADA developers are aware of the needs of this changing workforce, are anticipating the industry demand, and are planning software developments that deliver model-driven, context-aware navigation within SCADA systems whereby alarm events, configuration management and deployment, as well as system health and diagnostics will become simpler and more intuitive, and therefore easy to learn.
Generation Y craves instant information and staying informed, both in their personal lives and at work, which means that supervisory platforms incorporating detailed historical information will need to provide actionable insights into the control system, enabling the operations managers of tomorrow to make a difference in their workplace.
The ability to work using a mobile device will provide the next generation of workers with better connectivity and information, the capability to view things at a glance while on the go, with instant access to their system and plant floor.
For those working on SCADA systems this means being able to connect to the system via the cloud to view and analyze operational data metrics, KPIs and reports any time from any device. These, combined with the ability to interact with experts via chat and online learning to keep skills up-to-date, are technology features that cater to the expectations of the up-and-coming workforce.
For manufacturers and industrial plant managers the way forward, particularly in regard to the issue of the retiring workforce, lies in keeping automation systems up-to-date and working with suppliers who are aware of this changing landscape and are developing products to embrace it.
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