The Evolution of Manufacturing Jobs: Visibility and Connectivity Become Essential
Take a look around any factory – these are no longer your parents’ manufacturing jobs.
The events of the past several years have indeed changed sewn products manufacturing into a different industry than it was even a decade ago. This sea change has today’s manufacturers struggling to adapt and grow in an environment of seemingly constant disruption and changing customer demand.
It’s now clear that what worked in the past will not get the industry where it needs to be tomorrow. Production jobs that once primarily involved manual labor and repetitive tasks are undergoing a transformation that is being driven, in large part, by technology and enhanced connectivity. They are rapidly evolving to include higher levels of automation, digitization, and skilled labor
Drivers for Change
Automation and robotics
Global industrial research and technology organization TWI Ltd. defines industrial automation and robotics as the use of computers, control systems and information technology to handle industrial processes and machinery, replacing manual labor and improving efficiency, speed, quality and performance.
At its core, automation and robotics transforms tasks once performed by humans into ones handled by machines. This frees workers to focus on higher-value tasks requiring specialized skills and expertise. But according to TWI, “Early automated systems focused on increasing productivity, but this focus is now shifting to improved quality and flexibility in manufacturing and more. This extended scope of benefits is most significant in labor-intensive operations like apparel and sewn products manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing techniques
The adoption of sophisticated technologies, such as automated sewing systems, vision technology, digital printing, additive manufacturing (3D printing), robots, sensors, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart factories and predictive maintenance is increasing the need for skilled workers that can operate and maintain them.
The Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC) states, “Throughout the fashion industry, developing a pool of skilled talent remains a major priority, as the design, textile and fashion jobs of the future will require a high level of manufacturing skill.” To advance innovation in apparel manufacturing, the organization pilots garment production methods using robotics and other advanced manufacturing tools. It helps businesses adopt Industry 4.0 practices and prepares the workforce for success with advanced manufacturing technologies.
While fashion has always been a pioneering industry, apparel manufacturers have historically been slower to adopt automated technologies compared to other manufacturing segments. However, driven largely by lessons learned during the pandemic, the industry has accelerated the digital transformation of its manufacturing and supply chain operations.
About one-third of the 300+ respondents to the CGS Annual Supply Chain Trends & Technology survey reported that they are moving right along with supply chain digitalization, with either “above average” or “excellent” progress. Fifty-six percent consider their efforts “average,” and only 14 percent give themselves poor grades of “below average” or “very poor.” The report concludes, “There’s big opportunity to improve digital connectivity across these supply chains.”
This rapid digitalization of manufacturing is increasing the demand for workers with expertise in data analytics, machine learning and other digital skills. As they move to data-driven decision-making, the industry’s workforce – managers and production workers alike – must be able to analyze and interpret complex data sets.
Enhanced manufacturing and supply chain visibility and connectivity, enabled by Wi-Fi networks, cloud computing, and advanced production management technologies, are crucial in the evolution of manufacturing jobs and the industry’s digital transformation.
CGS’ BlueCherry Shop Floor Control (SFC) technology integrates these technologies with familiar tablet computers and a highly intuitive app to empower production workers with robust workforce development and motivation capabilities. The system elevates machine operators and other production workers with the connectivity and visibility they need to track and reach production goals, monitor quality, access product details and work methods, call for help and develop a greater sense of achievement. Many companies using the Shop Floor Control solution report that the use of tablets in manufacturing jobs aids in attracting and retaining production employees.
At the same time, the system provides production management and sourcing teams with the tools needed to achieve real-time visibility and control of all manufacturing and sourcing processes. By embracing these and other connectivity solutions, manufacturers and sourcing teams can unlock a wide range of benefits that include:
- Real-time, actionable data sharing
- Enhanced production and supply chain visibility
- Faster, better-informed decision-making
- Improved collaboration on the shop floor and externally
- Productivity, downtime and quality monitoring and control
- Remote monitoring/control for executives and sourcing
- Business scalability, flexibility and resilience
For all involved, this advanced connectivity and visibility is critical to pivoting to rapid changes, driving innovation, improving efficiency, workforce development and enabling new ways of working to stay competitive in the digital age.
Leaders Embrace Change
As the level of disruption and change in manufacturing remains high, today’s leaders cannot be laggards. They must proactively adapt their strategies, practices and processes to this new reality and workforce. Some important actions they are taking now include:
- Invest in employee training and development – help workers acquire the necessary skills.
- Embrace digital transformation – develop a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
- Foster open communication – encourage collaboration both internally and externally.
- Replace intuition with data-driven decision-making – make faster, better-informed decisions.
- Strengthen relationships with external partners – connectivity with suppliers and customers.
- Prepare for the future of work – stay informed on trends and technologies.
The evolution of manufacturing jobs is significantly impacting the sewn products industry. By investing time and resources in these key strategies, today’s leaders can position their companies to adapt and thrive in this new and changing environment.
See the transformation of manufacturing jobs in the apparel industry with the Dignity Apparel video. Discover why Dignity Apparel’s CEO chose BlueCherry Shop Floor Control to empower production workers with visibility and connectivity, enabling them to track production goals, access product details, and make data-driven decisions to stay competitive.