- By Bill Lydon
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By Bill Lydon, InTech, Chief Editor
Automation professionals are major contributors to a manufacturing and process company's competitiveness and are vital for success. Low labor cost is no longer a winning manufacturing strategy, resulting in the growing implementation of automation in countries worldwide to become leadership producers. Modernizing manufacturing is vitally important in this and has spawned worldwide initiatives centered on automation, including Germany's Industrie 4.0, Made in China 2025, Japan Industrial Value Chain Initiative (IVI), Make in India, Indonesia 4.0, Latvia: National Industrial Policy Guidelines 2014-2020, Initiative for Polish Industry 4.0, Italy: Industria 4.0, and France: Industrie du futur.
Another driver for automation is the retirement of experienced workers, which is a major issue when trying to find manufacturing and process personnel to fill the vacated positions. This is a demographic issue, since almost all countries have experienced lower birth rates. The populations are aging, and there are fewer young people to enter the workforce. Ignoring the moral and ethical issues, there simply are not enough people who can be paid low wages to fill low-level manufacturing positions. Compounding the challenge is the need to convince young people there is a future in manufacturing.
Automation improves productivity, quality, the environment, and profits. Automation's positive impact on the environment may not seem obvious, but properly done, automation lowers energy requirements, optimizes raw material utilization, and lowers emissions.
The good news is automation creates better manufacturing and process plant environments that are more productive. This requires more educated workers to implement, run, support, and maintain automation systems. The challenge is to motivate and train young people to work with modern manufacturing technology that will yield them higher-paying and more personally rewarding jobs.
There are two big challenges that all of us would do well to address. First, younger people need to understand that manufacturing and process industries are exciting places where engineers apply technology and contribute to society and the environment in a positive way. The other challenge is to provide meaningful education, coaching, and management for younger people to facilitate their development in becoming automation professionals.
The International Society of Automation and the organization's media, InTech magazine and Automation.com, are focused on these goals.
What's in it for you?
It may be an old adage, but "a rising tide lifts all boats," meaning improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants. Participating in the development of young people to become automation professionals helps build stronger communities with positive outcomes.
We certainly invite you to join in this endeavor.
We want to hear from you! Please send us your comments and questions about this topic to InTechmagazine@isa.org.