• How To Combat The Worldwide Skills Shortage

    In the past decade, we have experienced a steady erosion of skills among people working in various industries, professions and businesses. This includes many large industries like chemicals, petrochemicals, oil refining and the like. This is a very provocative statement which will, no doubt be hotly contested by some people, but nevertheless it is true, like it or not. This is the reason why one often hears a cry among HR professionals, business leaders and management gurus of a “worldwide talent crunch”. A side effect of this skill erosion has been an increase in salaries and benefits in many companies to those employees who have retained or enhanced their skills ( as contrasted with the pay cuts seen everywhere not so long ago), as well as concrete steps to stem attrition at all levels. This paper attempts to provide an insight into the issue as well as provide a solution for companies and businesses that are suffering from this problem.

    History of the problem

    The problem of the skills shortage can be directly attributed to three reasons. The first and primary reason is the “Downsizing “ effect. The second reason is Demographics. The third reason is that not enough young workers are entering the workforce in some sectors. We will study these one by one and also attempt to provide a solution.

    Downsize ‘em all!

    In the mid to late nineties, there was a wave of a new management fad that cut across all sectors, industries and professions. This fad was the concept of “downsizing” and “rightsizing”. Coupled with its cousin of “outsourcing”, it played a dominant role in creating todays’ problem. Like many other temporary quick fixes, it only proved the old adage , that the solution to a problem can create a bigger problem.

    Until the nineties, typically employees in most companies, shared between them, a vast body of knowledge, that was the real driver of the growth and profitability of the business. This was never acknowledged or measured as such by top management seriously. Thus this “intellectual property” of the business was never cared for properly. Merely having a physical location (like an office or a factory) and machines (or plants or computers or other physical assets) and money in the bank, does not make a business. The business requires skilled people, in various functions, having diverse skills, to glue it all together. They co-ordinate the people and assets, use the money productively and thus create value. This key insight was lost on the swashbuckling managers and cost-focused bean counters of the “cutting nineties” (a term similar to the swinging sixties, but more sinister), who looked askance at people, mocked them as mere “cost centers” and concentrated on cutting them out of the business.

    No doubt that every business does acquire some flab and bureaucracy as it grows older, but this wave of downsizing threw out the baby along with the bathwater. This scored the managers of those days some brownie points and lifted the bottom lines of those companies during the recessionary times by some percentage points. Not to speak of the increase in their own bottom lines because of the bonuses and stock options. But then, when the economy picked up again, this downsizing process left the companies with gaping skills shortages. This left companies with little or no resources to again expand capacities, regain their market positions, introduce new products or even to take care of existing products.

    This opportunity cost has been never seriously measured by any of the management gurus, to my knowledge.

    Demographics

    In Europe the average age of the population has now increased. This fact is well known and publicized often. However, what is not emphasized enough, is that the aging is far from uniform. In some industries, like chemicals manufacturing, the average age of a typical plant operator is more than 50! Besides, because of the decrease of retirement age by the industry (in its cost-cutting era), it means hundreds of these operators would retire at the same time, permanently cutting off their knowledge of so many years of industries and processes. There won’t be enough operators to go around since this age profile cuts across many chemical companies in the western world. Hence, once these operators exit the workforce, finding replacements won’t be easy. Ditto for other large manufacturing sectors.

    Bad PR and “Uncool” industries & sectors

    Professional PR managers say, that there is no such thing as “bad PR”, any publicity is good, if it generates interest among a community to discuss it. While this may be true for businesses like software or mobile phones, bad PR has badly affected the chemical industry, by painting it as eco-unfriendly, polluting and bad smelling. This is simply untrue with respect to many chemical industries today, who have far less pollution & environmental problems today. In fact most of the problems of pollution and warming in cities can be attributed to vehicular pollution rather than industrial pollution. However, who’s listening? To the youngsters graduating out of college the “chemical industry” is simply “uncool”. There also do not seem to be many efforts at correcting this view from the manufacturers of chemicals. Besides, the memory of the downsizing campaigns is still fresh and nobody wants to join the chemical industry, IT industry or other manufacturing industries, to make a career. They would rather join a TV channel, become a Radio Jockey, or go into the hospitality business or perhaps even try stock broking or merchant banking. This “bad PR” has also hit the IT industry in the US, where not many young people are enrolling in Computer Science courses in universities, because of the fear of not getting jobs due to outsourcing. Thus this leads to further shortages from the IT businesses point of view.

    The effect of combined factors

    The effect of all the factors in combination above, has been a dramatic shortage of skilled people in the industry. This creates not just problems of paying more for available skills or overtime, but the fact that a wrong operation because of lack of skills and / or training can result in a disaster, in case of a chemical company, affecting entire communities, not just individuals or companies. Wrong operations in other professions like the IT industry can have also serious undesirable consequences, which may also be catastrophic (imagine a software code with many bugs in your banking application software).

    The solution to the problem

    The only solution to the problem, is by spending more time, attention and money on training programs that enhance the skills of the workforce in general, refresh old skills that workers have and bring up the skills of the freshers or semi skilled workers who join the workforce, all in a short time. This can be achieved, only by employing innovative training solutions. The old training technique (which is hundreds of years old, by the way), can no longer be used effectively in todays’ situation.

    We are talking about classroom based training here. When somebody says “training” to a manager, the first thing that comes to his/her mind is “Oh! My God! Not again! I am already short of xx workers and they ask me to spare somebody for training!!”. This is because many of us still associate the word “training” with “classroom training”.

    This is of course not correct. The world has moved ahead and training can now be imparted online, at home, in the garden or on the beach. It is now ON DEMAND learning, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet, easy availability of PCs/laptops and mobile phones.

    We are talking of e-learning and m-learning here. Besides being flexible, it can be imparted in bite sized chunks, easily digestible, over a period of time. Repeating it hardly costs anything, whereas a classroom refresher training directly doubles the cost.

    An added benefit is that, for young entrants to the workforce, it gives them learning on platforms that they are already used to and comfortable with (i.e on laptops, PDAs and Mobile phones). It somehow enhances the “cool” factor and removes the image of the industry as staid, conventional and old-world.

    Topics for learning

    Previously there were not many courses with ready made topics with e-learning providers. Typically, most e-learning service providers used to provide custom-made, bespoke learning packages to individual companies. While this approach had its benefits, the downside is, that the courses are suitable only for the company for which they were designed, leading to a very high cost per user, nullifying the low cost advantages of e-learning.

    However, now newer companies like Abhisam Software have e-learning titles on topics that are suitable to many process industries. Examples include Hazardous Area Instrumentation and Gas Monitors. Since these are standard courses, they can be offered at a much lower cost than the earlier custom designed courses. Besides, if the number of learners is sufficiently large (say about 50 or more) then some degree of customization of these courses is also possible, again at a low cost.

    Summary

    Due to historical reasons, there has been a skill shortage in the industries and businesses, all over the world.

    This skill shortage will only worsen, as seniors retire and not enough youngsters enter the workforce in large numbers.

    If somehow more youngsters do enter the workforce in large numbers, the cost of training them, using the traditional training methods will be prohibitively expensive and unviable. Also not enough technical training personnel are available, to offer one-on one training.

    Using newer education technologies like e-learning and m-learning, knowledge and expertise, can be imparted quickly and precisely, to those people whose skills need to be developed. This can be done at a fraction of the cost of traditional learning. Thus new recruits can be trained effectively.
    Using standard topics and templates for learning, reduces the cost of the training further. Customization if required, however is always possible. In most cases, even with the cost of customization added, the total cost of training using these modern methods is lower than the cost of traditional training.

    Additionally, e-learning provides managers with a way to track training remotely, because most e-learning systems will provide test scores, record time spent on each module or page, log the students activity and provide very detailed measurements, that can be used to improve the training. Traditional methods hardly provided any data, save for a feedback form at the end which students themselves filled in, which then lies forgotten in some dusty file, forever.

    E-learning and m-learning does not mean merely reproduction of classroom training materials into ‘soft’ copies and viewing them on a PC or a mobile. Companies like Abhisam Software provide e-learning that is media rich, with lots of pictures, Flash based animations (that simulate a process or show the working of a machine or a phenomenon), interactive simulations (that include the learner in the Flash exercises), real-life video clippings of events or procedures and online assessments. This kind of “rich-media” training is simply not comparable with the traditional classroom based training. The courses are designed with the help of several subject matter experts, Instructional designers, animation and user-interface experts.

    Thus the worldwide shortage of skills can be addressed by using training to enhance workers’ skills, cross train workers, enhance the skills of semi skilled workers or freshers. This is possible only if company managements focus their attention on effective e-learning and m-learning philosophies. It is by far the best solution to bridge the skills shortage and gain competitive advantage.

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  • The Ever Changing Workplace for Job Seekers

    The forces of technology and globalization are rapidly changing the nature of work. Savvy job seekers know that they need to prepare for these predicted workplace developments.

      In the changing job market you must both anticipate changes as well as prepare in an organized yet flexible manner.
    
       Flexibility, training, education  and  most important preparation with all of these factors  as well as psychological preparation  of yourself and your mindset .
    
      What are these changes that are occurring for you to constantly observe and anticipate in your ongoing preparation in this ever changing  employment market ?
    
             1)  Technology will continue to advance and will affect how, when and where business is done; the pace of work: and how people communicate.
    
             2)  The global economy will continue to result in some jobs being outsourced to other countries and will lead to more mergers, and management changes.  Resourcefulness, adaptability, and efficiency will be essential for workers to succeed.
    
             3)  International time differences will demand flexible hours and possibly extra hours to communicate to conduct business.
             4)  A complex and diverse workforce will require workers to be flexible, respect differences, and work together to increase productivity.
    
             5)  Workers can expect to change jobs about ten times during their working career.

    Managing one’s career is a must.

            6)  Small businesses will prosper, and home based businesses and services will multiply.  Entrepreneurial skills and attitudes will be important.
    
            7)  The fastest growing occupations are computers, preventive health care, and other health and human services, such as registered nursing , social work , police work and after September 12 security .
    
            8)  Most of the fastest-growing occupations will require specific post-secondary education, on-the-job training, or a bachelor’s degree. Education and training will be especially critical.-
    
        To gain a competitive edge, today’s job seekers must know about changes like these and demonstrate a positive attitude that shows that they are ready, willing, and able to take on these challenges.
    
        There are nine success strategies to follow to help you achieve your full career potential.  These success strategies profoundly affect career success at every step/
    
             1)   Positive thinking and behavior
             2)   Visualizations
             3)   Positive self talk
             4)   Affirmation self-talk
             5)   Dynamic goal setting
             6)   Positive action
             7)   Assertive behavior
             8)   Self-esteem builders
             9)   Proactive habits
    
          These nine success strategies and behaviors are major career enhancers that help transform goals into realizations.  Pay close attention to any that are new ideas for you. They provide wide-ranging benefits; you can use them to 
    • Create and sustain your inner drive
    • Increase your confidence
    • generate mental and physical energy
    • Guide you toward your goals
    • Improve your performance
      It is shocking but true:  The most qualified person is not always the one who gets the job or promotion.

      The person hired is the one whom the employer perceives to be the most qualified. Your experience, skills, resumes, and more – your entire job search package – are greatly enhanced when you practice these key job search success strategies.

      The employment scene is changing worldwide in a major ongoing way.

      Prepare for your employment career with both analytical skills as well as psychological preparation thoroughly .

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    AI Creates more than it Costs

    Innovation in technology is something that we all use and look forward to using. We want to see the new things come along and make our lives better, of course. AI in manufacturing is one such innovation that we are looking forward to seeing and want to use to our advantage, but it is also an innovation about which we have grave concerns.
    Nearly every type of innovative change may be a double-edged sword.
    Inventions come along every day that change the way that we do business and the way that we manufacture. Innovations give us the means to perform tasks faster, better, more cheaply. This is known as displacement or the displacement effect.
    In China this kind of innovation has been a part of the changing landscape for more than half a century.

    Fifty years in the past, more than 75 percent of the workers were in agriculture. Along came time saving and energy saving innovations and today only about 25 percent of the people of China are employed in agriculture today.

    New technology and innovation freed them up for manufacturing and many other, safer pursuits. New methods can take away jobs, but conversely they can also create jobs for everyone. The jobs that they can create may be higher paying and safer jobs.

    From job security to national security, it’s no secret that one such innovation–AI or artificial intelligence –has caused some grave concerns in both industry and individual sectors, but it has also given new hope and new life to many job sectors.

    AI and the technologies that it engenders such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and drones have the power to boost our economy and to boost our business growth. They will add billions of dollars to our economy this year alone.

    Unfortunately,AI also has the power to negatively impact jobs. In July of 2018, PwC’s UK Economic Outlook confirmed that AI could and likely would displace jobs that are being done by humans—even over the course of the next five years.

    While AI has the power to replace humans, it will also create new jobs and bring better and more innovative products to the marketplace. The impact on the UK and the US will stay at about 20 percent and is projected to remain largely neutral .

    This means that there will be approximately as many jobs created as there are jobs lost. That holds true in the UK and probably the United States but the same is not true everywhere. Around the world, where many low skilled jobs and manual jobs are being done, these lower paying jobs may be undertaken by machines using AI.

    One example of this is China and it is not surprising that people are resistant to the use of AI when they are not well trained and will not –in their opinion—be able to find another job to support their families.
    The technologies associated with AI may well displace more than a quarter of all jobs that are currently being done in China. Between 26 and 27 percent of current jobs may be lost.

    Fortunately there is one more difference. AI will also create more jobs in China than it will in the rest of the world. In China, particularly in the service sector, the net job increase is expected to be around 29-31 percent. That amounts to about 97 million jobs being created by the advent of new AI technology.
    Whether or not the current labor force is able to be retrained to do these jobs remains to be seen, but there will be myriad new positions being created by the advent of AI technology and these will be higher paying and infinitely safer for the average worker.

    What’s your take? Can lower skilled workers without a lot of tech savvy be retrained to allow them to keep their jobs?

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  • IIoT-Industrial Internet of Things

    IIoT-What it Is and Does

    IIoT is a term that isn’t even remotely new but many people haven’t heard it. While IoT is a network of intelligent machines, devices and items that share data, IIoT takes it a step further.

    IoT shares data to a cloud base where it is then shared with end users in a way that makes it helpful This allows them to better their bottom line and speed the work. Industry 4.0 is changing all that we do in factories, making the process faster, cleaner and safer.

    Using IoT in manufacturing is called IIoT or to use another term for it. Industry 4.0. It is changing the way that factories work and that companies create goods. IIoT is making life easier by increasing the amount of automation that we use in schools in factories and in homes.

    Many companies have begun to leverage the power of IIoT by using connected and intelligent learning machines or devices in their factories and manufacturing methods.

    IIoT can vastly improve the efficiency, increase the time savings, improve scalability and connectivity of course and cut the costs of nearly every type of manufacturing in existence today. It does so by the use of predictive maintenance and improved safety in the plants as well as offering more efficient operations. The data that it provides offers us a more accurate view of what is happening and even what may happen in the future, preventing lost time due to down machine times.

    The major stumbling block seems to be the problems with security that IoT and IIoT have seen in the recent past. One of the largest breaches and DDos attacks in history came into play due to IoT connections. Technology writer Margaret Rouse observed recently, “A major concern surrounding the Industrial IoT is interoperability between devices and machines that use different protocols and have different architectures.”

    Companies are concerned, and rightly so, about their security and operational issues. With so many sensors and smart connected devices being used together there has been a massive explosion in vulnerabilities in security for most companies which use IIoT.

    With IIoT being one of the primary trends that are shaping the new industrial revolution, ensuring security is of paramount importance. How do you see our ability accomplish that improving. What will do the job for us?

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    IIoT – Who is using it? Part II

    IIoT. while not well known or understood, is one of the top applications being used in manufacturing and industry today. It’s found in nearly every industry in the world including these:

    Agriculture-to provide for connected farms that can do things such as even tell the farmer when the cow is coming into season.

    Aerospace, to be used in un-mapped vehicles in air such as drones and airplanes or to manage airports.

    Automotive, for connected or autonomous cars.

    Energy systems for things like renewable energy, smart homes, smart grids, and distributed energy resources.

    Healthcare systems such as connected healthcare, things like insulin pumps and medical imaging but also including the newest up and coming robotic surgeries.

    Manufacturing, connected factories that are offering data and safety information.

    Oil and gas exploration and connected refineries.

    Transportation and travel, where it is used by buses, hyper-loops, trains, subways, parking structures.

    Typical IIoT systems mean that you have to share the data and information between multiple different devices. This means that it must be available and used between multiple devices and across multiple networks. From the edge (sensors, remote devices and computers) to the cloud (centralized computer systems) the data must be able to flow everywhere.

    That’s a challenge not only due to the connections and the security but because of the vast array and the massive volume of the data. It can easily overwhelm a network, particularly one that encompasses very remote operations. “These interconnected systems require new ways to manage increased data volume, performance requirements, security risk and safety certifications.”

    What’s your take on autonomous parking, vehicles, logistics, supply and manufacturing?

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    IIoT – What Is It?

    Its been five plus years since the Industrial Internet of Things exploded into our world and the IIC was launched. A lot of water has passed under the bridge and a lot of issues have been discussed about the amazing new day of AI, intelligent machines, connected devices and what it can do for us, but all in all, what do most people really know about IIoT? Continue Reading…

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    Preparing for a Job Interview

    It is completely natural to feel nervous before a job interview but you can minimize pre-
    interview jitters with some preparation. Hopefully you have completed initial research
    on the company you applied for before being called in for an interview but you are going
    to need to do more. You will never know exactly what is going to be asked of you
    (unless you have an inside source), but you can be ready for the questions by knowing
    your stuff.

    Look up the company website and study the history, about us page, and the products and
    services that are offered. Even if you are pretty sure you are not going to be quizzed on
    how the company came to be, it will give you insight into how the company operates and
    their philosophy. By of these factors should influence how you answer your questions. If
    it is obvious they place high value on team players, you should brainstorm situations
    when you have displayed this trait.

    If you are applying for a sales position, you can be prepared for any role playing
    questions because you have taken the time to learn the company’s products and services.
    It will be impressive to your interviewer that you have taken the time to research the
    information. It shows a commitment to details and a true interest in the company.

    Another way to prepare for an interview is to complete a practice run with a friend or
    family member. Have them ask you questions and answer them as if you were already in
    the interview, don’t break character during the role play either. There are many questions
    that are asked in a typical interview (what are your strengths and weaknesses) don’t let
    them come as a surprise to you – practice so you can answer with confidence.

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    Offshoring -Nearshoring – Reshoring

    Do you think that Henry Ford would have imagined that in a few decades from revolutionizing industry, we would have a global economy with a global workforce?

    Perhaps one of his most valuable visions was his understanding of industry.  Today in our world of manufacturing so much of our products are manufactured with parts from all over the globe. It is difficult to purchase a single product today that was manufactured 100% in the USA – or solely in any other country for that matter.

    That doesn’t mean that it is without problems. It most assuredly is not.

    Manufacturing in China had for a very long time taken the manufacturing industry by force. Low cost labor and world class factories made it a very viable country to consider when thinking of manufacturing your product. Large corporations have taken advantage of this for many years, but recently they are considering coming back to the US to manufacture. Today we are seeing a vast array of companies re-shoring or near shoring rather than offshoring to other countries.

    Although globalization has brought American countries lower wages and lower cost to their manufacturing needs, we have to consider the impact it has had on our local economy and in many cases, the impact it has had on brand loyalty. Many Americans won’t buy from companies who are solely manufacturing overseas.

    For years we saw far fewer manufacturing jobs being filled on the mainland USA.  Today that is changing! Far less offshoring and a great deal more companies moving their manufacturing back to the United States. What is the reason that we’re seeing that happen?  What do you believe will be the final outcome years from now?

    At WH Meanor, if you’re looking for the right manufacturing team here at home to help you to compete on a level playing field. we can help.

    If you’re looking for the right manufacturing team, you have to start with the right recruiting team. Let WH Meanor put our experience to work for you.   Register now for a free ten minute assessment of your search efforts by clicking the link https://whmeanorassociates.as.me/

    Keep up to date on industry information sign up to receive all important information right here: Register to receive industry information

     

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    Contract Manufacturing

    In every industry today, organizations succeed by focusing on what they do best and leaving the rest to their partners, agencies or outsourced vendors. Contract manufacturing, while it can be difficult from a supply chain perspective, seems to fit neatly into this scenario. In addition to allowing global organizations to focus more on their core competencies, value proposition, and engineering; contract manufacturers provide several other advantages over manufacturing products internally to include: lower costs, flexibility, access to external expertise and reduced capital expenditures.

    However, the question remains and must be addressed: with so much potential and cost savings that contract manufacturing can offer to their partners, why do so many of these relationships fall short of expectations? Perhaps one reason is that many of those expectations are flawed from the very beginning.

    For example, let’s take the first example of cost savings. The fact of the matter is that many of the cost savings that should be passed on to the customers may go to the contract manufacturer’s bottom line instead. This happens more than you think. Additionally, many contract manufacturers don’t always have the supposed influence with their suppliers since the original manufacturers often select the partners from the very beginning. This lack of influence is a key driver for an increase in costs from the contract manufacturer. Also, flexibility can be compromised by the contract manufacturer’s focus (or lack thereof) on low costs and low inventory. And, although using contract manufacturers often ties up less capital, the dollars need to compensate against the inventory holding costs included in contract manufacturers’ charges.

    Even with clear assumptions on the objectives and expectations, it may be a challenge to realize the benefits. That’s largely because it’s difficult to manage relationships with vendors and suppliers; especially when those suppliers were not selected by the contract manufacturer. Essentially, the parties should create clear objectives and expectations from the beginning that would make it possible to manage the relationship through service level agreements linked to a set of key performance indicators. However, these challenges may tempt businesses to keep manufacturing in house, at the sacrifice of increased costs. Instead, organizations need to take a strategic approach to contract manufacturing relationships; one that will benefit all in the supply chain.

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    Curbing Counterfeits in Manufacturing

    Some field experts believe that manufacturing lies at the heart of economy, which leads undoubtedly leads to a high influx of counterfeit products in recent years. Problems tend to arise when legitimate companies fail to acquire product end consumer data from suspicious sources.

    Manufacturers have undergone additional measures to prevent consumers using dependable QR code labels and other forms of scanning methods in authenticating products. Open tags found on products are also being closely monitored by AI-backed systems that perform routine checks and logs on the patented technologies.

    Due to rampant cloning methods and other expedients of piracy, the distribution of counterfeit products remains an onerous issue.

     

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