Why Advanced Technology Alone Isn’t the Answer

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Advanced technologies aren’t just remaking factories. They’re changing employer expectations, transforming business models, and overhauling educational requirements. Rapid prototyping was just the start. Today, manufacturers are using sophisticated software to debug product designs and develop new revenue streams. This requires more than just technology, however. Manufacturers need employees with the right mix of skills, including the ability to master multiple disciplines.
Recently, executives from major manufacturing companies such as Siemens, Dyson, and Sealed Air told the Fortune Global Forum how advanced technology has changed manufacturing. Predictably, some of focus was on Big Data, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The real story, however, isn’t just that advanced technologies help manufacturers get products to market faster. It’s that these technologies are disrupting old assumptions and rewarding new ways of thinking.
Sealed Air, a global manufacturer of protective and specialty packaging for food and consumer goods, provides a case study. As Jeromee Peribere, the company’s CEO, told the Fortune Global Forum, Sealed Air’s designers have developed a software platform that can “extract more meat out of the carcass” during the carving process, an advance that will surely assist large meat processors with deep pockets. It’s a far cry from bubble wrap, the plastic product for which Sealed Air is best known.
Sealed Air’s new software is innovative, but the skills needed to develop it are also noteworthy. For other manufacturing companies, this message was ably explained by Maximilian Conze, CEO of Dyson Limited. His company’s managers are looking for well-rounded thinkers who understand mechanical engineering, software programming, and technical design.
To its credit, Dyson is sponsoring university programs to help create a next-generation workforce. But is the next generation of workers ready for what’s required, and are enough universities listening to what employers need? For that matter, should other employers do more? Advanced technology is revolutionizing manufacturing, but technology alone isn’t the only answer to questions about the factories of the future.
Image Credit: © olly/Dollar Photo Club


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