Have you ever listened to economists’ insight into how markets will change in the near future and the technological disruptions that are changing industries? If you haven't, you should, because the changes are impacting us all. One industry that is experiencing rapid disruption is the century-old auto industry. How? Autonomous cars, electric motors, TaaS (Transportation as a Service). Regardless of how quickly the transformation goes from driver to driverless, ownership to TaaS, or ICE (internal combustion engine) to electric; experts agree it is coming and in many ways is already here.
While these changes create many emotions in consumers – excitement and fear – the disruption coming to the auto manufacturing industry and the types of employees needed for tomorrow are less understood. We do know future manufacturing operations will require fewer workers with different skill sets. Here are a few examples why:
- Simpler motors - Electric motors have 1 part for every 23 found in an internal combustion engine.
- Plug and Play - Future electric vehicles will be plug and play, built on a common platform with consistent parts, yet differentiated with software modularity.
- Designed for passengers - Automation eliminates the complexity of a driver-centric vehicle. The focus resides in passenger comfort and productivity. Think less of a car, and more of a computer with magical navigation prowess and user interface.
- Production – Automation/robotics will increase the speed of production, decrease the cost, and improve the quality.
- Work Environment - the future worker will trade in the blue overalls for white lab coats. Advanced electronics require clean space and must be carefully handled.
While the automobile manufacturing industry progresses through these transformations, how will this impact their workforces? What will the “ideal worker” look like? Let’s consider common job competencies used to evaluate auto workers today with how these will evolve in the future.
The Evolution of Auto Manufacturing Job Competencies
- Teamwork – As communication channels increase rapidly and team members' physical location becomes superfluous, detailed data will be communicated throughout the virtual team. This will require expertise and caution in determining exactly what to share with which individuals, and how to position and set expectations. This places an increased importance on emotional intelligence in this virtual environment.
- Problem Solving – The quantity of available production data will increase exponentially. Workers will be more connected to analytical tools needed to make just-in-time production decisions.
- Multitasking – Switching between tasks quickly based on constant incoming data becomes essential. Workers must not be easily susceptible to cognitive overload.
- Ownership – Teams own the end product and sense the enormous responsibility associated with transporting the customer in a completely safe vehicle. Now for the first time the manufacturing team, not the new owner, bears that responsibility.
- Kaizen – New technologies provide opportunities for employees to make vast improvements in quality, cost, and speed of production. The ability to recognize kaizen opportunities and innovate will abound.
- Adaptability - Change is the only Constant! Innovations occur continuously and employees drive those innovations. Embrace change or become obsolete.
You may notice the job competency titles look familiar, yet the descriptions may seem more challenging in the future. Part of that bias comes from ignorance of how these new technologies will ultimately impact the work environment. The idea of having to learn new technologies quickly may seem overwhelming. Working with team members virtually may seem cold and screens full of incoming data may seem too intangible for the hands-on worker.
From a selection perspective, it may not be that we are raising the bar as much as we are redefining the performance target. Tomorrow’s auto worker’s job will differ significantly, and so will his/her skill set and psychological profile. While some will argue it will be better and others argue it will be worse, we simply understand it will be different. It will align more with the experiences that today's younger people understand well – being connected to technology. And like in all jobs, those that have the right fit will flourish in these skilled auto manufacturing jobs of tomorrow.