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It’s 2019 and we are now burdened with the threat of knowledge loss as our workforce ages and industry experts move towards retirement. But is this a blessing in disguise? New technology can solve a lot of the issues we currently experience in supply chain, procurement, maintenance and so on. Often employees are not too keen on adopting new technology. New hires are typically energetic, with new ideas and more grit to improve on existing processes. New hires can shift a company’s existing outlook of if it isn’t broke don’t fix it to continuous improvement. Let’s look at the impact an ageing workforce heading towards retirement will have on the future of manufacturing.

The most obvious impact of an ageing workforce is the risk of knowledge loss. Often information is retained solely as know-how and not stored anywhere accessible for the successive employee. If the expert retires before a new hire is trained, then all this knowledge will be lost. Additionally, a new hire is unlikely to be able to track down all stored information. Knowledge may be unorganized and scattered across papers, personal files, shared drives, and numerous other places. There is a valid reason to be concerned over the knowledge loss in heavy industries that has been projected over the next decade.

However, some hypothesize that knowledge loss won’t be as big of an issue as we expect. This, partly due to corporate amnesia, suggests that the ageing workforce doesn’t hold as much information as we would assume they do. Over time, industry experts may have forgotten information, best practices and corporate standards. The experts are confident in “the way things are done” and over time may have become lazy, overconfident, or forgetful of their original knowledge base.

Perhaps a new generation entering the workforce could be very beneficial for the industry. New employees bring new ideas and fresh knowledge from their education to the workforce. They are tech-savvy and willing to work with new software. Generally, this generation is enthusiastic about implementing smart technology and AI into factories, and automating manual tasks to save time, and money, and to avoid human error. There is a world of possibilities when technology is combined with manufacturing.

The next decade will prove to be challenging with experts moving on to retirement and new, untrained workers fresh out of school starting their careers. Will the knowledge loss be too big to see benefits from emerging technology? After all, AI is only as good as the information we feed it. We desperately need to train this new enthusiastic group of fresh-grads in time to pass on knowledge developed through years of experience. But, if knowledge loss isn’t as big of a problem as we think it is, could it be possible that starting fresh is better for the industry? New ideas, enthusiasm, and technology could shift this industry towards huge savings and process improvements.

At HubHead, we focus on two things that will affect your future in manufacturing; knowledge retention and adopting new technology. We realize that your knowledge is valuable and needs to be transferred for the next generation of employees. We also are forward thinking and early adopters of new technologies to support a smart, fully integrated factory. If you would like to start planning your succession plan for a smooth knowledge transfer, read about the top 5 reasons maintenance organizations need to change, or contact us today.

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