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Weekend edition February 04, 2022 | Tom Ballard

First of three sessions held to unveil new report on Industry 4.0

As the manufacturing industry in North America undergoes its fourth evolution – the so-called “Industry 4.0” period that began before the global pandemic and accelerated in response to many societal challenges posed by COVID-19 – technological advancements are significantly impacting the design of manufacturing work and the experience, skills, and competency of the workforce.

Considering that is a given, a report released by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and the Smart Factory Institute (SFI) finds that a human-based workforce will not be replaced by an automated one. In fact, the report from UTC and SFI, a Chattanooga-based innovation and workforce training institute for manufacturers, found that the digitalization and technologies associated with “Industry 4.0” will not only positively impact the design of manufacturing processes, but will ultimately increase productivity and efficiency for those entities making the transition. Additionally, the greatest projected workforce need is for human-centered technological skills.

The report is being unveiled in a three-session series of virtual workshops under the banner of “The Transformation of Manufacturing.” The first session, hosted by the Jackson Chamber, was held Wednesday, and the next two sessions are being hosted by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce February 9 and 16. More details on the two remaining sessions and a link to download the report can be found here.

Key findings from the report include:

  • A human-based workforce will not be replaced by an automated one.  Despite the increasing presence of machines and automation under Industry 4.0, the greatest projected workforce need increase, at an impressive 58 percent, is for human-centered technological skills such as coding and interacting with technology.
  • Manufacturing outperforms other Tennessee economic sectors. While the state has experienced a decrease in employment and number of firms in manufacturing over the last 30 years, the rates in this industry are significantly lower than for other major industries, such as mining and construction, making it a more stable sector of the economy.
  • Motor vehicle/bodies/parts manufacturing remains vital to the Tennessee economy.  Transportation equipment manufacturing has had a growth spurt the last 20 years, particularly in the Southeast U.S. and here in Tennessee, where employment has increased nearly 17 percent.
  • Despite employment trends, output is expected to increase. Rising global demand for advanced manufacturing underscores the critical need for widespread workforce development efforts to prepare the existing and emerging workforce for Industry 4.0 technologies and processes.

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