The workplace of the future is already here

Changes on the manufacturing floor are taking place now, but it’s an evolution, not a revolution

Iot Industry 4.0 Concept,industrial Engineer Using Software (augmented, Virtual Reality) In Tablet To Monitoring Machine In Real Factory Use Automation Robot Arm In Automotive ManufacturingManufacturing is alive and well in America, but it’s undergoing a major change. It’s an evolution that integrates interconnected machines, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and data analytics.

Imagine a factory where the machines know when they need maintenance; the warehouse knows what is coming and when to expect it; and robots pick the components, updating inventory lists automatically.

At BAE Systems, we refer to this evolution as the Factory Workplace of the Future (FWoF). The goal is to develop a world-class digital manufacturing infrastructure – creating a competitive edge in this new industrial era.

Developments over recent years have meant that we need to reimagine the way we use technology. It’s about using the latest innovations to make our manufacturing processes more efficient and effective. It means building our products with zero defects and getting them to our customers as quickly as possible.

This new technology is already in use in parts of our organization. Augmented reality and virtual reality are assisting with assemblies and advising on maintenance, while RFID – radio frequency identification – technology is an established part of our supply chain. The BAE Systems FWoF team is investigating how to integrate RFID information to update our inventory lists when product arrives into or leaves our facilities.

Additionally, the team is reviewing how to introduce cobots – robots that work with humans – to help with assemblies and data analytics.

It’s exciting work… but it’s an evolution, not a revolution.

Quite simply, increased automation will not replace employees, but it will require workers to develop a different skillset. The future will require us to adapt to an increased use of robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies. Human ingenuity and skills will be a critical part of that.

With this in mind, BAE Systems is taking steps to fill a gap in the labor market. Our company supports nonprofits across the country who offer advanced manufacturing job training programs. In New Hampshire, we partnered with Nashua Community College for a 10-week Microelectronics Boot Camp. In Huntsville, Ala., we are working with KTECH which provides training in mechatronics, soldering and robotics. Our partnership with the workforce development group Skillpoint Alliance in Austin, Texas, provides in-demand advanced manufacturing training. And in San Diego, we support the nonprofit Workshops for Warriors, which provides training opportunities for veterans.

We also regularly recruit manufacturing professionals with engineering degrees, to fill roles like our recently created chief manufacturing engineer position, which focuses on process and design.

The possibilities that lie ahead in manufacturing are endless. A new generation of manufacturing employees in this advanced age will be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology in state-of-the-art factories.

Justin Siebert is deputy vice president of operations for BAE Systems.

Categories: Manufacturing, Opinion, Technology