Reasons to Consider a Tech Career in Advanced Manufacturing

If you’ve ruled out the possibility of working in manufacturing because you think you’ll be stuck using obsolete tools in an aging industry, you may want to reconsider your decision.

U.K. manufacturing is on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), bringing with it new technologies that will change products, manufacturing processes, factory equipment and supply chains.

“Manufacturing is getting sexy,” explained Tim Lawrence, head of manufacturing at PA Consulting Group. “IT and software are no longer incidental, they’re becoming the center of the industry.”

This digital transformation is creating endless opportunities to apply robotics, mobile, the cloud, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and other technologies to manufacturing processes.

Still not convinced? Here are some additional reasons to consider a career in manufacturing, and some steps to take if you want to test the waters.

The Renaissance is Just Beginning

Joining a company that is poised for explosive growth and modernization can lead to opportunities to advance your career, acquire new skills, or play a more significant role.

In this case, industry watchers are exceptionally bullish about the growth of the UK’s manufacturing sector, and for good reason. Not only is manufacturing output expanding at its fastest rate since early 2008, firms are reshoring operations; thus far, Brexit has had a positive impact on the industry.

As Lawrence said: “If you’re tired of being a small cog in a big tech firm, why not become a big cog in a manufacturing firm?”

There’s a Career for Everyone

The digitization of manufacturing impacts every aspect of manufacturing operations, including suppliers. To find your ideal environment, role and opportunity to leverage IoT or other cutting edge technologies, simply follow the supply chain.

For example, at one end of the chain, manufacturers are not only designing and creating smart, connected products to meet customer demands, they’re hiring software engineers and application developers to “connect” manufacturing equipment, including IoT architects to build an infrastructure that uses sensors to bridge the gap between operational technology and information technology.

Employers are actively recruiting professionals who have expertise in mobile development, UI/UX design, hardware interfaces and security to work on these smart products.

If you’d rather work on the convergence of IT and OT, which is integral to the growth of IoT, there are opportunities to use data analytics and cloud-based services to predict potential equipment failures or to manage maintenance, parts inventory or the quality of products. You may be able to write your own ticket if you happen to be a systems integrator for IoT and analytics.

Manufacturers in the aerospace/defence and automotive sectors are actively hiring, noted Gemma Langley, recruitment manager for Manufacturing and Engineering at Advanced Resource Managers. If you explore the market, you never know what you might find; even British vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson is planning to build an electric vehicle.

“You don’t necessarily need an engineering degree,” Langley added. “About 50 percent of our clients require a degree, the other 50 percent don’t. They are more concerned about work ethic.”

On the other end of the supply chain, manufacturers are installing updated software and technology to connect with suppliers and track the transportation and quality of goods and inventories. In turn, suppliers are expected to provide real-time data regarding material flow, transit or the operating status of equipment they provide in the field. Investment in connected supply chains is expected to climb through 2020.

If you’d rather work outside the manufacturing plant or in a “pure” high-tech environment, consider third-party developers of IoT platforms, services and analytics, and smart sensors or smart manufacturing equipment (especially robots).

Langley confirms that there’s robust demand in the robotics field for software engineers and developers who have experience with Embedded C, C#, and electronics. According to the British Automation and Robot Association, 1.4 million machines are likely to be deployed in British industry by next year.

If you’d prefer a role that balances maintenance with innovation, companies in the manufacturing industry are looking for cognitive thinking, problem solving abilities, teamwork and innovative approaches, noted Bhavina Bharkhada, education and skills policy advisor for EEF, The Manufacturers’ Organization.

“Manufacturers are looking for people who bring high-level vision and ideas for making manufacturing more efficient,” she said. In addition, there are ample opportunities for tech pros who develop administrative and leadership skills to move into business or project management.

Tips for Those in Transition

If you’re not sure whether a career in manufacturing is right for you, most manufacturers are willing to give a few minutes of their time to interested students and tech pros, Bharkhada noted. You may even get a plant tour out of it.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to manufacturers,” she added. “Now more than ever, the door is open to transitioners.”

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