Northeastern Wisconsin Manufacturers Embrace Technology Amid Growth, Seek Skilled Workers

Northeastern Wisconsin Manufacturers Embrace Technology Amid Growth | CyberPro Magazine

(Source – Supply & Demand Chain Executive)

Stability and Investment in Technology

Northeastern Wisconsin manufacturers are experiencing a period of stabilization and growth following the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the latest Industry 4.0 Talent & Technology study conducted by St. Norbert College, businesses in the region have shifted their focus to integrating new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). The survey, which garnered responses from 74 businesses, highlights a significant uptick in investments aimed at bolstering technological capabilities and preparing for future growth.

Ann Franz, executive director of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, emphasized the positive trend, stating, “With business considered stable and improving, investments in technology and skilled workers continue to increase across the region.” The survey underscores a collective drive among manufacturers to adopt digital technologies such as AI, cloud computing, machine learning, and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). These innovations are aimed at enhancing automation, reducing operational costs, and optimizing manufacturing processes.

Challenges and Uncertainty Surrounding AI

Despite the enthusiasm for new technologies, the survey revealed mixed sentiments regarding the adoption of AI. While 67% of respondents expressed intentions to increase investments in Generative AI—a technology that creates media in response to prompts—many remain hesitant about integrating AI into their operations. Concerns cited include a lack of expertise, the complexity of integration, and heightened cybersecurity risks associated with advanced technologies.

Franz acknowledged these reservations, noting that while AI has become a prominent topic of discussion since 2022, many companies remain uncertain about its practical implications. “Half the companies don’t think they’ll be using it,” Franz remarked. Addressing these concerns, the NEW Manufacturing Alliance plans to leverage survey insights to educate and engage businesses on effective AI utilization and cybersecurity measures.

Demand for Skilled Workers and Training Initiatives

The integration of Industry 4.0 technologies has spurred a pressing demand for skilled workers in the Northeastern Wisconsin manufacturers sector. The survey identifies key roles anticipated to see increased demand over the next three years, including project managers, AI specialists, automation technicians, and data analysts. Notably, about 40% of companies expressed intentions to retrain existing employees to fill these specialized positions, reflecting a commitment to upskilling the current workforce.

Furthermore, initiatives like the NEW Manufacturing Alliance’s AI-focused training course have gained traction, with 300 individuals completing the program as of fall 2023. The course aims to equip manufacturing employees with the necessary skills to navigate and leverage AI technologies effectively in their roles. Despite these efforts, only 15% of surveyed companies reported having a comprehensive technology integration plan encompassing digital technologies, cloud computing, machine learning, and IoT.

In conclusion, while Northeastern Wisconsin manufacturers are optimistic about the potential benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies, challenges such as cybersecurity concerns and skills gaps pose significant hurdles. The NEW Manufacturing Alliance remains committed to bridging these gaps through targeted education and training initiatives, ensuring that local businesses can harness the full potential of advanced technologies to drive future growth and innovation.

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