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4 Tips to avoid the manufacturing skills gap

The manufacturing skills gap is nothing new. Employers of manufacturing organizations worldwide are finding that their employees aren’t prepared for many of the challenges they face at work. If you’re a manufacturing engineer who doesn’t want to fall into the gap, read these tips to avoid being glossed over for the next job or promotion.

  1. Be a triple threat. Manufacturing employers are looking for technical, leadership, and quality skills. Not only do you need to understand the engineering aspects, you need to be able to communicate, plan projects and think strategically. You should also be comfortable with problem-solving, Lean, and continuous improvement. Today’s businesses want engineers who have more experience with automation, data analytics and proven process both at the engineer and operator levels, according to Susan Ottman, program director for UW-Madison’s Master of Engineering: Manufacturing Systems.
  2. Understand how technology is changing manufacturing. The level of automation and integration is significantly higher than in the past. Operations are less dependent on individual operator performance and more dependent on automatic machines, machine uptime and the machine’s ability to produce the right part at the right time.  Manufacturing engineers must now understand robotics and automation, production systems and the flow of material through those systems to optimize their business.
  3. Pay attention to data. The level of data available to you now is limitless, so understanding data analytics and how to use software to process the data into information that can be used to make decisions. Strategically setting up machines for control and communication leveraging cloud connections and commercially available software are new requirements placed on manufacturing engineering teams.
  4. Get your master’s, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. According Ottmann, while businesses are not requiring engineers to pursue their masters, they are expecting this from their leadership. “When they do have the chance to repost a job due to attrition they are adding master’s degrees to the skill set desired,” she said.

For more information about how you can improve your competitive edge in manufacturing, visit epd.wisc.edu/mse.