Could contracting help make Industry 4.0 a reality?
Jon Blaze, head of recruitment operations at Jonathan Lee Contract Recruitment, explores how the use of specialised contractors can help businesses implement Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), has dominated the headlines over the past few years, with businesses increasingly looking to adopt technology such as robotics and automation, artificial intelligence and remote monitoring of production lines to increase efficiency.
However, a recent study from the University of Warwick found that many businesses are failing to harness the full potential of 4IR. This is attributed to a range of factors including the lack of an integrated supply chain, the absence of products within the business capable of customisation and a deficit in advanced skills within the business.
Fully understanding all elements required in the application of 4IR is complex. This is often, best navigated by specialists with substantial experience in system integration, an in-depth knowledge of automation and robotics and/or a proven background in process implementation.
In a time of an existing skills shortage, the additional challenge of finding and attaining highly skilled, and often, high value individuals to navigate and lead a business through 4IR can be substantial. For scoping, training, testing, implementation and a full roll-out of Industry 4.0 strategy, businesses should be considering a more agile approach.
Recent research conducted by Jonathan Lee Contract Recruitment showed a growth in preference for some experienced workers to undertake contract projects rather than full-time, permanent positions. This was particularly true for highly-skilled workers with specialist technical knowledge and significant breadth of experience.
With the current shortage of skilled workers potentially one of the most constraining factors for the implementation of 4IR, companies have the opportunity to tap into this flexible, trained and experienced workforce to help bridge the skills gap. Contractors can help businesses to adapt their operations to new markets, with their sought-after expertise helping to bring clarity to decision making and help steer the strategic direction of a business. Their experience can make a difference within a relatively short space of time, at the same time as transferring knowledge and capabilities to the existing workforce.
The dynamic and fast-changing technological landscape makes the contract or interim option especially attractive as companies plan for uncertainty, look to adopt new technologies, deal with fast-changing market realities and strive to improve productivity. For businesses investing in 4IR processes and technologies, the use of contractors affords them flexibility to take on specialists, providing expert guidance and advice throughout the implementation stages. This can not only help futureproof a business, but also negate the need to hire permanent staff for shorter term projects within the 12 to 18 month timeframe.