The United States continues to be the world’s largest manufacturing economy, employing nearly 17 million people – about 1 in 6 private sector jobs. However,  the modern manufacturing industry is struggling to attract the highly skilled workers it needs  for the tech-savvy, evolving role required in today’s manufacturing operations.

Historically, manufacturing jobs were thought of as mind-numbing, remedial tasks done in dark and dingy factories. This “old” perception of a manufacturing environment creates a barrier to attract new employees to the manufacturing environment we see today – clean and safe with employees managing advanced machinery that drives innovation and productivity.  Cisco, together with key manufacturing organizations, such as The Manufacturing Institute, are working to educate a new generation of workers on the needs of today’s manufacturers and get them excited about this challenging, but very rewarding career.

Cisco solutions are at the forefront of this evolved role within manufacturing, especially as more companies demand efficiency and collaboration among their workforce.  For example, manufacturers are constantly seeking new ways for their employees to become more productive, while streamlining their day-to-day tasks. To be more efficient and collaborative, employees must be connected to share ideas and insights. So you simply just connect them, right? If you consolidate the intellectual capital of all the workers into a central repository and give your employees access; then they can start sharing insight on how to do their jobs better and smarter.  Simply put, it’s just adding non-networked people to the network.  And Cisco is working with numerous manufacturing companies across the country to make this key transition needed to support the quality control and productivity improvements plants demand with the collaboration younger workers expect.

Another key issue facing the next generation of manufacturing employees is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which allows employees to work anywhere from their own device, while still securely connected to the network.  BYOD has been proven to increase worker productivity, while enhancing overall collaboration among employees and remote plants. If executed properly as part of the overall evolved role of a manufacturing worker, BYOD can serve as a strategic tool to retain and attract new employees.

Last year Cisco published a report that found that two out of five survey respondents would accept a lower-paying job that offered more flexibility for device choice, social media access and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.  The bottom line is that manufacturers have to fight for their employees just like any other industry. Next generation employees want to feel empowered when they work. Using collaborative and mobile solutions is the first step. Offering programs where they can share knowledge, collaborate and be a part of a broader team gives them the ability to gain insight and make decisions. And, continuing to educate the next generation of workers about manufacturing’s evolving workforce, its innovative technology and collaborative mindset, is key to the future of the modern manufacturing plant.


Bob Dean

Executive Director, Manufacturing Industry

Business Transformation Organization