4IR-ready manufacturers develop both people and technology


  • New manufacturing opportunities are expected to create 133 million jobs over the next four years due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but around 75 million jobs are likely to be lost due to technological development at the same time .
  • Manufacturers Must Put Their People First and their technology to thrive in the 4IR era.
  • Emerging best practices in this area involve attracting and mobilizing talent, and working with third parties to develop the skills of current and future employees, as well as third parties such as suppliers.

We are living in one of the most exciting times of all time – the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Digital transformation, and technology more broadly, is increasingly becoming an integral part of life, providing humanity with a unique opportunity to rethink and rethink the way they source, produce, deliver and consume. And this is not only to boost productivity and growth, but also to generate new value for workers, society and the environment.

The manufacturing sector accounts for around 22% of global employment, but the majority of manufacturing companies still do not have a clear strategy on how best to equip their workforce with the capabilities required for this new era. The 4IR could displace around 75 million jobs globally over the next four years. At the same time, new opportunities are expected to create 133 million new jobs, resulting in a positive net result of 58 million new 4IR roles by 2022.

So how can organizations thrive in the age of 4IRs? The answer is simple: The future of manufacturing isn’t just about technology, it’s about developing both technology and people. Here are three good manufacturing practices that optimize both the skills of people and the use of machines:

1) Attraction and engagement of talent

While technology has made everything more efficient, it’s usually by adding a mix of talents and skills that companies are successful. All systems, processes, and technologies fall apart when we don’t have the right people to work with them. Now more than ever, organizations need to recruit the best talent available and create a strong employer brand. Additionally, companies should actively involve their employees in the design and implementation of their digital strategies, from senior management to shop floor staff. This will facilitate the adoption of the technology throughout the organization, rather than pushing for acceptance of new systems and tools from the top down.

When the brewing company Heineken wanted to emphasize the importance she gives to her people, she created a series of videos featuring the stories of current Heineken employees who work in a variety of roles and locations. The intention and effect of the campaign was to show that the brand revolves around the unique personalities and ambitions of employees.

General Electric (GE) has also repositioned itself as a digital industrial company with an employer branding strategy using modern advertising. One of these videos, “What if Millie Dresselhaus, a woman scientist, was treated like a celebrity?», Has attracted a lot of views on social networks and engagement for the multinational conglomerate.


2) Further training and retraining

Manufacturing skills can have a short lifecycle of around 5 years. This means that the skills workers learned a decade ago have most likely become obsolete as companies attempt to deploy digital transformation strategies. Organizations need to invest in providing lifelong learning opportunities to improve and retrain their employees. It should also lead to a change in inter-company mindset and take cross-team collaboration to new levels.

For example, Indian steel producer Tata Steel Kalinganagar (TSK) has developed a very sophisticated training strategy as part of its aspiration transform into what she calls an “autonomous digital organization”. TSK believes that digital will become a “way of life” and crucial for all transformations in the years to come. To ensure that it has the necessary human resources, the organization has developed an integrated three-pronged approach to building employee capacity using a combination of academies, experiential learning on projects and self-learning modules. -learning.

3) Strengthening supply networks

Forget about departments that work in silos. Due to the complexity of the new disruptions that manufacturing companies will continue to face in this new era – from pandemics to climate change – no organization can work alone anymore. Supplier engagement and the development of support skills across the entire supply network will be critical as businesses transform end-to-end value chains and develop new customer experiences.

Establishing a new level of collaboration and integration at the network level enables the sharing of best practices, accelerates the learning curve, and helps organizations thrive together. Collaboration with other actors outside the ecosystem will also play a key role in the future, for example by engaging with research institutions or governments to support talent development efforts.

“Establishing a new level of collaboration and integration at the network level enables the sharing of best practices, accelerates the learning curve and helps organizations thrive together.

—Francisco Betti, WEF & Radu Palamariu, Alcott Global

Tool maker Stanley Black & Decker for example, welcomes teachers from the local high school during the summer holidays. By working with teaching subjects related to his industry, he can support learning in the workplace by offering first-hand experience on trends, skills required, new technologies and opportunities.

This initiative enriches and strengthens their teaching, making it more relevant to students’ potential academic and professional choices. During these month-long internships, teachers follow the Stanley Black & Decker Industry 4.0 team as they deploy digital technologies to their global manufacturing network. These teachers are exposed to supply chain and distribution operations, as well as corporate social responsibility efforts.

Another example of this type of good practice is the Turkish automotive joint venture Ford Otosan not only offers training to its employees, but also to its suppliers. He does this regularly for 25 different subjects. It also educates suppliers about 4IR by first assessing their knowledge and then inviting them to send their employees for technical tours of the plant to increase their awareness.

The World Economic Forum was the first to bring the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, standards and regulations have failed to keep pace with innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help humanity in the future, without harming it. Based in San Francisco, the network launched centers in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is quickly establishing locally managed affiliate centers in many countries around the world.


The global network works closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks to govern new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital commerce, drones, Internet of Things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how to become a member or partner.

In this new era, the most successful companies will be those that approach the future of manufacturing and operations with a people-centered, human-centered approach. This is a philosophy already adopted by Toyota among other Japanese companies, when they to discuss “to give wisdom to the machine”.

We look forward to seeing more companies embark on this 4IR transformational adventure using the human-machine combination to their best advantage.


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