Brace yourselves, dark manufacturing plants are coming.But while that warning my incite fear and loathing among the populace, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic …
Brace yourselves, dark manufacturing plants are coming.
But while that warning my incite fear and loathing among the populace, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development Doug Berry told members of the Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Board Tuesday there is time to prepare for the challenges automated manufacturing processes will bring in the next decade.
Dark factories are plants where automation is utilized to manufacture products in a process requiring highly skilled employees to operate sophisticated equipment, but few if any low-skilled or unskilled workers. The trend will become commonplace by the next decade, industry experts told Berry.
In addition, Berry said that consultants who work with manufacturers to select sites to locate plants advise that communities must have industrial parks that are “pad ready” before they will consider visiting an area to scout for potential plant locations. “Pad ready” refers to sites in industrial parks were infrastructure is already in place, as well as lots available where the construction of new facilities can begin immediately.
Critically, manufacturers are preparing for automation.
“They said, ‘Oh, by the way, don’t be surprised if there are dark manufacturing plants in 10 years,” Berry said.
Berry said many manufacturers will convert to automated manufacturing processes soon, will which increasingly replace unskilled workers.
“The adoption of artificial intelligence and smart systems will automate work,” Berry said. “The people who can operate that equipment will be the most important.”
As a result, unskilled workers won’t be needed in manufacturing plants, according to Berry.
“It’s a changing world,” Berry said. “Low-skilled, assembly line-type jobs will be taken over by machines.”
As a result, Berry said it is critical the future generation of workers are adequately prepared by the local education system.
Manufacturers want to know if there is a workforce with employable skillsets, Berry said.
“They want to know if we can provide a wage force they will need over the life of the plant,” Berry said. “They want to know what we are doing to attract talent today.”
Mechatronics programs are critical to that skillset, Berry said.
According to Cleveland State Community College’s website, “Mechatronics technology is a blend of mechanical, electrical and computerized technologies that together form a complex system used by many manufacturing, packaging and other modern operations.”
In the CSCC program, students develop skills to work as a technician in an integrated, multidisciplinary industrial environment and "will acquire the knowledge and hands-on training in electronics, mechanics, and computers to work in a variety of industrial and manufacturing related businesses."
Berry also said the Partnerships in Industry and Education Innovation Center will be critical in helping high school students get a jump-start on technical careers.
During a recent meeting with 51 top site consultants, Berry said their message is “pretty consistent” regarding their expectations for communities where, in addition to having industrial parks ready for locating new plants and having a technically trained workforce, manufacturers are also looking to locate in cities where employees can enjoy a “quality of life.”
“We are going to prescreen you before we ever talk to you,” Berry said the site consultants told him.
As a result, Berry said it is critical the community offers what millennials seek in terms of their personal and professional lives.
“We have to talk about having a community ... people want to move to,” Berry said of the need to attract workers who are ages 20 to 35.
He said the city’s downtown revitalization initiative will be important to attracting younger, educated residents to the city.
“We have to continue to encourage the city and county to work on park systems and recreational facilities and keep downtown in focus,” Berry said.
In contrast to generations past, Berry said millennials will move to a community attracted by the quality of life it offers, including high-speed internet and free Wi-Fi in downtowns where there also are parks, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues, as well as residential spaces such as loft apartments.
“The millennial generation is moving where they want to live, and then looking for a job,” Berry said. “Corporate America is acknowledging that.”
Berry acknowledge that Cleveland’s focus on revitalizing its downtown, as well as the newly launched Vision 2030 Initiative, indicate the city has a comprehensive plan for the future.
Vision 2030, a group of 30 members selected by Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, will meet monthly through the end of the year to develop recommendations on such topics as workforce and infrastructure development, as well as downtown redevelopment.
The effort to formulate and implement a shared vision for the future will be a valuable factor in helping the city continue its economic growth, as well as maintaining and improving the quality of life of its residents, officials said.
“The direction we are going in is the right direction,” Berry said. “Without a vision over the next 10 to 15 years, how do we know what to do next year?”
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