birds eye view of man holding tablet device with data on the screen with two others interacting

4 Digital Transformation Trends in Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is evolving continuously, and organizations must evolve their talent strategy to succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The manufacturing industry has changed drastically over time, and those changes have all been driven by major advancements in technology.

  • In the 1760s, harnessing steam allowed people to power everything from farm equipment, to trains, to manufacturing facilities. This innovation led to the beginning of the manufacturing industry.
  • In the 1870s, the invention of electricity led to key innovations that helped people go faster and do more. This era also led to the creation of the assembly line, which gave organizations the ability to mass-produce products. This industrial revolution is what really led to the modern world.
  • In the 1950s, the inventions of semiconductors, mainframe computers, personal computers, and the Internet led to people and machines being connected digitally. Manufacturing processes started to become more automated, which allowed organizations to produce products at a much quicker pace.
  • Today the fourth digital revolution is upon us. Digital connection has changed nearly every industry, along with how individuals work, live, and communicate. Products and ideas that were considered futuristic dreams years ago (like robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and storing information in a cloud) are now realities. This most recent revolution is going to require organizations and people to continue to change and adapt or risk being left behind.

The current digital revolution is drastically changing how work is done in manufacturing facilities.

Digital transformation trends in manufacturing industry AI and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are replacing work that was previously done with human hands. These changes result in less wasted time, fewer scrap materials, and lower production costs because the machines can trigger an immediate precision change, rather waiting to adjust until after the issue is caught further down the production line. AI and machine learning are also benefitting customers by allowing organizations to more efficiently meet demands and provide a quicker turnaround in getting products out to the market.


The amount of data that is constantly gathered in manufacturing facilities is staggering and will continue to grow by leaps and bounds as technology gets smarter and faster. Organizations’ integrated data systems allow employees around the world to have relevant data at their fingertips 24/7/365, leading to more transparency, quicker decision making, and greater collaboration within organizations.


Robots now complete many of the tasks on the assembly line, allowing for adjustments to be made more quickly and accurately. Robots are also providing a safer work environment, as they can do the tasks that are more physically taxing or that involve suboptimal work environments. These robots continuously feed information back to control boards monitored by humans, so that issues can be quickly identified and rectified.

Skillsets in Manufacturing Jobs of the Future

It may sound like technology is completely replacing humans in the manufacturing sector, but that absolutely is not the case. There were 5.5 million manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2017; however, during that same time period, the job opening rates in the manufacturing sector have nearly doubled from 1.8% to 3.1% according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The increase in job openings is most likely due to a skills mismatch in what manufacturing organizations need in new employees and what job applicants are bringing to the table. As a result, job openings remain unfilled for longer periods of time. Further, it’s projected that the growing roles of robots and AI in manufacturing organizations will result in more than 120 million workers globally needing retraining in the next three years.

When you hear about a “skills mismatch” or an “employee skills gap,” your head may immediately go to the technical skills needed for the job, such as computer programming. However, employers today are often finding that the skills gap exists primarily for soft skills like being flexible, adapting to change, prioritizing, working effectively on a team, and communicating professionally. Technical skills, such as analytical and software skills, are still important, but they are starting to get pushed further down the list of competencies that global hiring managers are requiring in new employees.

Make sure to read our next blog post on this topic, as we discuss how SHL helps manufacturing organizations evaluate their current employees, grow their own talent, and identify new talent to fill the gaps.

In addition, take a look at SHL’s recent candidate attraction efforts to see how organizations can boost their candidate attraction efforts through prioritizing brand messaging, adding realistic job/culture previews, incorporating selection assessments, and updating their interview process.

Contact us to learn how we can help you succeed in the manufacturing industry through your talent strategy.

headshot rob shepard


Rob Shepard

Rob Shepard is a former Senior Talent Solutions Consultant at SHL, specializing in pre- and post-hire assessment, job analysis, workforce analytics, competency modeling, and assessment design. Rob holds an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has over 11 years of experience partnering with clients, in a wide variety of industries, to improve individual and organizational performance through better talent management.

Explore SHL’s Wide Range of Solutions

With our platform of pre-configured talent acquisition and talent management solutions, maximize the potential of your company’s greatest asset—your people.

See Our Solutions