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Mitigating Digital Disruption-Driven Skills Gap in the Industrial Automation Industry

Automotive May 26, 2022

Mitigating Digital Disruption-Driven Skills Gap in the Industrial Automation Industry


Automation is here, and companies are embracing the technology to streamline IT, business, development, services, and processes. There is no consensus on how many jobs automation will replace or create, but there will be an evolution of jobs in automation.

As automation increases, organizations across every industry are looking for automation engineers to help facilitate, manage, and oversee enterprise automation. Industrial automation has a huge demand for tech and non-tech talent globally.

However, the tech industry continues to face an industry-wide shortage of skillsets. As automation becomes critical to accelerating business processes, organizations develop fully automated workflows across various industries.

Some in-demand job roles in the industrial automation industry are computer vision developer, automation project manager, automation controls engineer, application engineer, automation QA engineer, and automation technician.

Current Trends in the Industry

Various industries are looking to create solutions that will reduce the need for engineering talent for automation tasks. Technology will fill the need to automate many laborious and non-value-adding engineering tasks.

There is a need for skilled people in roles requiring deep process knowledge, problem-solving innovation, and creativity. There will be intense pressure on companies to adapt. Industrial Automation companies compete with their peers to acquire talent for high-demand job roles.

Companies are acquiring talent from their competitors, and the cost of this specialized labor is increasing. There is also an increase in the total job postings in industrial automation in the last 12 months. Job postings are not being filled, and the candidates do not have the right industry or technology skills to fill positions.

There is a 10% increase in job growth in high-demand roles like automation project manager and automation controls engineer. While older employees retire faster than the new employees can be trained, it takes a college graduate about five years to become adequately proficient in most automaton roles.

Companies are contracting retirees to supplement the missing expertise.

How is the Industrial Automation Ecosystem Changing?

New technology reduces the need for automation personnel as some solutions leverage base computing power and internet connectivity. Internet connectivity or the Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled free data flow globally. This means that automation experts can access information and systems globally and no longer need to be on site.

Connectivity allows things to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in real-time. Tedious programming in Java and Python is replaced by agile approaches that leverage reusable code found on the internet for IT systems programming.

Augmented reality (AR) allows less experienced site personnel to access information, and wearable devices enable individuals to access manuals, videos, real-time data, trends, cognitive computing applications, and people. These devices allow remote resources to see the physical environment with the same view as the field personnel.

Drone technologies continue to develop rapidly, reducing the need for onsite personnel. Cognitive analytics methods are designed to replicate human thought processes in computers and machines. Analytics can replicate an expert insight across the enterprise, allowing companies to capture, institutionalize, and distribute engineering knowledge.

Other tools that replicate this can be as simple as controller logic and advanced process control models.

The skills required to perform industrial automation roles have also evolved. Companies must reassess their use of this rare and valuable resource. Industrial automation experts must plan for the evolution of the field. As workflow is digitalized, the responsibilities and skills evolve.

Case in point, Automation Control Engineers whose tasks are to design and implement solutions that control dynamic systems have evolved. Let us look at the current skills needed and the emerging skills required for the role, including software skills, hardware skills, management skills, and analytics skills.

Industrial Automation Ecosystem

Where is Industrial Automation Roles Going?

Enterprises still rely on the roles and tasks assigned to automation engineers. There is a tight availability of talent. However, cultivating talent is expensive and risky. Computer processing, analytics, and cognitive computing are advancing rapidly, conspiring to outperform humans.

While the prospect of conglomerations of silicon and electrons creating and inventing on their own is in the anvil, there may still be parts of the automation profession that continue to be necessary for design and optimization. We may need job roles that maintain the systems that have also addressed many former automation engineering tasks.

So, are automation engineers no longer required? No, but the role is undoubtedly changing. While computers can emulate what humans perform exponentially, imagination is a particular human trait and continues to be necessary when creating solutions.

Some experts suggest raising the minimum wage, but as resources are scarce or difficult to cultivate, we must consider alternatives. The market provides the labor, and the industry may find a way to automate the automation engineer.

Reskilling Automation Professionals to Meet Future Demands

Talent management teams must plan to implement reskilling solutions within their organizations using a data-backed framework, mitigating the effects of disruption. They must do the following:

  1. Identify roles that are under threat of disruption from emerging technologies.
  2. Choose the ideal target role for the individual to mold them to a suitable career.
  3. Analyze skills gaps and provide certifications and courses to fill them.

At the rate at which the talent demand-supply gap will widen, radical transformation involving multiple degrees of change must become common. Stories of reskilling transformation are common, for example, quality assurance engineer to automation control engineer or data analyst to data engineer.

Some job roles, namely Service Engineer, Electrical Technician, and Field Service Engineer, can be reskilled to in-demand ‘Automation Controls Engineer’ and progress to various future roles, namely Project Engineer, Planning Engineer, and Process Automation Engineer, among others. We have illustrated this example below.

Mitigating Digital Disruption

While Automation Controls Engineer talent is available in large volume in talent hotspots like Bangkok, Tehran, Shanghai, Stockholm, Toronto, and Austin, India is preferred for affordability. In Chennai, Ford, ABB, GE Power, Caterpillar, Samsung Electronics, and Renault are some of the top employers, with Microsoft Visio, AutoCAD, and Autodesk MATLAB being top tech stacks.

Moreover, talent in Indian cities promises to adapt to the future needs of these above-mentioned top employers.

Draup for talent facilitates and amplifies your reskilling initiatives. Its Reskill Navigator and Path Predictor enables organizations to address their skills gap challenges. The platform delivers real-time insights on hard and soft skills, demand and supply sources of the talent pool, and insights to devise reskilling initiatives.

Draup conducted a comprehensive analysis of the industrial automation roles. The report informs on talent size, top in-demand skills, and future growth. With a focus on the Industrial Automation Engineering job role, it informs on the evolution of the role.

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