Intel said a new study it is releasing shows that two out of three companies are struggling to deploy the industrial internet of things, where sensors and connectivity can deliver big improvements in productivity and safety.

In the new report, titled “Accelerate Industrial,” Intel found a serious skills gap that most Western industrial production training programs and government investment initiatives are failing to address.

With the increasing proliferation of data, connectivity, and processing power at the edge, the industrial internet of things is becoming more accessible. However, successful adoption remains out of reach for many: Two-thirds of companies piloting digital manufacturing solutions fail to move into a large-scale rollout, Intel said.

The study uncovered the top five challenges respondents cited that have the potential to derail investments in smart solutions in the future:

  • 36% cite “technical skill gaps” that prevent them benefiting from their investment.
  • 27% cite “data sensitivity” from increasing concerns over data and IP privacy, ownership, and management.
  • 23% say they lack interoperability between protocols, components, products, and systems.
  • 22% cite security threats, in terms of both current and emerging vulnerabilities in the factory.
  • 18% reference challenges handling data growth in amount and velocity, as well as sense-making.

Takeaways

Future production environments will be heavily driven by digital technologies that will span from the factory floor to enterprise systems. The report points to the rising importance of the digital skills required to navigate and succeed in this new landscape.

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The research found that while there is a big appetite for digital transformation — 83% of companies say they plan to make investments in smart factory technologies — the most important skills and characteristics cited for that transformation are not typically emphasized by most industry job training programs or relevant policy makers.

When asked the most important characteristic required to support digital transformation in manufacturing, study participants reported unprompted that workers needed to be “life-long learners.” Future skills cited by respondents point to the need to go beyond the basics of programming to embrace a deep understanding of digital tools, from data collection to analytics and real-time feedback.

The top five future skills are all related to digitization:

  • Deep understanding of modern programming or software engineering techniques
  • Digital dexterity, or the ability to leverage existing and emerging technologies for practical business outcomes
  • Data science
  • Connectivity
  • Cybersecurity

Manufacturing skills, which ranked No. two in importance today, doesn’t show up on future critical skills until no. 6, suggesting not only a change for manufacturing operations, but also for the people who will lead and staff this sector.

Why it’s important

A recent Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute study suggests that industries are entering a period of acute long-term labor shortages, with a shortfall in manufacturing expected to translate to 2.4 million job openings unfilled by 2028, resulting in a $2.5 trillion negative impact on the U.S. economy. Germany and Japan are expected to fare even worse in terms of this projected labor shortage.

Today’s leaders need to be creating tomorrow’s future-ready workforce, which will require the collaboration of universities, government, and industry and include initiatives that focus on training workers for the transforming manufacturing sector, Intel said.

The study was conducted and authored by Faith McCreary, a principal engineer, experience architect, and researcher at Intel, in tandem with Irene Petrick, senior director of Industrial Innovation for Intel’s Industrial Solutions Division. The study encompasses mobile ethnographies and interviews with over 400 manufacturers and the ecosystem technologists that support them. The work is being released as a series of reports.