According to a 2022 report from Make UK and Sage, more than one in five manufacturers expect the demand for data skills to significantly increase between now and 2030. But with 36 per cent of vacancies in manufacturing hard-to-fill due to skills shortages, how is the lack of data professionals affecting the industry? Here, Ryan Jones, co-founder of the UK’s largest dedicated data jobs platform OnlyDataJobs, investigates.
In Make UK’s 2030 Skills Closing the Gap report, it claims that the cost of lost productivity due to vacancies in manufacturing being left unfulfilled in 2022 amounted to £7.7 to £8.3 billion, or approximately £21 million a day. In terms of what’s driving the need for new skills in the sector, the report lists increased use of automation, the rise in flexible working and growing acceptance of digitalisation.
When translating those trends into job skills and requirements, 26.5 per cent of those surveyed in the report say they need to recruit data analysts in the next twelve months.
Doing more with data
There are many reasons why a manufacturing company, no matter its size or what it produces, needs a data expert. Shortages and supply issues continue to make headlines post-pandemic, but big data can help to remedy this. Big data can help provide more accurate predictions of delivery times, but can also factor in the dependency of individual processes on each other.
Quality control can benefit from the implementation of AI and machine learning (ML). These technologies can provide a more objective view, reducing potential human error caused by differences of opinion between inspectors. Faster, autonomous inspections also mean that more stock can be sampled without the need for additional personnel, keeping costs low while improving quality.
Data can help businesses achieve their sustainability goals too. By using predictive analytics and monitoring machinery, errors can be spotted much more quickly. This helps to reduce material wastage associated with frequent tool replacement by extending equipment lifetime by up to 20 per cent, and also reduces the material wasted on producing faulty stock.
Implementing big data is the next step in digitalising the manufacturing process and ensuring that manufacturers stay competitive. But large, messy datasets may not be very useful in terms of identifying actionable insights. And that’s where a data expert comes in.
Bridging the gap
Despite the benefits that data can bring to a business, the skills shortage remains a huge barrier to realising its full potential. A 2021 UK Government report found that 91 per cent of manufacturers said data skills are important to their company, higher than any other industry. But only 75 per cent said that they felt data skills were performed well in their companies.
The skills gap can be attributed to a whole host of factors. Data science is a relatively new area, meaning there is often little standardisation across roles with the same title at different companies. On top of that, rapid technological developments and increasing automation have further changed the expected skillset of a data professional.
To help connect data professionals with the right roles for them, a more specialised jobs board is required. Dedicated data platform OnlyDataJobs offers the opportunity for candidates to filter by programming language and industry, making it easier than ever for them to find the positions that match their skillset.
The advantages that data and data analysis can bring to the manufacturing sector are huge, but to unlock them there must be the workforce to support it. With the aid of educational organisations and dedicated resources, it’s hopeful that it won’t be too long before the benefits of data can be realised.
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