For millennials , the thing that comes to mind when someone mentions manufacturing is factories, assembly lines, heavy machinery, making goods etc., that too if you’re lucky. Since the 80s manufacturing jobs are seen as the last sector to work for due to the perceived hard manual labor, safety issues and male dominance in the sector. Even though salaries are very competitive, it’s failing to attract the millennials. According to data from the U.S. bureaus of Labour Statistics and Economic Analysis, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $62,166 in 2014, compared with $55,616 for the average worker in all industries. The scenario is the same with almost all developed countries.
Manufacturing companies can’t let this go on, as there will be severe labour shortages in the sector in the near future. Deloitte consulting along with National Association of Manufacturing, has estimated that by 2025 there will be 2 million vacant jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Several factories are modernized and the use of computers can rival even some of the hi-tech companies. Many of the physically intensive and hazardous jobs are starting to get automated and with the introduction of new technology like power grip devices, augmented reality helmets, exoskeletons, accidents have reduced on the shop floor. However, all these features are not in the public eye and almost no recruit visits a factory in order to understand his job.
The Solution: Bringing the factory to the recruit in a fun way
Is there a way to showcase a modern manufacturing company to a millennial without him/her actually being at the factory? The answer: Virtual Reality. With the new Oculus Rift device available at nominal price potentially every consumer can buy one. The cheapest VR headset starts from 10$.
These devices can be programmed to set up any 3D objects and frames and the user’s senses will be immersed in the new reality. However, recreating the environment is not enough, millennials love to be engaged and entertained. An element of fun and challenge has to be involved.
According to the study “2015 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game industry”, about 56% of the U.S. gamer population are under the age of 35, with 30% between 18 and 35. If half the country is gaming, it’s a good thing to invest in it. Showcasing innovation and fun through the combination of VR and gaming pushes the “cool appeal” in the eyes of the millennials and changes their presumptions and notions about working in the manufacturing sector.
A lot of simple games are simulated using VR to showcase daily jobs in manufacturing in a fun way, some of them are
- Code puzzles – Modern machinery in a factory runs on software. Simple code puzzles which direct the machines in a particular fashion are given to the candidates. Millennials being more tech savvy enjoy the puzzle solving using technology.
- Vehicle designing – Using VR devices candidates are given a chance to design vehicles so that it has the optimum aerodynamics, engine configurations, safety requirement, sufficient handling etc.
The video gaming interface does not have to be limited to driving machines and other movable assets in a factory. The challenge for IT community is to rethink the use of this interface for traditional systems like ERP and MES as well. We could imagine a supply chain process where in the employee uses video gaming interface to trace the assembly line and order a part if required, from the same gaming interface. This would create an order in the traditional ERP system. Also, the video game interface could be used by the employee to scan the shop floor to look for any material hazard that could issue safety issues.
We have to provide these new platforms to the millennials to encourage them to embrace the world of asset creation and migrate to the world of physical reality from their virtual reality couches.