The shortage of skilled workers is based on a thinking error

Automation helps – but where do the automation engineers come from?

The solution to staff shortages seems obvious: many simple, manual tasks can be automated, machines don’t get sick, robots don’t quit. But this does not eliminate the shortage, it only shifts it. After all, someone has to implement all the systems, wire all the sensors and programme the controls. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see that this will exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, highly qualified specialists like PLC programmers are even harder to find than warehouse clerks and machine operators. The fact that they are employed by a service provider in case of doubt changes little. Because their staffing problems are passed on to the client in the form of longer reaction times or, in the worst case, downtimes.

If IT specialists have to be on site instead of workers, no one is helped. Because here lies the error in thinking: the problem is not the staff on site. It is the location. That’s why the issue needs to be rethought.

The scarcer the resource of personnel becomes, the more important it is to reduce unproductive, non-value-adding activities in favour of meaningful work. For example, travel to and from work, updates and maintenance on each individual control unit, simply everything that has a local connection.

Even highly complex tasks can be completed on the shop floor via the cloud. Location-independent, fast and efficient. In this way, practically any number of machines can be controlled centrally, and several controls on different machines, production lines or locations can be (re)programmed or updated simultaneously. Man-days thus become hours, bottlenecks become free capacities that can be used more expediently than for the maintenance of physical hardware.

So are digitalisation and automation drivers of the skills shortage or an effective antidote? The answer lies in the cloud, and it is: PLC as a Service.

Posted on 08.03.2023

Michael Böhrer

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