• Victor Genin

How Millennials Are Changing the Industry 4.0



Millennials have always been a tough nut to crack. They are open-minded and yet opinionated, wishing for a job with purpose and yet relentless about work-life balance. And when it comes to the industrial world, things are even more complicated and experts have already started to get anxious, sounding the alarm about the generation gap that is swiftly arriving.


You will ask why now is the time?


Like with everything today, there are many opinions on why millennials are reluctant to join the industrial workforce. But we at Librimind will try to approach it as an insider - after all, it takes one to see one and who better to solve the millennials’ problem than another millennial.


The good


During the industry’s boom years, from the mid-2000s to around mid-2010s things looked great for the industrial world. The commodity prices have doubled themselves and it expressed itself on the wages. From Marius Kloppers, CEO BHP Billiton at the time: “In the broader mining industry, the opportunity cost of not producing a unit of production during the high price period meant that most miners took a “volume over cost” approach; the benefits of being able to produce more outweighed the increased costs that resulted.” So naturally, it was easy for mining companies to draw talent to the industry. And, boy, the people got spoiled!


The bad


As the lyrics from the “But the World Goes Round” song says, “Sometimes you're happy, and sometimes you're sad”; And when the prices started to fall and become too volatile to sustain a single long-term strategy, the industry simply couldn’t afford the inflated salaries, drawing many experts away to other industries to look toward other career paths. Lacking a clear financial stimulus, employees have started weighing other aspects of industrial lifestyle like the remoteness of operations and the challenges associated with the frequent fly-in-fly-out shifts. Which is only continued to grow as industry veterans reach retirement age.


The ugly


Environmentalist movements have always been there, first with ending the nuclear race and more recently with global warming, the latter, however, has directly affected the industrial world and further discouraging young people from pursuing jobs in the industry.


The solution


Of course, you wouldn’t be reading this, if there was no solution to the situation. With fewer workers available in the industry, it is crucial for companies to incorporate automation into its processes. And if the mining industry is to retain the luster it has worked so hard to re-establish, it must implement long-term solutions to counteract the shrinking workforce and lack of young professionals. The most logical path to accomplishing this goal is for organizations to implement the technologies of the Industrial IoT and AI, combined together creating a Fourth Industrial Revolution.


In fact, new technologies may actually be the key to creating a more equitable workplace that is accessible to all regardless of traits such as socioeconomic status, gender identity, and familial status. Thanks to Industrial IoT, operational data can be accessed from anywhere in the world and it is easier than ever for employees at mining companies to work remotely. A position trait that is gaining increasing cross-industry popularity.


Thanks to Industrial IoT, operational data can be accessed from anywhere in the world and it is easier than ever for employees at mining companies to work remotely. This can attract many people for whom the field has historically not been compatible with their lifestyles. For example, parents uncomfortable leaving their children for long periods of time can now work from home offices, and young professionals who wish to build steady lives for themselves in one city no longer need to travel from site to site.


On the other hand, AI-based systems, are able to generate instructions for optimal equipment operation and continuously improve from the feedback provided by the experienced professionals. This way machines are capable of performing computational complex tasks that can then be overseen by experienced professionals to ensure high-quality outcomes. 


Transferring the domain knowledge into the computer enables unseen collaboration levels between the veterans and less experienced professionals, shifting further employ focus onto the process innovation, rather than on grunt work. After all, regardless of the industry, the world has moved on from the days in which automation and speed—an area in which AI excels—are everything. Though they still matter immensely, even more, important is the ability to innovate and do things in creative ways, an area in which humans will continue to outpace AI-knowledge systems.


Conclusion


Though the generational gap presents a real challenge to the industrial and mining industry, creative solutions abound due to modern technology. There are ways to partially make up for the absence of young blood in the industry, and it is also possible that recent innovations will convince young people—especially those from underrepresented backgrounds—to consider careers in the industry. In time, the collaboration between employees and innovational technology will transform the industry for the better.

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