October 28, 2020

How AR helps to solve the industrial workforce crisis

As the global population rapidly ages, the skill gap between generations of workers widens with an accelerated speed. Just like a pandemic, the aging workforce crisis makes an impact across industries and countries. This blog post will overview the complex challenges that the current workforce crisis brings and how technology and industrial AR can help solve them. 

Enterprises and manufacturers worldwide are about to face a strenuous challenge as a drastic amount of skilled workers will retire within the next 5 years. With industrial machines growing increasingly complex, workplaces, and teams becoming geographically dispersed, the task of closing the skill gap and passing the valuable knowledge of retirees needs to be urgently addressed. Industrial AR is here to help.

The decline of the skilled worker

Older workers represent a growing segment of the labor markets worldwide. According to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute’s joint study, the increasing proportion of the aging specialists in the US will leave 2,4 million positions unfilled by 2028, with a potential economic impact of 2.5 trillion. Studies show that by the year 2026, working Americans aged 55+ will comprise 24,8% of the working population. Similar processes happen in other countries. There are currently 9,4 million employed people in their fifties in the UK, equivalent to over 30% of the country’s workforce. According to Eurostat data, the European Union currently faces the rapidly aging workforce fallout too.  By 2030 European population aged 20 to 64 is expected to shrink to 55,9 % and those aged 65 and over to reach up to 24 %, namely a quarter of the total population.

Read more about tech and pandemic challenges: How AR drives value in the COVID-19 world

Retaining the expert knowledge 

While a whole generation of baby boomers steadily heads to retirement, the new generations of workers are often slow to show up in time to fill in crucial positions. The reasons for such delay vary: some take more time to complete tertiary education, while others find factory floors less attractive compared to office jobs. Seeking new ways to alleviate the financial burden of sourcing and training new talents, industry leaders begin to see that upskilling existing workers might be a safe way out. 

“The transfer of know-how and experience is a complex social challenge that cannot be done within a couple of weeks. The difficulty is mainly the human component: not enough appreciation for the loyal, older specialist and an overload of work for the – often much younger – successor. Ideally, both employees follow a clear process and have a coach on their side to take off the pressure.”
Klaudia Bachinger | Founder CEO | WisR

Advanced technology may hold a key to solving this challenge. Continuing technology adoption and increased investments in technological industrial solutions such as AR have already proved to exceed the return of time and financial assets. The digital revolution that has commenced to streamline and optimize the workflows in industries such as manufacturing, field service, and production is now rolling over to the human resources area.  

For many companies, the challenge of leaving older workers on board is often directly correlated with the overall challenge of creating and maintaining a permanent talent pool with employees ready to be upskilled and trained further to adapt to emerging jobs, complex data integrations, and automation.  Pioneers in future-proofing their organizations have already realized that upskilling large numbers of employees require money, time, and serious commitment. Here the digital dexterity of organizations comes to the fore.  

Industrial AR as a connecting link

Augmented reality has recently graduated from the Gartner’s Hype Cycle, officially moving from the emerging technology to the mature technology ready to be used and safely invested. Moreover, Gartner’s latest report predicts that multi-experience platforms, including augmented reality, will be deployed at least in one-third of all enterprises by 2021. 

Augmented reality offers a wide array of solutions for the field service companies and manufacturers that allow keeping and utilizing experienced workers’ knowledge. While the AR technology might still not be widespread, digital working instructions overlay and augmented remote assistance have proven to deliver rapid value across industries.

Scalable AR experiences allow uses to collaborate easily, using the expertise on-demand where and when required. Thus, AR solutions facilitate the expertise transfer, allowing the over-the-shoulder coaching by a senior worker, saving travel and training costs. 

The pandemic has accelerated the use of smart glass technology as an effective remote contact solution, not just in providing assistance solutions but also for remote training. The aging population was a pre-pandemic issue for many of our clients, in particular the challenge of replacing and training experts when older experienced employees retire. Smart glasses like Moverio can help address the skills-gap challenge of aging populations as well as upskilling the existing workforce through more efficient and remotely supervised hands-on training techniques.

Valerie Riffaud Cangelosi, Head of New Market Development, Epson Europe

The formula for successful reskilling is to keep training concise and achievable to motivate workers and guarantee a quick return on investments. Following the same objectives, Wikitude augmented reality applications allow easy deployment while driving high ROI and generating value across the enterprise and generations. The ubiquity of AR usage can help organizations embrace their workers’ aging and prolong their careers while carefully passing the knowledge and skills to the new generation.

Find more AR use cases: AR in maintenance and remote assistance


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