How IoT and predictive maintenance helps battle the tech talent shortage

Whoever’s still afraid that ‘robots are taking our jobs’ clearly could not have imagined massive talent shortages in technology. If anything, we’re now in a phase we would gladly outsource work to the so-called “robots” if it helps battle the tech talent shortage. And, as luck may have it, predictive maintenance enabled by innovative technologies such as IoT sensors,  AI. machine learning and edge computing indeed proves to be a great tool in bridging that gap. Whatever solution you opt for, in the end, technology ties them all together. So, how does this work?

With the tech talent shortage not diminishing any time soon and technology advancing quickly, one might ask: how can you accelerate technological growth when there are too few people to fulfil this goal? Well, there are different ways to go about overcoming the gap.

What's causing the tech talent shortage?

Simply put: the talent gap is due to the fact that we lack skilled manufacturing workers. Something especially true with maintenance technicians. The generation of Baby Boomers, who now form the majority of the tech workers, is slowly but surely retiring. The last of them will reach retirement age by 2031. On the other hand, Millennials aren’t stepping up to fill the void. Partially, that’s because the branding of industrial manufacturing hasn’t been great. It doesn’t have the innovative, progressive image that newer generations value dearly. 

In line with this issue is the increasing complexity of technology, creating a demand for more digitally-skilled maintenance workers on top of the current need. Often, rapidly changing technology requires advanced knowledge of data, AI, digitalization, and intelligent machinery through custom engineered IoT solutions

Furthermore, companies find it challenging to compete with the benefits other businesses can offer, such as higher wages or flexible working hours. In addition, depending on product demand, many companies (especially in maintenance) feel the need to be competitive in their product markets which makes it necessary to cut costs, creating a tight budget without room for offering advantages to their employees. That makes it difficult to establish yourself as an attractive employer.

engineers at factory_tech talent shortage_Sensorfy

The consequences of the tech talent shortage

Talent shortages in tech present a multitude of problems for IT executives. One is that they view it as the most significant barrier to adopting 64% of emerging technologies that enable innovation, such as IIoT solutions, AI, and machine learning, among others – as a recent study by Gartner concluded. Yet, increasing the adoption of emerging technologies to drive innovation in a post-pandemic world is at the top of the priority list for infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations and other IT leaders. Gartner reports that 58% of the respondents even go as far as to say they reported an increase or intention to increase emerging technology in the upcoming years. You could interpret this as a clear indication that businesses are confident in directly deploying new technologies to accelerate growth. 

However, with the tech talent shortage not diminishing any time soon and technology advancing quickly, one might ask: how can you accelerate technological growth when there are too few people to fulfil this goal? Well, there are different ways to go about overcoming the gap.

smart maintenance_Sensorfy_engineer working on analytics

How to succeed in times of need

To meet the challenge the maintenance industry is facing, adaptation is needed. We can approach this in three ways: change the existing mindset, safeguard knowledge, and implement the right technology to overcome any shortages. 

Change the existing mindset

Let’s address the solution at hand: change the existing mindset. This sounds rather abstract, but it boils down to switching from a reactive approach to a proactive approach. One of the maintenance industry’s problems is the ‘fix it when it breaks’ mentality. Something that worked well for older technicians used to this mindset. You can imagine it’s challenging for this group to embrace solutions that steer towards a proactive approach. However, new talent demands smarter solutions, and many businesses require it to stay ahead of the game. 

This is where IoT and predictive maintenance comes into play. It is a technique that uses smart IoT sensor to monitor the performance of a part of equipment during operation utilizing condition-monitoring tools. Predictive maintenance uses advanced smart IoT sensor systems to measure the health of industrial assets. AI will analyze data and detect anomalies, getting smarter over time. Once an abnormality is detected, it will give off a warning for your team to respond to. This way, you can tackle the issue before it occurs, saving you overall downtime and valuable time and effort otherwise spent on repair.

engineer working from data_tech talent shortage_Sensorfy

A predictive maintenance example 

Let’s illustrate how this works with a specific example. Say you want to monitor the performance of automatic doors. By implementing an IoT solution you enable predictive maintenance to now get real-time indicators of its performance. As soon as an anomaly warning goes off, you can plan who needs to address the case. In time, because there’s is not an apparent issue just yet. Organizing the IoT solution carefully beats a stressful reactive approach in which you depend on the current situation and its resources. Now, you have time to optimize maintenance routes, allocate scarce maintenance resources to assets that actually need the maintenance, help more clients with the same amount of mechanics, and improve on maintenance planning – all in careful collaboration with your client. 

Predictive maintenance allows your team to switch gears to a more efficient, proactive approach, achieving more and better results with fewer resources.

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Pass on and upskill knowledge

This transition takes time and know-how, which pivots us to the second solution: safeguard knowledge. One way is to ensure the older generation passes on existing expertise. Even when you can’t find the perfect match immediately, your current technicians can help educate those with potential. New employees can learn on the job and continue to learn throughout their career, advancing their skill set ad infinitum. 

You create specialized experts by adding programs on specific, innovative technology to transmit existing knowledge. They will play an essential role in driving the innovation trajectory, not only by applying what they learn from older generations but by adding to it and adapting new techniques that steer toward smarter, digitalized maintenance. For example, predictive maintenance through IoT sensor systems enables remote monitoring to help assets run smoothly, even when workers can’t be on-site. As a result, engineers and technicians can work smarter and plan better, optimizing personnel resources on the go. 

View training and adapting innovative technology as a way to take matters into your hands. Not only to fill the gap right now but also in the future. This requires periodic organizational checks to anticipate the changing need of the business. In doing so, you improve your personnel’s long-term value and efficiency, and overall quality, establishing a work ethic based on proactive decision-making to prevent failures before they happen.

iot solutions for smart maintenance

Technology to bridge the tech talent shortage gap

Shortage of staff is a real issue worsening the ability to perform well. It obstructs essential communication and coordination, which is already challenging when fully equipped. Imagine doing it without the right resources. It can quickly lead to downtime, missed maintenance tasks, inefficiency, and many other problems resulting in increased operational costs and reduced productivity. So, regarding staff shortages, smarter maintenance scheduling and communication are crucial to success. 

This is where IIoT sensor systems and predictive maintenance solutions come into play. Predictive maintenance gives you the optimal response time to schedule asset maintenance and optimize existing operational challenges. Integrating smart IoT sensors and advanced analytics enables predictive maintenance to monitor your industrial assets in real-time, preventing unplanned downtime.

By embracing accurate predictive monitoring through industrial IoT solutions, you improve your assets’ uptime and lifetime and your Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OOE). Moreover, it allows you to enhance the productivity of the maintenance department and release them from unnecessary manual labour. It’s a way of achieving more with less by preventing failures before it happens. 

See for yourself what business advantages predictive maintenance creates in our step-by-step guideline: Predictive maintenance from scratch.

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One solution to manage all

IoT sensor systems and predictive maintenance ties the three presented solutions together. It helps you plan maintenance around the current health state of your industrial machines. Moreover, predictive maintenance provides existing personnel with the proper tooling to improve their skill set and helps them to work more efficiently when lacking colleagues to help them out. Finally, optimizing maintenance schedules with digital, real-time insights allows your team to work more collaboratively and proactively – a much-needed approach for a sector that struggles with the tech talent shortage. So, if there is ever a time to invest in predictive maintenance, let it be now. 

Do you want to start with ai in predictive maintenance and need advice on taking the first steps? Then, get in touch with us.

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