Historically, a growing labor pool has fueled global economic growth. Today, that fuel supply is in decline around the globe as manufacturers and industrial operators contend with the issue of workforce availability - a result of an aging and evolving workforce. This challenge threatens to reduce economic growth by 40 percent, barring a significant acceleration in productivity. It also affects the safety of both older and younger workers in significant ways.

At the same time, the Internet of Things and evolving technology - specifically the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) systems - is transforming manufacturing and industrial operations through deeper visibility, greater connectivity and nearly unlimited potential for improvement. However, with rapid advancements in technology come new demands on the workforce. New skills are needed to enable IT/OT convergence and to take advantage of new technology. And these skills are not easily found in today's workforce.

With these profound demographic changes and technology skills gaps, successful manufacturers and industrial operators will have to reconsider machinery and facility design methodologies, worker training, technology implementation and safety issues in significant ways. Those that implement changes early to mitigate risks, improve efficiencies and adopt new technology will ultimately prevail in a global economy.

The Evolving Global Workforce

Workforce challenges resulting from aging workers leaving the workforce and being replaced by less experienced, early career workers - if they can be replaced at all - are being felt around the world.

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