Dave Vasko, Director of Advanced Technologies at Rockwell Automation, describes how the increasing sophistication and capabilities of technologies coming to the manufacturing floor — technologies such as AI and the anticipated hybridization of large-scale robots with slower more independent cobots – are creating a lot of complexity for the technician. Going forward, he says, technicians will require different skills: the ability to configure networks and firewalls, to operate equipment remotely and collaboratively, and to troubleshoot the initial commissioning of equipment using digital twins with virtual reality, just to name a few. The approach to programming is changing as well, from writing code from scratch to starting with a library of possible code that can be applied and then debugged at the machine. This convergence of OT with IT means that it is, as Vasko notes, an exciting time to be in manufacturing:
We’ve been looking at some of these changes for a couple decades. The technology has really caught up with the changes that we thought would occur in manufacturing. So many manufacturers need employees. And I think these are incredibly fun jobs. They’re challenging jobs. They’re exciting careers.