Going digital

Digital skills increase productivity for New Zealand’s manufacturers.

Competenz, working alongside The Manufacturers’ Network, The Learning Wave and Buckley Systems, completed a pilot programme in 2020 focused on strengthening digital literacy in the manufacturing sector. This followed on from the identification of digital literacy as the most pressing skills gap, with rapid digital technological changes affecting workplaces nationwide.

These technological changes, collectively known as Industry 4.0, have made it crucial for employees at all manufacturing workplaces to have strong digital literacy skills and confidence.

One of the key benefits of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing is improved quality and productivity. This is achieved by digitally networking as many parts of the manufacturing processes as possible – ideally from ordering to dispatch and including the upstream supply chain. Once that is achieved, information can be gathered on what’s happening in the factory in real-time.

The real-time aspect is key, often providing early warnings on quality or productivity problems.

The pilot programme at Auckland-based electromagnet manufacturer Buckley Systems involved a cohort of ten trainees – all highly skilled and valued but lacking in digital knowledge and confidence. Over nine weeks, the workers improved their skills to the point where productivity increased in the machine shop. What’s more, they expanded their confidence in using their knowledge, enabling them to transfer their skills to other aspects of their life.

The management team at Buckley Systems now have confidence in involving the graduates with brand-new, cutting-edge machinery and the associated data requirements and outputs.

Buckley Systems chief people officer Dion Orbell said: “You can just tell they are so much more engaged to use digital now than they were at the beginning.”

“We did not want to let go of these tradesmen, these craftsmen. We want to continue to grow them because, without them, we can’t continue to grow our business.”

Competenz shadowed the learning, packaging it into a micro-credential programme in line with the sector’s desire to have standardised and formalised outcomes as skills develop. The micro-credential, accepted and recognised by NZQA, will be launched to the wider industry in mid-2021.

During 2020, Competenz also developed a new manufacturing-specific unit standard around communication related to production targets, another key skill in an Industry 4.0 workplace.

In 2021, Competenz now turns its attention to advanced manufacturing skills for Industry 4.0, helping address the sector’s desire to address skills gaps in that area.