Key Skills for Sustainable Innovation in Manufacturing

As we move towards the scarcity of natural resources, it becomes urgent and essential that we manage to minimize the consumption of raw materials, water and energy

Luiz Egreja

In a world increasingly guided by digitalization and questions about sustainability, it is inevitable to say that the manufacturing sector is experiencing a profound transformation – not only in how daily processes work but also concerning the formation of the workforce itself, responsible for leading factories in this digital age. As a result, companies, universities, and professionals are challenged to seek new knowledge and skills capable of keeping up with the changes and needs of today’s industry. In this scenario, an urgent and recurring challenge is to understand what, after all, are the main competencies to accelerate the transformation of the manufacturing sector toward a more sustainable experience and industry.

To assess this point, a recent survey commissioned by 3DEXPERIENCE Edu, Dassault Systèmes’ global educational program, and conducted by Bloom consultancy, evaluated for an entire year the discussions on social networks about the manufacturing skills and disciplines most talked about and remembered by students, teachers and companies. From this analysis we find that topics such as design for sustainability, mechatronics, additive manufacturing, data science, and model-based systems engineering are among the central and emerging areas, with great opportunities to prepare the workforce of the future with new and evolving industry jobs.

Luiz Egreja

It is worth noting that discussing the fundamental competencies of the manufacturing of the future is an urgent point. The common objective now needs to be to train companies, professionals, and young talents and, in this way, help to reduce the huge skills gap in a sector that represents 41% of global GDP and whose transformation presents a great opportunity to minimize the impacts on the environment and create more sustainable systems – from an environmental, social and governance point of view, as addressed in the ESG (environmental, social and governance) agenda. We must think and propose ways to connect and strengthen the efforts of industry and academia to collaboratively nurture the continuing learning environments necessary to provide innovations that improve the quality of life for consumers, citizens, and patients.

Among the main findings of the analysis promoted by 3DEXPERIENCE Edu, we can also highlight that design for sustainability is becoming part of the everyday conversation from customers to companies, with academic institutions trying to become leaders in this space, presenting programs and informative lectures that guide students on the importance of this pillar of sustainable production for the future.

Another point is that Mechatronics has the most active community on social media with more engagement than all other competencies combined, revealing how technical topics can be highlighted primarily through videos or other engaging formats to appeal to a younger audience. In addition, it is worth noting that Additive Manufacturing has also been a topic widely discussed by companies and universities, especially around the search for new innovative methods of use, ongoing projects, and corporate promotional material.

On the other hand, the study shows that, although it is a widely discussed issue at the highest level of certifications in the industrial sector, data science remains a topic where few universities and companies talk about on social media – even though, this competence is fundamental for future business, mainly for data analysis and scenario prediction. Likewise, few actors or communities are promoting or participating in discussions around the areas of Model-Based Systems Engineering, which certainly shows that there are great opportunities to increase the conversations and awareness of young people around this critical discipline, which is an absolute key to the develop and support of the most diverse industries and markets.

By understanding these contexts and seeing what has been said or not by young people, universities, and companies, we are expanding our field of vision on the horizon. This step is critical to create a better and integrated ecosystem (schools, students, professionals, companies, and suppliers) to help prepare students and the workforce to work efficiently, collaboratively, and productively to solve sustainability’s challenges for now and the future. It is from this movement of analysis and study about what is talked about today in social networks, forums, and development centers that we can take measures to develop the necessary skills to transform product development into the development of sustainable experiences within schools, organizations and companies through multiple channels, already preparing, in this way, what will be the future.

It is essential to offer students multiple opportunities and solutions so they can understand the broader context of engineering – and the society’s needs in general. Among the issues, however, we must be able to support these young talents with the conditions to develop the key skills to improve a sustainable manufacturing, which adds real value to society.

As we move towards the scarcity of natural resources, it becomes urgent and essential that we manage to minimize the consumption of raw materials, water, and energy, as well as enable the use of biomaterials and optimize the life cycle of products through more efficient and intelligent digital methods. It is by bringing this knowledge and innovation to universities and new talent development centers that we will help build a new workforce that is truly engaged and prepared to contribute ideas and work to develop the industry of tomorrow.

Luiz Egreja, Senior Business Transformation Consultant at Dassault Systèmes