Every company in our industry wrestles with a skills gap and a depleting workforce. On one hand, new technology could be a huge draw for the millennial crowd. On the other hand, your team could be slow to adopt innovative changes. Your craftworkers are comfortable with a certain way of doing things, and many are suspicious that automation will replace them. This puts you in a bit of a bind. How can you get the most from innovation without meeting resistance from your team?
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. Your approach can make all the difference. The key is encouraging innovative solutions to develop organically from the ground up. In other words, it’s your craftworkers who should be determining how to bring new technologies into your shop, onto your job sites, and throughout your facilities, not the folks at the top of your organization. At Enerfab, we’ve found that this sort of grassroots style is beneficial for everyone. Here’s how:
What a Foundational Approach to Innovation Does for Craftworkers
When you encourage your workforce to lead efforts in innovation, you are ensuring that the solutions they develop are going to work. Why? Because they are best suited to know what will help them streamline their work processes. In the same light, you can imagine that they will also only endorse technology that is easy to operate or to learn because they are the ones who will have to use it. Essentially, tasking them with the initiative guarantees that your craftworkers will embrace the changes.
And, if nothing else, putting your welders in charge of brainstorming better ways of doing things and experimenting with new tools will give them a chance to see with their own eyes that automation is not a threat to their jobs. They’ll see that no technology can replace the wisdom and skill they bring to their work.
What a Foundational Approach to Innovation Does for the Next Generation
Many young people might be interested in the building trades if they were given the right introduction to it. We need to show young people how essential craftworkers are in guaranteeing the success of the production cycle — and this is where and this is where an approach to innovation that prioritizes craftworkers as leaders in the quest for new technologies can be useful. It shows young people that cutting-edge stuff is possible in construction when using technology, which makes the industry an attractive option since many millennials are looking to bring their passion for and familiarity with tech to their jobs. And it shows them that craftworkers are the ones who use tech to bring engineering plans to life. Technology can be the bridge that connects young people to careers in craft labor they might not otherwise consider.
Again, there’s not a single company that isn’t under pressure to keep up with technology and replace each experienced craftworker who retires. But leverage the knowledge of those doing the work in the field and in your shops. Encourage your craftspeople to run the ball with an innovation project and see what happens. The results may surprise you, and it could be the start of something huge.
More about Aaron Landolt
Aaron was named President of Enerfab to kick off 2018 after serving as Enerfab’s Vice President of Strategy & Innovation. He has worked in a variety of Business Development, Technology, and Operations leadership roles throughout his career in the Chemical, Industrial, Power, and Process markets with a focus on EPC project delivery.
Aaron’s focus is driving strategic development for Enerfab while continuing the company’s culture of excellence through execution. His passion is rooted in technology and innovation with focus on the customer’s needs and their key business drivers.