We are pleased to have Paul Hogendoorn of Ontario’s FreePoint Technologies as guest author.
Paul is a prolific cheerleader for the manufacturing industry.
His passion? To connect the next generation to this valuable but changing asset in our communities.
Modernizing your manufacturing? Check out FreePoint Technologies ability to add modern data tracking and goal feedback to your equipment.
We are at a very interesting time in our manufacturing industry; indeed, we may be at the cusp of a significant paradigm change, and a critical one.
We still have over 7 million, “hands on”, value adding jobs in our small and medium sized plants in the US and Canada and a large percentage of those workers are planning to retire in the next 5 to 10 years. Automation efforts continue relentlessly, but that is still a relatively long way out.
In Canada, an estimated 85% of our machines are 28 years old, or older. Our people will be retiring faster than these machines will be replaced, and companies are finding it a challenge to attract – and then retain – a younger workforce.
An opportunity is presenting itself to forward thinking manufacturers as a result of the changes going on in our society and in the way the next generation communicates.
Our manufacturing industry will change significantly in the next 5 to 10 years, but the question is, will it be for the better, or for the worse. Because “hands on” manufacturing jobs are critical to the economic well-being of so many of our families and communities, I’m hoping it will be for the better. Aiming to eliminate those jobs through automation doesn’t serve our society well; integrating a younger generation of workers in the workplace in a more meaningful way is a better course, in my opinion.
A manufacturing job is a good job. It generally pays a decent and sustainable wage, and it’s economic multiplier effect is estimated to be a healthy 7 times direct revenue factor. Every dollar created by a manufacturing company is estimated to bring 7 additional dollars into that community.
But, here’s our challenge: many of the people doing these jobs are retiring, and the next generation is in little rush to step in and take them. A big reason is because the factory work environment is not aligned with how this generation works, communicates, interacts and thinks. Trying to fit them into these workplaces is like trying to drive square pegs into round holes
… attract[ing] more young people to our factory jobs, we will get the benefit of fresh thinking, new perspectives, youthful enthusiasm…
We are not going to be successful if we think we have to change Millennials to fit our jobs. However, I believe we can be exceedingly more successful if we can make our jobs fit them. By doing that, we will not only attract more young people to our factory jobs, we will get the benefit of fresh thinking, new perspectives, youthful enthusiasm, and a chance to get our internal, in plant ‘communities’ healthy again.
Our factories once provided more than jobs; they provided a sense of community, belonging, and even family. Our millennial generation craves things like community, social interaction and being part of something exciting. As we start to adopt some of their attitudes and adapt to this changing reality, we can make our companies more exciting as well.
Admittedly, this column is a 30,000 foot view, but that’s appropriate because it’s actually being written at 30,000 feet – I’m flying from Canada to Silicon Valley to share these thoughts with others in the software industry. The future of IT in manufacturing has to be about more than simply connecting machines, collecting data, and making data decision decisions. It has to be about connecting people as well, and reconnecting meaning with work.
Our manufacturing jobs yield more than products and income, they return satisfaction and contribute to purpose as well. Our society needs these things as much, or more, than it needs the products and the income. To me, ‘sustainability’ ultimately means making sure the “maker” industry remains healthy and vibrant for the next generation’s benefit and purpose, and the next generation is coming now.
Paul Hogendoorn is cofounder of FreePoint Technologies, based in London Ontario.
FreePoint’s motto? “Measure. Analyze. Share. Don’t forget to share.”
For more information on this topic, he can be reached at
As a further resource, read How To Attract Millennials to Manufacturing on FreePoint’s blog.
Modernizing your manufacturing? Check out FreePoint Technologies ability to add modern data tracking to your equipment.