Historically, an expanding and skilled labor pool has fueled global economic growth. However, it is no surprise that today the talent supply for global manufacturers and industrial operators is in decline – a direct result of an aging and evolving workforce and the integration of new generation technologies. This is especially true for utility and industrial power plants.
At the same time, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and evolving technology is transforming operations through deeper visibility, greater connectivity and nearly unlimited potential for productivity improvements. These rapid technology advancements put new demands on the workforce and require new skills – skills not easily found in today’s shrinking labor pool. This means successful power generation operations will need to reconsider information and control methodologies, worker training and technology implementation.
Rockwell Automation CEO Blake Moret recently spoke at the POWER-GEN International show, sharing his take on industry challenges and trends, including the talent shortage the industry is facing. He also highlighted the fact that many power producers face challenges associated with aging infrastructure and outdated equipment, including costly upkeep and unplanned downtime.
Blake shared the Rockwell Automation vision that industrial companies harnessing the power of IIoT can fight these challenges by making their people and processes more efficient. In fact, digitization and modernization solutions go hand-in-hand with workforce efforts by putting the right intelligence in the right place.
Advanced connectivity and technology are providing a higher level of transparency and productivity for power plants. Software-based analytics and dashboards allow for fast interpretation and action – coupled with scalability. By harnessing the right technology in a strategic way, data can be standardized and presented in context to the operators and analysts across a unified HMI, allowing for methodical decisions at the appropriate levels.
As smart technology is implemented, industrial companies need workers with a new set of skills: the ability to interact with advanced industrial control and information equipment. In order to combat the skills gap, the concept of lifelong learning and additional education is crucial to the power generation industry.
Because technology is rapidly changing, industrial companies need to equip employees with skills that remain relevant and valuable. This can be done by using outcome-based education pulled from a multitude of training sources. This might include knowledge transferred from older generations who understand how processes work and can apply them to digital transformation and technology advancements. Other educational resources may include online learning courses, such as Rockwell Automation’s virtual classroom training opportunities.
Smart equipment embedded with Rockwell Automation technology – as well as robust processes and qualified people – result in improved generation for owner operators.
As power producers continue their Digital Transformation and Connected Power Plant journey, the importance of people in this process has never been more crucial. It takes the right talent to identify operational challenges and interpret the data collected from IIoT devices. It takes people throughout the organization – from the enterprise level to trusted partners, like Rockwell Automation, to come together to drive the right technologies forward.