The ‘factory of the future’ will require massive investments in skills and data

I contributed — as a subcontractor to Lundberg Media — to a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services about the deployment of technology and data to front-line workers in the manufacturing sector (“The Factory of the Future: Manufacturers Invest in Data and Skills to Achieve Efficiency Goals,” free PDF to download).

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In a recent survey, 78% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “To be successful in the future, our organization must connect and empower its [front-line] workers with technology and information.” In the manufacturing sector, those workers are what one IT leader called “the deskless people.” They include the salespeople who deal directly with the customer; the employees operating machinery, making products, and keeping the processes running on the factory floor; and technicians out in the field servicing the manufacturer’s equipment at the customer site.

But the barriers to implementing this vision of automation — whether that’s mobile apps or augmented reality, for example — are many: the cost of deploying digital technologies to a broader employee base; a lack of effective change management and adoption processes; and a lack of workforce skills. Current workers need retraining. And they need secure, integrated, and trustworthy data to make decisions.

Pundits say the future of manufacturing involves more robots, sensors and mixed reality. But that will only happen if there’s a massive, comprehensive investment in technology, data and skills.

 

Hiring managers discriminate against the long-term unemployed

“Employers statistically discriminate against workers with longer unemployment durations,” according to a labor-market study reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The researchers sent fake résumés to 3,000 real, online job postings — noting the length of unemployment on the résumé — and then tracked the “callbacks” from employers. “The likelihood of receiving a callback for a job interview sharply declines with unemployment duration,” the NBER reported in its March 2013 Digest.

The effect is most pronounced in the first eight months after becoming unemployed, according to the study (NBER Working Paper No. 18387) by Kory Kroft, Fabian Lange and Matthew Notowidigo.

Five political surprises for 2011

The Washington Post asked several political pundits: “What will be the biggest political surprise of 2011?” Here are some of the wild cards of U.S. politics this year:

  • Public-sector labor strikes and demonstrations as state/local governments cut budgets. “The same kind of protests that have rocked Paris, London and Rome could erupt in California, New York and Illinois.”
  • Efforts to repeal the big health care reform legislation will have the unintended effect of educating the public about the good things in it.
  • The consensus that marked the lame-duck congressional session will continue in the new year (e.g., the DREAM immigration act could be passed).
  • The emergence of a potentially serious third-party candidate for president in 2012.
  • President Obama will definitely end the war in Afghanistan, while Republicans will have the unpopular position of supporting open-ended commitment.

The future of unemployment

It’s not looking good, especially for the next few years. A recent poll of economists found that, on average, they don’t expect the U.S. unemployment rate to fall below 6% until 2013. (The unemployment rate at this writing is 9.8%.)

“Never before has business shed so many workers so fast, so many people failed to find work who are looking for work, and so many dropped out of the labor force as in the current circumstance,” said Allen Sinai at Decision Economics. Continue reading “The future of unemployment”

The next 100 years in geopolitical affairs

George Friedman — founder & CEO of the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor — has a new book coming out Jan. 27: “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.” Now Friedman acknowledges that forecasting 100 years into the future may seem audacious, “but, as I hope you will see, it is a rational, feasible process, and it is hardly frivolous.”

“In this book, I am trying to transmit a sense of the future. I will, of course, get many details wrong. But The Next 100 Yearsthe goal is to identify the major tendencies — geopolitical, technological, demographic, cultural, military — in their broadest sense, and to define the major events that might take place.”

I stumbled across this news at “John Mauldin’s Outside the Box” blog. Maudlin hints that the book can be hard to believe in places, but ultimately he calls it fascinating and thought-provoking.  “George’s strength is his ability to take geopolitical patterns and use them to forecast future events, sometimes with startling and counter-intuitive results,” Maudlin says.

For example, Maudlin notes that Friedman’s book forecasts the following:

  • By the middle of this century, Poland and Turkey will be major international players
  • Russia will be a regional power — after emerging from a second cold war
  • Space-based solar power will completely change the global energy dynamic
  • The border areas between the U.S. and Mexico are going to be in play again
  • Shrinking labor pools will cause countries to compete for immigrants rather than fighting to keep them out

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Related: Anticipating wild cards in world affairs
Twitter: RT @mitchbetts Preview of George Friedman’s new book “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.” http://bit.ly/c8QX