Digital Transformation Needs Digital Skills

Digital Transformation Needs Digital Skills
By Joe Bush

During the Smart Factory Expo 2022, Rolls-Royce’s Chief of Digital Manufacturing, Rashitha Jayasekara, shared insights on the use of data in the company’s manufacturing processes and the reasons behind government funding support. There is a significant potential for leveraging data in manufacturing to address inefficiencies, such as the growing skills gap, cost reduction, and digital transformation, particularly in the current economic climate. Rashitha discussed these opportunities and provided practical guidelines on how to establish operating models that yield quick returns on investment, particularly in the areas of recruitment, training, and accessing the necessary funding. The Manufacturer interviewed Rashitha at the Smart Factory Expo to learn more.

Could you provide some context about your presentation at Smart Factory Expo?

My talk focused on the issue of the digital skills gap within the manufacturing industry and how Rolls-Royce is proactively addressing this challenge. We are investing in reskilling our existing workforce, with the help of government funding and the Apprenticeship Levy, to ensure they are equipped with the digital skills required for the next level of transformation within the industry.

To achieve this, we have partnered with a tech start-up called Multiverse, which provides digital apprenticeships and a data-led approach to identifying skills gaps. By combining the data from Multiverse’s skills survey with our traditional skills planning information, we have a more comprehensive understanding of where to deploy skills to have the maximum impact.

At Rolls-Royce, we have been working on smart factory and digital manufacturing capabilities for the last 20 years, but the skills gap remains a major barrier. Our engineers already possess strong domain knowledge, but they require additional skills in areas like computer science to operate effectively in a digital environment.

Through our collaboration with Multiverse and government funding, we are working to bridge this gap and equip our workforce with the necessary digital skills to drive our business forward.

Why reskill rather than recruit?

It’s important to both reskill and recruit, and we’re currently doing both. However, there’s currently a shortage of digitally skilled individuals in manufacturing, so we need to reskill our current employees to bridge the gap. We also need the perspective of individuals from outside the manufacturing sector, but they typically lack the domain knowledge and mathematical skills necessary to solve complex problems. While we need disruptors to bring fresh perspectives, we can’t rely solely on buying in resources. Therefore, the majority of our future digital capability will come from reskilling our current workforce.

What does the current recruitment landscape look like?

Digital skills are valuable because they can be applied across various industries, which means they are in great demand. People who have advanced digital skills in manufacturing can easily switch to other sectors and quickly learn and excel in them. However, this poses a challenge for the manufacturing industry to attract such individuals.

Although we have several job openings for digital manufacturing positions, including the chief of digital manufacturing role, we are struggling to fill them. This is unfortunate because digital skills can help us develop new products and services that were previously impossible, leading to additional revenue streams.

In addition, digital skills can make us more productive and efficient, leading to better performance overall. But perhaps most importantly, it enables us to make significant progress in areas such as sustainability. By using digital technologies, we can gain a better understanding of what our sustainable action plan should entail and how to put it into action.

What financial help is available?

We are fortunate to have established strong connections with government initiatives, such as apprenticeships, through the Rolls-Royce Apprenticeship Academy. Therefore, we have access to the infrastructure and administration needed for these programs.

If someone is not aware of the government initiatives or apprenticeship programs, I would recommend connecting with the government if there is an existing relationship or reaching out to apprenticeship organizations to learn about funding opportunities. It’s important to investigate whether you are eligible for funding because it can help you scale your digital transformation programmed from a skills perspective, without incurring additional costs.

Investing time in skill development is crucial, and fortunately, we have been able to do that for individuals in this area. We provide them with the opportunity to develop their skills, and then they can immediately apply those skills to create more efficiency and benefits for the organization.