The increasing reliance on technologies — from AI, IoT, augmented reality and robotics — in manufacturing means more companies need to update their training programs. While several higher education institutions have smart manufacturing as part of their industrial engineering programs, the current workforce must have the opportunity to implement new strategies into a company’s current manufacturing process. 

Here is how you can develop a training program that familiarizes your workforce with the skills they need to advance the manufacturing process. There are three parts of program development: creation, implementation and reflection. 


Creating a smart manufacturing course 

When developing your program, create a curriculum that introduces the new technology to participants and helps them begin using it during their daily tasks. You should address the following. 


Augmented reality

As you enter employees into smart manufacturing training, augmented reality can be a fantastic tool to implement for the course and beyond. 

Use it on smartphones and tablets. Create QR codes around your facility that trainees can scan for instruction, task examples and documentation. Experimenting with immersive technology reduces the loss of physical resources and allows employees to safely make mistakes. 


3D printing 

Introduce 3D printing by purchasing at least one machine ahead of time so that engineers can implement it along with their current practices to make the switch. Work with managers to create an instructional guide for various parts that they can adapt over time. 

Unfamiliar employees might not realize how extremely different this process is from a home 3D printer. It’s vital to teach workers about the proper manufacturing use via this printing process. Wearing the right protection and staying vigilant about any potentially combustible materials. 



Investing in a cobot early on is one of the best ways to train employees to work with them. Once at the site, employees can take turns performing tasks with the robot that replicate how they will operate with them at their stations. 

You must emphasize that working with cobots is not a free pass for inattention. The bots can contribute to workplace injury without the due diligence of everyone involved. 


Industrial Internet of Things 

Unlike traditional SCADA systems, IIoT provides insights into the collected data; you can access it from any device thanks to cloud-based computing, not relying on a local network. This makes your operation more flexible and assists in creating new solutions and implementing fresh ideas. 

Contrary to many other Industry 4.0 technologies, it’s best to thoroughly train managers to use it before beginning any IIoT implementation. System providers offer various online resources to help you and your team prepare for the change. Any change in system management is stressful, and it is essential to assure managers that the tech will make it much easier to prepare for audits and identify problems. 


Machine learning 

Product development is one of the top uses for machine learning in manufacturing. Its data analyses provide insightful insights into product creation and improvement. Instead of following human schedules, the AI can determine which machines need improvement and updates, preventing potential disasters. 

While it might seem hands-off, supervised machine learning is one of the most effective ways to improve the process, meaning engineers will need smart manufacturing training on how to input data into the programs and work to create the best solutions. 

Implementing the program 

Once you build out an appropriate curriculum based on the smart manufacturing technologies you plan to incorporate into your process, you can begin training your employees.  

Identifying highest priority members 

It’s unlikely you can train everyone at once. You need a plan that brings team members up to speed in groups to keep your production running. 

The way to form these groupings of trainees is to identify who needs the training most. This could be team members operating the first manufacturing technology you wish to implement. Over time, you can move to an operation immersed in Industry 4.0. 

Another way to classify needs is by which employees will need the most help learning the new technologies. This gives them the time to learn while staying on an efficient schedule. Sometimes, it is helpful to pair tech-savvy team members with less experienced ones who can answer questions when you are not around. They can help struggling members stay safe and confident through the learning process. 


Address any concerns 

One of the largest hurdles you may face when moving forward with an Industry 4.0 training program is not the technology but the resistance of your workforce. 

There is a genuine fear that programming and robotics will replace human jobs, and there is truth to that. When doing what’s best for your operation, you might find that you don’t always need someone to man a station. Experts predict that automation will replace around 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030.

The good news for everyone is that with the right planning, new jobs will replace the ones lost to technology. Humans will always need to approve designs, analyze data and supervise that machines are functioning effectively. 

Assure your workers are valued and that the training will provide everyone with the skills to advance in the industry. 


Offer soft skills training

Developing your employees’ soft skills allows them to best prepare for whatever career direction they choose to follow as smart manufacturing evolves. Creativity, communication skills, empathy and leadership are all skills that team members need for Industry 4.0 and other careers they may pursue. 

By providing trainings on these skills, you show commitment to your workforce’s future. 


Start the program 

Once your team is informed and the training elements are in place, you can begin your course. Set a start date for your first round of training, provide a schedule to each member and be available to guide and answer questions. 


Reflecting on your curriculum

Throughout your course, you should examine what is working and what needs improvement. A curriculum rarely stays the same from implementation to completion, and by adapting throughout the training process, you can achieve the best results. 

Speak with members as they complete their program about what they liked and disliked about the process so you can analyze problems and create appropriate solutions. 


Developing a smart manufacturing course 

Through learning, acquisition and planning, you can create a smart manufacturing program that works for each team member. Once the program is satisfying, you can use similar techniques to improve your processes as the world advances toward Industry 5.0.