Gen X’s Role in Modernizing Manufacturing in 2024 

Gen X’s Role in Modernizing Manufacturing in 2024 

Many professionals belonging to the Gen X category have risen to prominent leadership roles despite being referred to as the ‘Forgotten Generation.’

Born in the mid-1960s to early 1980s, these individuals bring their unique skills and experiences to many sectors worldwide. Among these industries, Gen X has served a major role in modernizing the manufacturing field we know today.

 

Manufacturing in the Contemporary Era 

The manufacturing industry has changed a lot in recent decades. New technologies have transformed factories and allowed companies to produce goods more efficiently. Modern tools like artificial intelligence are used to finish repetitive tasks on assembly lines and sophisticated computer programs are utilized in company processes.

As any professional can observe, technological advancements form the backbone of manufacturing in 2024 and beyond. Industry 4.0 technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, are seamlessly integrated into organizational procedures. Automation and robotics have become essential elements of any manufacturing company.

Read More: The Manufacturing Comeback – BLS Says the Industry is Peaking Again After 3 Decades 

 

The Demands of the Digital Age

The manufacturing industry faces pressing demands to adhere to the digital transformation of its operations. This is in the face of innovations like automation, connectivity, customization, sustainability, and cybersecurity. If not done, companies risk falling behind in a rapidly evolving market.

Both employees and employers are expected to leverage the latest tech tools to keep up with consumers’ growing demands. This leads to the necessity of upskilling workforces to handle data analysis, technology use, and other human-machine collaboration.

Read More: Job Spotlight – Manufacturing is Thriving 

Moreover, the shift towards digital platforms has created threats related to cybersecurity. Reports show that the manufacturing industry is one of the most targeted cybercrime sectors worldwide. In 2022, 250 data violation incidents impacted around 23.9 million users in the United States.¹ This proves that companies must commit to and not just adapt to technology use in the digital age.

 

Gen X Leading Innovation 

As Baby Boomers gradually exit leadership roles, the success of the manufacturing industry now falls into the hands of Generation X.

Born at the intersection of traditional manufacturing practices and the digital age, Gen X leaders bring a unique perspective that bridges the gap between legacy processes and cutting-edge technologies. Thanks to their hands-on experiences and established expertise, Gen X is positioned to successfully pioneer innovative changes in the manufacturing field.

Among their many contributions and transformative potential, the following are the profound impacts Generation X has made in reshaping the manufacturing industry.

 

Strategies and Priorities

Generation X leaders are not just passive observers in the manufacturing narrative. Instead, they have been architects of strategic shifts that redefine strategies and priorities in the current manufacturing industry.

Other than being forgotten, Gen X is also well-known as the Latchkey generation. This stems from children coming home to locked houses since their parental figures were still at work. This unique upbringing has left a lasting impact on Generation X, fostering independence and adaptability. Many of them grew up valuing and prioritizing self-sufficiency and resilience.

As adults, their prioritization for independence has been reflected in the concepts they’ve popularized in the manufacturing industry. Some of them include:

 

Hyper-Collaboration 

This strategy refers to cross-functional team structures and advanced digital platforms that enable real-time communication across departments. It also supports information sharing between employees regardless of their roles and locations.

Gen X leaders promote this to speed up decision-making, spur creativity, and facilitate data-driven improvements company-wide.

For example, platforms like workplace wikis, forums, and productivity software with remote access and editing allow manufacturing teams to collaborate flexibly on priorities. It frees professionals from the bounds of differing geography or schedules.

In the long run, this benefits employees by tapping collective intelligence while reducing duplicated efforts. Hyper-collaboration makes companies more efficient, making it essential for shaping the future of work.

 

Remote Work Arrangements 

One of the more famous concepts popularized by Gen X is the idea of working from the comfort of your home. Of course, this doesn’t mean taking home manufacturing supplies by the dozen. Remote work arrangements in manufacturing often involve telecommunication tasks, virtual shifts, and remote operation of automated machines.

With this working arrangement, Gen X leaders show inclusivity among their employees’ needs. It also attracts younger employees who are more accustomed to location agility as it reduces commutes and maximizes asset utilization.

Aside from working wherever you want, this strategy also results in another ideology Gen X individuals hold dear: work-life balance. Employees who digitally control certain manufacturing functions from home can practice autonomy while strategically managing their schedules and responsibilities.

Read More: Boosting Your Remote Team’s Morale & Engagement 

 

Flex Time 

Since Gen X values their autonomy, they have created the concept of flex time. This strategy enables individuals to tailor their work schedules to better align with personal obligations.

Consider this: traditional schedules would mandate an employee to work from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. Flex time, on the other hand, allows an employee to work when they prefer. An employee might work at 10:30 am today but 11:00 am tomorrow. The only rule is that they still finish their responsibilities by working the required weekly hours.

In the manufacturing sector, where operational demands may vary, flex time allows for more optimized workforce management. It ensures that critical tasks are addressed efficiently while accommodating employees’ diverse needs.

This flexibility fosters a positive work environment and contributes to heightened employee morale and loyalty.

 

Technological Advancements

From additive manufacturing to the Industrial Internet of Things, members of Generation X have been at the forefront of driving technology innovations across today’s manufacturing landscape.

With their blend of digital-age savvy and hands-on production experience, Gen X manufacturing leaders are pioneering impactful new tech integrations that revolutionize efficiency, quality control processes, and more.

Aside from new tech tools, Gen X leaders also champion agile development methodologies to rapidly prototype and deploy cutting-edge production tools. They put in the effort to leverage augmented reality, collaborative robotics, and 3D printing techniques in innovative combinations tailored for various manufacturing use cases.

By thoughtfully digitizing assets, workflows, and workforce skillsets in progressive steps, Gen X manufacturing trailblazers are positioning manufacturing companies to thrive through the technological changes actively shaping the competitive landscape.

 

Leadership Approaches

Other than technological innovations and concepts, Gen X manufacturing leaders have brought approaches different from those of the generation they preceded. They use the following four leadership tactics to improve efficiency, agility, and team collaboration.

 

Participative Leadership 

Generation X leaders embrace a participative leadership model that transcends traditional hierarchies. This inclusive approach involves employees at all levels in major decision-making processes and planning. Leaders use mechanisms like crowdsourcing input, collective priority setting, and empowering teams to develop solutions tailored to their unique insights.

This leadership tactic boosts engagement and instills a sense of ownership in the workforce. By recognizing the value of diverse perspectives and involving employees closely tied to operational challenges, Generation X leaders create a culture of collaboration that enhances problem-solving and innovation.

 

Transparent Communications 

Transparent communication is a cornerstone of Gen X leadership in manufacturing. These leaders prioritize clear, consistent messaging across various platforms such as town halls, wikis, chat platforms, and weekly team emails.

By sharing information early and often, Gen X leaders build an environment of trust and accessibility. This approach ensures a collaborative decision-making process, clearly explaining each action’s reasons.

Moreover, transparent communication between team members facilitates alignment throughout the organizational structure. It helps employees and stakeholders create goals that coincide with your company’s overall goal.

 

Cross-Functional Team Collaborations 

Gen X manufacturing leaders actively demolish silos by fostering cross-functional team collaborations. They believe that collaborative work equates to the ability to reach out and ask for help. `

Matrixed groups and rotating assignments bring together professionals from diverse areas like engineering, production, finance, maintenance, quality assurance, and safety. These cross-functional teams, often called “special forces,” are chartered to tackle priority challenges, drive innovations, and enhance processes.

By integrating expertise from different domains, Gen X leaders create a synergy that leads to integrated perspectives and an overall collaborative environment where ideas flow seamlessly across departments.

 

Goal Setting and Mentoring 

Strategic direction cascades into specific manufacturing KPIs, clarifying how all roles roll up to big-picture success. Active mentoring trains employees on technologies, while coaching transfers operational wisdom. Paired support accelerates growth for both seasoned staff and the next generation.

Gen X leaders are usually self-motivated individuals. This trait is grounded in a belief that what they’re accomplishing is all connected to their broader goals in life. Because of these, they prioritize goal setting and mentoring within their teams.

First, they identify their organization’s goals. They recognize individual aspirations and professional objectives as excellent sources of motivation.

Second, leaders align employee goals with the bigger picture. They help manufacturing staff see how their contributions, growth opportunities, and rewards all factor into the organization’s vision and targets. Cultivating intrinsic drivers via autonomy, mastery, and purpose empowers the workforce.

Finally, Gen X managers actively mentor their teams – imparting technological knowledge, operational insights, and life lessons to accelerate capability building. By sponsoring progress, they multiply manufacturing excellence.

 

DAVIS COMPANIES CAN HELP YOU CONNECT WITH THE BEST GEN X EMPLOYEES AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN MANUFACTURING

Amidst the manufacturing industry’s digital transformation, Gen X professionals are vital drivers of innovation. Whether you’re an employer in search of top candidates or a Gen X professional navigating your career, DAVIS Companies is here to assist.

With expertise in advanced manufacturing staffing and recruiting services since 1985, we specialize in forging connections between highly skilled professionals and forward-thinking companies, ensuring businesses find the right talent to thrive. Elevate your team or future-proof your business – contact us today!

 

Reference 

1 Statista. “Annual Number of Individuals Impacted by Data Compromises in the Manufacturing and Utilities Industry in the United States from 2020 to 2022.” Statista, 13 Jan. 2023, www.statista.com/statistics/1367271/us-annual-number-of-people-affected-data-compromises-in-manufacturing/.

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