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The manufacturing sector is currently experiencing an impressive recovery. While businesses in many industries continue to struggle, thanks largely to the damage wrought by the Great Recession, countless manufacturers are thriving. A key factor contributing to this upswing is a surge in manufacturers' investments in advanced technologies and upgrades. This trend is creating a renewed demand for skilled IT professionals in the sector.
Tech at work
The Seattle Times recently highlighted new technologies' impact on manufacturers by profiling D'Addario, a U.S.-based manufacturer of strings for musical instruments. Speaking to the news source, Rick Drumm, co-president of D'Addario, revealed that the company is 85 percent of the way back to its pre-recession levels.
This is a particularly noteworthy achievement because the manufacturing sector was especially hard-hit by the Great Recession, as Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, told the Seattle Times.
"The general economy fell only 4 percentage points in the recession, but manufacturing fell (almost) 20 percent," he explained, the news source reported.
In total, the manufacturing sector lost more than 2 million jobs between December 2007 and June 2009. Since February 2010, though, the industry has regained 500,000 positions. However, as Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, told the news source, the nature of these jobs has changed, thanks to firms' embracing technology to a high degree.
"We've added 543,000 workers since the end of recession. My gut reaction is many of those people are different than the people they might have replaced," he told the Seattle Times. "Because they are so much more skilled and manufacturing is much more advanced than it used to be, it further serves to increase those productivity gains."
Manufacturers such as D'Addario responded to the difficult market conditions by investing in technology that made them more efficient and cost-effective. Deploying new solutions enabled the company to reduce its need for warehouse space and boost productivity by relying on robotics, new software and automation.
"Manufacturers have learned to be a lot more lean, do a lot more with less," said Moutray, according to the news source.
IT personnel in high demand
As NPR recently reported, this trend has had the effect of reversing a longstanding trend of job loss in the manufacturing sector. Furthermore, the jobs being created are quite well-paying.
One firm, Machine, Inc., has expanded its workforce to 30 percent beyond its pre-recession levels. The company's founder, Richard Mileika, told the news source that he would hire even more workers if he could find sufficiently skilled candidates.
Due to their heavy reliance on advanced technology solutions, manufacturers are now looking to hire IT professionals for tech-related positions, rather than the less-skilled jobs for which manufacturing has traditionally been known.
Consequently, the manufacturing sector offers tremendous opportunities for professionals looking to advance their IT careers. Manufacturers now rely heavily on complex machines and programs in order to optimize their operations and maximize productivity, and these firms need skilled IT workers to guide implementation, oversee maintenance and ensure security standards are upheld at all times.
As Mileika indicated, many of these firms are struggling to find such qualified individuals. IT professionals eager to find work in this sector would therefore likely benefit by partnering with a third-party IT staffing agency, which can connect such organizations with candidates who may otherwise have missed out on invaluable opportunities.