• Brass-Tacks
  • Manufacturing in North Dakota: Part 3 - Tomorrow

    GNDC understands the importance of manufacturing to the state's economy. The primary sector industry accounts for 6.71% of the Gross State Product. Much of the nation has experienced a manufacturing recession over the past 20 years; however, North Dakota has seen growth and expansion within the industry due to strong market growth and automation opportunities. To celebrate manufacturing week, GNDC will further examine the industry in a three-part mini-series: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  

    The future of manufacturing relies on skilled technicians

    Manufacturing has faced stigma for many years. Gone are the days of greasy dirty factories with bleak, harsh conditions for glum workers doing repetitive tasks, waiting for the whistle to punch a clock. Now those employed are skilled technicians, creators, and innovators who operate sophisticated machines to ensure quality products are made. Their outputs continue to improve the quality of American lives and their products make their way to the world market.
    Manufactures employ 25,830 North Dakotans and have added 1,330 jobs since 2017. These jobs are high quality high paying jobs with an average salary of $62,543 compared to the state’s average of $47,648. As the industry continues to modernize, North Dakota will see changes that ensure economic diversity for the state and create opportunities for a workforce that rewards skilled individuals.
    The biggest impact on the workforce will be the use of technology and automation. In a global economy where manufacturers must do more with less, driven by many factors including the lack of workforce, manufacturers must automate certain processes. Currently, North Dakota boasts a 2.6% unemployment rate when the national unemployment rate isn’t far behind at 3.7% creating a tight labor market. This is likely the number one issue facing growth in the industry. 

    While there has been an implication about automation creating conflict for humans/workers to compete for jobs with robots, adding automation benefits employees creating an opportunity for skill development and utilization of assets that cannot be generated by robots.

    “This technological shift is moving manufacturers rapidly towards jobs that require irreplaceable human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, design, innovation, engineering, and finance,“ states Chad Moutray, Director of The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research. “Machines need workers to program, operate and maintain them, and today automation often works alongside workers, especially in the performance of monotonous tasks, which helps free workers to shift their focus to more interesting ones.”  
    Technology isn’t a threat to our workers but rather a conduit to help them do their jobs more effectively. As a byproduct technology is creating better paying jobs and creating safer work environments. Automation is one of the keys to changing the stigma associated with the “factory worker.”  In some circles, this shift is being classified as the fourth industrial revolution.
    GNDC applauds those manufacturers who open their doors to cast light on their operations, to encourage parents and students to see the opportunities within the industry and are telling their story. This is an industry that has shaped our country through innovation and stability and will continue to reward those involved. If you are interested in connecting with a manufacturer in your area to discuss innovations in their operations, connect with matt@ndchamber.com.  

    Photo credit to Getty Images.