110216-collaborativeHow does a 105-year old company that manufactures home appliances attract the most innovative young minds for the next generation of the workforce?

If you ask Mae Zyjewski of Whirlpool Corporation’s Advanced Manufacturing team, a good place to start is by focusing on the future.

“When we look at what’s happening with the evolution of technology, the changing perceptions of manufacturing are helping it becoming a more appealing place to work than ever before,” Zyjewski says.

Walking into one of Whirlpool Corporation’s global manufacturing facilities, a visitor may be able to witness a collaborative robot working alongside an operator. The robot may be programmed to replace repetitive tasks like placing a motor into a unit, therefore reducing ergonomic challenges and simplifying mundane tasks.

This “manufacturing plant of the future” is part of a larger trend of Industry 4.0, a term used to describe the how the digital revolution and the industrial revolution come together to make products more efficiently. With more than 40 manufacturing facilities around the world, Whirlpool Corporation has identified two manufacturing sites to become model facilities to test future technologies, one in Cleveland, Tenn., and the other in Poprad, Slovakia.

Just as the need for technology evolves, there is also an emerging need for companies to attract and retain top talent needed to stay ahead of the competition. Along with skilled trade workers and operators, there is also a growing need for innovative employees who understand data science, technology and advances in digital systems.

This summer a team from the University of Michigan Tauber Institute was given a challenge to use smart technologies on the assembly line. Within weeks, the team had programmed a robot to shoot screws into a unit on a moving assembly line using technology and collaborative robots. The results were so promising that one of the students was offered a full-time position with the company. She will begin working at Whirlpool in January.

“As we continue to innovate the spaces of manufacturing and production, we will need to keep focus on bringing in top talent to help us focus on the future of global manufacturing,” Zyjewski says.