Confident engineer working in the factory

Manufacturing—and the technology that makes it more intelligent—is shaping our future in exciting ways that benefit manufacturers, their employees and customers, and the world at large. Supporting responsible and sustainable manufacturing aligns with Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

We showcased Augmenting human intelligence: The future of intelligent manufacturing at Hannover Messe 2019 with our customers and partners, and how our technologies help manufacturers address the challenges and opportunities facing them today, to achieve better customer, workforce and social outcomes.

But the greatest challenge facing manufacturers is attracting, training, and retaining the first-line workers they need to fuel, power and manufacture a better future. We have been talking for some time now about the growing skills gap in manufacturing. Today, it remains a very real and very vital issue that should concern us all. I can tell you it is top of mind with nearly every CEO I talk to in US manufacturing.

graphs of percentages of findings from e-book

Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute launched their fourth skills gap study last year, with alarming findings. The results show a widening gap between the manufacturing jobs that need to be filled and the skilled talent pool capable of filling them. This gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million unfilled positions between now and 2028, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion. The study also shows that positions relating to digital production and operations might be three times as difficult to fill in the next three years.1

Manufacturing day logo for Microsoft sponsorship

Microsoft is the national partner of MFG Day

Microsoft is proud to announce that as the National Partner of MFG Day, we are providing substantial support for the US’s largest one-day celebration of manufacturing, where manufacturers across the country open their doors for students, parents, and teachers, highlighting the diverse career opportunities in manufacturing. Last year, an estimated 225,000 students improved their attitudes toward manufacturing thanks to MFG Day events. This year we expect 3,000 MFG Day event hosts and nearly 300,000 student participants on October 4th. It’s part of our support for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “Creators Wanted” campaign which aims to significantly reduce the skills gap by 2025 by:

  • Decreasing the number of unfilled jobs by 600,000.
  • Increasing the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools, and in apprenticeships and reskilling programs by 25 percent.
  • Increasing the positive perception of manufacturing by 50 percent among students and parents.

Microsoft is also a manufacturer

But we are not just a technology partner with NAM and our manufacturing customers. We are a manufacturer in our own right. For over 30 years we have been producing peripherals like keyboards and mice, gaming consoles, personal computers, and mixed reality headsets along with other related products. We understand the complexities of a global supply chain and the opportunities of applying our own technology solutions to our own manufacturing operations to help us be more efficient, sustainable, and competitive. The insights we have drawn from our own and our customers’ experiences reveal that we have only scratched the surface of the true impact of technologies such as AI, IoT, Mixed Reality to the manufacturing sector, its workforce, and society more broadly.

The new face of manufacturing

As part of our ongoing focus on addressing the skills gap in manufacturing and workforce transformation more broadly, we are sharing some new insights in our eBook The New Face of Manufacturing: Find, Train, and Keep the Workers You Need. We’ll be sharing many of our learnings, including some of the modernization of HR needed to achieve this workforce transformation. And of course, as the growing skills gap in manufacturing expands to encompass the IoT and AI skills needed to deliver product-as-a-service, effectively making manufacturers software companies, we’ll continue to invest in training tools like IoT School and AI Business School.

Attracting and training the workforce

For example, we know that millennials want exciting careers that reflect their digital lifestyles. So companies like Honeywell and PACCAR are enticing younger workers with cutting-edge technologies such as mixed reality, leveraging immersive training to quickly onboard new workers and transfer knowledge from more seasoned, possibly retiring, staff. This kind of innovative, on-the-job training has meant that staff can be educated much faster, they retain information for longer, and they can execute complex jobs more safely.

Modernizing the workplace for first-line workers

When we look at how we reskill the existing workforce and empower first-line workers, BASF is one of many global customers using Microsoft 365 to connect people and information in modern and intelligent ways. They are also using Microsoft HoloLens, paired with Microsoft Teams, to improve teamwork and streamline complex design and troubleshooting tasks.

Creators wanted to manufacture a better future

These stories should inspire you. They inspire me. They show how manufacturers are using the power of technology to redefine a dynamic work environment. This is the pathway to closing the skills gap and building a stronger, more productive manufacturing era that will strengthen our economy for the long term. In the U.S. alone, manufacturers contributed $2.33 trillion to the economy in the first quarter of 2019. In fact, manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector: for every one worker in manufacturing, there are another four employees hired elsewhere.2

The importance and ripple effect of this cannot be understated.

So, we applaud those organizations who will open their doors this October 4 to help address today’s talent shortage while preparing the future workforce for success.

For more insights on Workforce Transformation, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.


1 2018 Skills Gap in Manufacturing Study, Deloitte, 2018.

2 “Facts about Manufacturing,” National Association of Manufacturers, 2019.

³Deloitte, “A look ahead: How modern manufacturers can create positive perceptions with the US public,” 2017.