The relationship between service providers and industrial manufacturers, as it relates to project management, has changed significantly in recent years and accelerated with the onset of COVID. Traditionally, when a manufacturer had a project and worked with service companies, they would hire a separate provider for each service they required and separate project managers. Over time though, many businesses have shifted to a 360 singular approach, which means that a provider is expected to offer construction, engineering, IT, and programming all within a single integrated solution under a single project manager, on both the consulting and manufacturers side.

In many ways, this is more convenient and cost-effective than traditional methods, but it also presents more challenges, as modern projects, in a smart factory, increasingly involve new and complex technologies. Granted, these tech innovations offer a wide range of benefits, from job creation to improved efficiency, but most engineers who serve in a project manager role lack a background in AI, automation, and other vital technologies. So the question is, how can manufacturers and service companies help prepare their future project managers for these complex tasks?

The obvious step is to invest in workforce training. Recent studies have shown that millions of workers will require retraining and reskilling as intelligent automation and other technologies are introduced and integrated into the manufacturer’s operations. It is essential that existing team members are given the opportunity to adopt the skills and knowledge necessary to make use of these technologies. Within our team, we strongly encourage both external and internal technical training in order to keep our team educated on new equipment, processes, devices, and technologies within the industry.

Additionally, we need to promote open innovation and diversity of thought throughout our organizations. This can be implemented with multiple methodologies including open source technology and SaaS, critically however leadership must support the collaborative mindset that defines an innovative culture. This is especially true for consultants and their company leadership because your goal as a Project Manager should be to provide enough tech understanding to support the client’s business objectives while maintaining a collaborative approach with the technical team.

However, if we want to see more engineers who can lead complex and tech-heavy projects, we cannot limit training and development to just our existing workers. We also need to be working within higher education in order to create new engineers who holistically understand these essential technologies. We have led this effort, through our collaborations with local high schools and higher education, specifically the University of Cincinnati, where we partner with talented engineering graduates to provide them with real-world experience and in-depth knowledge of the skills and technologies they need to thrive in modern industry. Regardless of how your company engages a partnership with education is going to be critical for your companies success in an Industry 4.0 world.

As we set the stage for our industry’s future leaders, we need to find new ways to learn and lead, providing managers and engineers with the skills and experiences needed to thrive. It won’t be easy, but Automation Plus and the Plus Group are dedicated to the cause, whether it be by nurturing a business culture based around innovation and collaboration, or through supporting meaningful educational experiences for those who are just starting their journey. Through these efforts and more, we position our industry for greater success.

photo of John Glenski
This article was published by Automation’s Plus President, John Glenski. To view the article visit:

Manufacturer and service providers are increasingly expected to implement new technologies in order to keep up with shifting needs, even when engineers and project managers lack familiarity with these technologies. To address this knowledge gap and prepare future managers for the modern industry, companies must support them both internally and externally! DigitalTransformation Leadership Manufacturing