Epicor: Engaging Generation Z
As some businesses struggle to recruit the requisite volume of skilled workers, particularly in the US across industries like manufacturing and construction, the push towards Industry 4.0 is in acute danger of being derailed.
However, a number of industry experts have recently pointed out that the vast swathes of millennials, and now members of Generation Z, that will soon make up the bulk of the workforce will also bring fresh ideas, skills and a desire to dedicate themselves to their chosen company’s mission statement – not to mention a willingness to exercise any opportunity to enhance their personal growth.
But is it that straightforward? Are organizations equipped to deal with the expectations of this burgeoning workforce? What potential hurdles sit in front of businesses who want to recruit from this group? Are businesses technologically savvy enough to deliver a working environment that will appeal to these younger generations?
Finding the right people
Epicor is a business that prides itself on being able to determine target markets and buyers for its software solutions. As a business, its central mission is to build products designed to help its customers achieve their aims across manufacturing, retail, distribution and services. The company has been around since 1972 and now employs over 3,900 people. As a global business serving markets across 150 countries from its base in Austin, Texas, it’s essential to be on top of recruitment to ensure the company maintains a skillset that moves with the times and combats any gaps caused by technology transformation.
As such, SVP of Product Marketing Scott Hays is well positioned to comment on the push to recruit younger generations into some of the aforementioned industries. So, why are we seeing such a drive towards recruiting these younger generations of workers? “Every business runs on people. As much automation as we are putting into certain industries, there is still a demand for people,” says Hays. “While some things are changing – population curves, attitudes on entering the workplace and length of time spent at university – the demand for people continues. That’s the same for old and new businesses alike.”
Given Epicor’s rich heritage in the manufacturing industry, Hays uses this as a platform to demonstrate just why the demand for young skilled workers is so high. “This generation of young workers have grown up in a time where they were able to make things. Have you heard the term, ‘a maker’s approach’? Here in the US we are empowering our young people in school. Nowadays they are taught things like robotics and coding. They have a 3D printer or they’re using a CAD system. At a school level it’s relatively simple. There’s a real sense of ‘I can make stuff’ and this applies to the manufacturing world. There’s a strong affinity there between what these kids grow up with and the working world they’re entering.”
It’s certainly true that a few years ago these young people wouldn’t be entering a world of work already equipped with an ingrained skill set. The expectation then would have been to honor an apprenticeship before serving a lifetime dedicated to a craft. However, technology has changed that landscape drastically and has given these young workers early access into the demands of their chosen industry.
Expectations and demands
As these younger generations enter the global workforce there’ll be a tangible culture and time gap between current and older hires but the key, Hays feels, will be to create roles within an organization for recruits who are willing to engage with the business. The dialogue will be different too. “The word ‘engage’ is crucial. It’s no longer just a case of ‘apply and hire’ anymore. Millennials and younger generations want to be able to say, ‘I’m joining your purpose, I believe in you and I can contribute’, rather than just ‘what’s the job and what’s the salary?’”. As far as Hays is concerned, affinity and resonance will be primary drivers for recruitment going forward.
Crucially, technology will also play its part: “I think I would summarize the expectations around technology as being centered on this idea of ‘ease of access’. If you think about the younger generation’s experience of engaging with other people, it’s much more asynchronous but it’s 24/7. Let’s use texting as an example. The nature of texting is such that it says ‘at this moment I have 30 seconds and I can move this conversation on by sending a text’, and that’s become an expectation for all their relationships now. It’s the same for their relationship with a company, its processes and its data,” he says.
“Essentially they’re used to being more mobile. They can take one piece of important work and break it down into smaller elements. To them a piece of work can be moved forward without needing to be sat in front of a computer for hours. I think that will be an expectation going forward too. I also think it’s one driven by a culture of constantly dealing with smartphones and cloud technology. They’re always ‘on’,” he adds.
It’s accepted that this vibrant, younger workforce will be entering the job market as tech savvy individuals, but despite the huge advantages this brings are there any downsides? “There are two danger areas here,” says Hays.
“Firstly, I think there’ll be an expectation of transparency and openness but that won’t always be the case in business. There are very valid reasons why some businesses protect certain areas of what they do,” he continues. “Secondly, there’s a real risk of overreaching and oversharing. There’s this idea they can make something and if it doesn’t work, they’ll delete it and start again. There’s a real willingness to take risks, but in business these risks aren’t always appropriate.”
By way of caveating these concerns, however, Hays concludes that these ‘danger areas’ can certainly be overcome and, more to the point, he believes businesses should help rather than smother these aspects of younger workers. “We shouldn’t shut down these ideas but maybe we should put some guardrails on the approach. We really need to tap into ideas that are driven by fearlessness and innovation.”
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.