ore fundamentally, manufacturing companies in Sweden have mastered the art of quickly adapting to new technologies, methods and market conditions. This, in turn, has shaped an education system that is geared towards continuous learning and upgrading of skills.
In addition, today’s close-knit cooperation between employers, academia, research institutes and government-funded agencies helps to ensure that companies investing in Sweden can hit the ground the running – with skilled personnel trained for the new jobs of the future.
According to the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index (GMCI), talent is the single most important driver of manufacturing competitiveness. And more than ever before – competiveness means adaptability.
Modern manufacturing is about finding people who can work alongside robots and connected machines in smart factories, plants or mills that rely on a seamless exchange of real-time information. This restructuring of manufacturing processes enables shorter lead times and minimised waste.
A fast-paced global market also requires analytical skills and deep knowledge about software versions, material innovations, the complexity of supply chains and reconfiguration of machines and production lines to meet rapidly changing customer expectations.
As Sweden takes a frontline position in shaping tomorrow’s data-driven production in Europe, the country is becoming a fertile recruitment base for the next generation of tech-savvy engineers. Reputed educational institutes including Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm are increasingly focusing on training analytical operators who use augmented reality and other virtual support tools to perform tasks.
Approximately half of Sweden’s manufacturing jobs are located at large companies with 250 employees or more. Of these companies, many are leading brands in the fields of automotive and truck manufacturing, materials technology, forestry and metals and mining. Some are also at the forefront of advanced automation and fast developing technologies such as 3D printing.
Despite this favourable landscape, leading employers have tackled a recent skills gap by taking special measures to raise the profile of the industrial sector. Specifically, the challenge has been to bring perceptions among young professionals up to speed with today’s transformation.
For example, many machine operators no longer do repetitive tasks in hazardous and tough surroundings, but rather function as supervisors of automated processes working from safe distances, and sometimes even in comfortable “white-collar” office environments. Some of them have highly specialised skills like programming or quality assurance.
This shift is communicated by companies as well as through strategic government initiatives such as “Kunskapslyftet” (The Skills Boost).
Moreover, a key message for attracting and recruiting talented people has emphasised the sharp growth in investments in manufacturing – to promote it as a sector where innovation is taking place and where many new and interesting careers are emerging. Together, these efforts are bearing fruit.
The facts: Sweden’s talent pool
Having a thorough understanding of each process in a production line – or a value chain – is crucial in modern operations. The use of automation in Swedish industry is high which puts considerable demands on data analysis, teamwork and the ability of individuals to quickly step in when problems occur.
For this reason, more and more companies, from Bombardier and Sandvik to Toyota, are adopting work rotation and on the job-training as pathways to competitiveness. Sweden’s culture of flat organisations is also proving conducive to skills development and on the job-training, which results in high-performing and motivated workers.
It is common knowledge in Sweden that companies which invest in their employees stand a better chance of succeeding and building strong leadership.
Here is a summary of why Sweden is the ideal place for talent based manufacturing operations:
- Sweden’s education system is both free and geared towards changing job markets and industry specific programmes
- Close collaboration between industry, academia, unions and government results in tailored competence that is well-matched to company demands
- High-tech work environment focused on innovation: Sweden has the world’s 5th largest installation of industrial robots per 10,000 employees
- Contrary to popular belief, Swedish labour costs are competitive: the total annual cost for a senior engineer is 21 per cent lower than in Germany
- A culture of de-centralised organisations means that employees are used to responsibility and being involved in decision-making
- Many Swedish companies routinely adopt on the job-training and job rotation schemes
- The Swedish government supports a wide range of job training programmes
- Sweden’s manufacturing sector has among the highest job satisfaction rates and lowest number of strikes in Europe