what will a production worker do in 2030?

Patrick Slaets is a chief data analyst with technology federation Agoria and involved in the study Shaping the Future of Work. ‘The future of production workers will require them to act, but to think as well.’

‘Production workers will need more competencies in 2030 than they do today. Robots will take care of repetitive tasks, but the thinking will still be up to us. It will be up to the worker, and it will be more demanding than today as a result of the increasing digitisation in the workplace.’


feedback from the operator

For example: ‘A worker in a metal processing company is working with high tech machines. Those are operated with a computer or a tablet; devices that inform the worker about the performance of the machinery.’

If engineers and designers want to improve those machines further over the coming years, they need feedback from the operators working with those machines on a daily basis. ‘Communication will become a hugely important competence for production workers. They won’t need to be AI experts, but they will have to understand how the technology they are collaborating with works.’


‘in spite of digitisation, the human brain will be the most important asset in the workplace.’

Patrick Slaets is confident that the factory floor will not miss this boat. ‘Employers and the government understand the importance of lifelong learning. Those graduating from school are ready to start their careers but they are not set for their entire professional lives. Everyone will have to continue learning throughout their life. ‘In spite of the progressing automation and digitisation, the human brain will be the most important asset in the workplace.’


 ‘Continuous learning needs to be compensated: flexibility, workable work...’

cobots help seniors

‘Pure assembly line work might be the exception to this rule. Assembly line machines have become digital IKEA packages. No educated workers are required here. They do allow newcomers to enter the job market because mastery of the Dutch language is not paramount. In addition, less physical manpower is required. Cobots (collaborative robot) can help with the installation, which makes this type of job suitable for women and seniors.’


workable work

‘But we are all basically in the same boat: digital skills will become paramount. Tablets and apps allow you to stay up-to-date, to continue learning. This attitude is already showing itself, though there is still room to improve our productivity. Especially compared to Scandinavia or the Anglo-Saxon world.’

But this should be compensated, Patrick Slaets believes.

‘Flexibility, both for employees and employers. Human-oriented labour, workable work, the ability to perform your tasks at your own pace.’