More than two years removed, industries throughout the post-pandemic world continue to suffer from a labor hangover. This is especially true for manufacturers struggling to fill positions from a declining pool of resources. And as if this weren’t concerning enough, employees are not only hard to recruit and retain, but the manufacturing skills gap among these workers makes it increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain demand-driven production levels.
These variables, fueled by lingering misconceptions about the industry’s level of sophistication, have converged to create a perfect storm – a labor shortage and manufacturing skills gap a midst rising demand.
The Hard Data
As baby boomers steadily check out of the workforce, younger workers (Millennials and Gen Z) are poised to take their place – sort of. While predicted to make up 30% of total employment by 2030, few of this generation are showing an interest in joining the manufacturing ranks.
Manufacturers have an ongoing challenge to attract young workers, especially those with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills. In a 2021 Industry Week article, CEOs identified “talent recruitment and retention” as their number one concern. Not only were there almost 900,000 job openings in manufacturingin the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, or about 9% of all private openings, but more than 300,000 manufacturing employees quit their jobs each month that summer.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) puts this manufacturing labor shortage into further perspective. The article 2.1 Million Manufacturing Jobs Could Go Unfilled by 2030 references a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM. According to the study, the cost of this skilled labor shortage in the United States alone could total $1 trillion in 2030.
Report highlights include:
· Manufacturers cannoteven fill higher-paying entry-level production positions, let alone find andretain equipment operators and other skilled workers.
· 77% of manufacturers say they expect ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in the years ahead.
· Despite an unemployment rate that has nearly doubled the supply of available workers, attracting the right talent is now 36% harder than it was prior to the pandemic.
Paul Wellener, Deloitte Vice Chairman and U.S. industrial products and construction leader explained that the primary concern among manufacturing executives isrecruiting and holding on to talent.
“Attracting and retaining diverse talent presents both a challenge and solution to bridging the talent gap. To attract a new generation of workers, the industry should work together to change the perception of work in manufacturing and expand and diversify its talent pipeline.”
The Technology Factor
The bottom line is manufacturing has an image problem – at least in the minds of many tech-savvy young workers. While insiders may recognize that the industry has become increasingly sophisticated, this isn’t so obvious to those on the outside who see manufacturing as being manually intensive, highly repetitive, and painfully low-tech. As a result, manufacturing is going head-to-head with construction, supply chain, and other industries that have begun to rebrand themselves through technology.
Today technology not only automates manufacturing tasks, streamlines processes, and drives efficiency, it can also go a long way in changing the perception of the industry and attract workers. Sometimes overlooked is the role that technology can play in closing the manufacturing skills gap and helping retain valuable resources.
Today’s robust production monitoring technology provides real-time insights to optimize processes, boost production, and maximize investments. And these investments extend beyond facilities, capital equipment, and technologies to the workers themselves.
Harnessing the capabilities of (and information provided by) production monitoring software can help you navigate turbulent labor waters. Below are five ways that manufacturing production monitoring can help you to hang on to your best workers and bridge the skills gap.
Real-Time Performance Feedback
With a clear and tangible understanding of expectations and targets, production line laborers can gain instant feedback relative to performance with respect to these targets. This not only provides motivation and self-discipline, but workers can now directly objectively quantify their contribution to the company’s overall goals.
With production monitoring systems, workers can track productivity, identify areas for improvement, and quickly make the necessary adjustments. This real-time feedback empowers workers to take ownership of their work and make data-supported decisions. All of this leads to increased job satisfaction and agreater sense of accomplishment. When employees become truly invested in the organization by taking concrete action toward improvement it’s a win for all involved.
Station 22 is an example of how manufacturers are putting production monitoring data to work. Production Controller, Lina Barbeau, explained that the company leverages Worximity’s production monitoring technology to provide front-line workers with clear and immediate feedback.
“At the start of each shift, supervisors set clear expectations and ensure that operators are aware of their production targets and required speed,” she said. “We use the software to track progress toward these goals. This not only keeps people motivated but also holds them accountable."
Skill Development Opportunities (Upskilling)
Sophisticated production monitoring technologies provide advanced analytics and reporting. This produces the information and opportunity for workers to use these tools for problem-solving and to improve critical thinking.
By analyzing data on individual and team performance, these systems identify skill gaps and indicate training needs. This enables companies to provide targeted training and development opportunities to frontline workers, helping them enhance their skills and competencies, and making them more valuable assets.
Empowering workers with relevant training not only enhances job performance but will boost their confidence, provide job satisfaction, and create an opportunity for advancement. All of this helps to close the manufacturing skill gap while making them less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Enhanced Communication and Collaboration
Production monitoring systems facilitate communication and collaboration among frontline workers and supervisors. Manufacturers often share data gathered by the software at daily meetings and provide the metrics for collaborative decision-making.
Improved communication contributes to higher employee engagement, greater job satisfaction, and retention rates as workers feel connected, supported, and valued within their teams. This is backed up by a Gallup article indicating that employees who are actively engaged are less likely to be seeking new job opportunities. By contrast companies where employees feel less engaged experience turnover rates that are 18% to 43% higher than those with a highly engaged workforce.
Recognition and Incentives
Production monitoring systems allow companies to establish objective performance metrics and benchmarks. By implementing performance-based incentive programs, organizations can reward and recognize frontline workers for their achievements.
Such recognition programs not only motivate workers to excel but also create a sense of fairness and appreciation within the workplace. When employees feel valued and are rewarded for their efforts, they are more likely to remain loyal to the company.
Identify and Address Workload Challenges
Production monitoring systems measure work shift productivity, identify bottlenecks, and detect operational inefficiencies. With exact production metrics, such as throughput, availability, downtime, and production rates, companies can identify and rectify production issues and workload imbalances.
Ensuring manageable workloads reduces burnout, stress, and turnover. Creating a balanced and supportive work environment, production monitoring empowers workers and improves their overall job satisfaction.
Production monitoring software is not only beneficial to the company and its stakeholders but also demonstrates a commitment to technology and to providing workers with the tools and feedback to help them advance their skill set while collecting incentives and rewards.
Today’s labor shortage and manufacturing skills gap is very real– and so is the solution. Automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, production monitoring and other digital technologies are helping tomove the industry into a new light and catch the eye of the upcoming workforce. Moreover, providing invaluable data technology in the form of production monitoring is helping to reshape the industry in many ways.
Leading manufacturers are leveraging production floor data to advance the skills of and motivate workers. This is promoting engagement and spawns new programs, incentives, and opportunities for the company and its employees alike.
Learn more about Worximity and our production monitoring technology here.