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4 things you can do about the manufacturing labor shortage

Despite job openings growing at record rates, manufacturers are struggling to find and hire new talent. As more and more blue-collar workers advance towards retirement, this lack of talent poses a threat that enterprise leaders cannot ignore.

Finding creative solutions to manage labor hours and drive value is the main focus of manufacturers in the foreseeable future. But, to understand how to create a solution, you first need to know how and why there is a growing demand for labor that is being left vacant.

Why is there a problem?

Over the last few years, a recent trend is fewer working Americans enter into the blue-collar workforce and more opting for college and obtaining a professional degree. Pair this with the fact that nearly 27% of the entire manufacturing workforce is set to retire in the next 10 years, and you’ve got yourself a drought of talent that has left companies scrambling. 

With such large numbers of workers set to retire soon, enterprises are wondering what they’re going to do as these workers take their specialized skills and industry knowledge with them.

Additionally, manufacturers have to go up against the stigma and branding problem that has plagued blue-collar jobs for years. While there is a demand for labor, people aren’t exactly running to enter the industry. Many parents are now encouraging their children to go on to college, with only 1 out of 3 parents saying they would encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Manufacturers need to find a way to show that the industry provides a good, stable job and desirable pay to overcome the barriers in front of them.

So, how can companies mitigate this talent shortage and find a solution to their growing problem?

Below are 4 strategies organizatons should implement to better find, hire, and retain workers within the blue-collar industry. 

1. Utilize AI and machine learning. 

As your team worked and grew in their roles, they built up a knowledge base that enabled them to make quick, complex decisions if necessary. In situations where you can rely on these individuals to work for your organization for an extended period of time, you can lean on this knowledge to run your operations smoothly.

What happens, though, when these individuals retire or leave your enterprise?

With a large number of individuals with experience in manufacturing planning on retiring in the near future, it isn’t logical to rely on this human resource until it runs dry.

Instead, enterprises need to research and invest in technology that can learn and grow alongside their operations. Machine learning and AI provide a safety net to manufacturers as they struggle to find and retain employees. These technologies have the capability and potential to support your business functions and operate as a tenured employee might.

This means you can place less of a strain on your existing employees, and you can free up labor time for your staff. It won’t be a cut-and-dry solution, as some level of human involvement will always be necessary. But, it will give you a moment to breathe amidst this hectic hiring market.

2. Invest in automation.

It’s clear that technology offers a lifeline to manufacturers struggling with the labor shortage. The efficiencies provided through intelligent tech support mean you can reduce the strain on your team, giving you some breathing room while you determine your strategy moving forward.

That’s why it's crucial for enterprises to seek out and invest in tech with automation capabilities. The benefit is a double win: not only will you reduce labor time, but you’ll also broaden the scope of work your team can perform.

In manufacturing, material movement is unavoidable. With that often comes waste. For years now, enterprises have busied themselves with finding ways to reduce this waste while standardizing their processes.

When companies invest in automation tech, they can reduce the amount of manual transportation within their factories and lines. With an automated system, you can reduce the likelihood of error, free up your human labor, and save time in your manual processes.

3. Make decisions using real-time data.

In too many scenarios, enterprises make decisions without having access to the metrics and data they need to be informed. Flying blind like that can lead to many troubles with recruiting top talent and ensuring you’re making the right choices for your company.

In the midst of a tight labor market and an unprecedented environment like this, manufacturers especially need to collect and evaluate the right data. This involves investing in or implementing a system that provides consistent and easily accessible data in one centralized location. Ensuring your team has access to real-time information will help your employees to visualize performance and focus on making decisions that will positively impact your organization.

4. Find a more diverse workforce.

Historically, the manufacturing industry has been dominated by white males. As the working population shifts towards a more inclusive and diverse group that spans all races and genders, there might be an issue of a growing information gap that exists in society.

What does this mean?

There may be a lack of education on what a career in manufacturing looks like, as well as job opportunities. This can lead groups that do not have experience working in the industry to look elsewhere or be overlooked as recruiters search for talent.

Manufacturers need to adapt to the changing times and work to recruit and market to these more diverse groups of workers. Expanding your talent pool and attracting talent will take a proactive and concentrated approach to reach the populations you’d previously overlooked.

Manufacturers can also make a career in the industry more appealing by creating and implementing flexible work environments. Try strategies like flexible work schedules to accommodate a stronger work/life balance and invest in career development opportunities to show job seekers that a job in manufacturing is not only stable but one that can lead to a well-paying career.

Long story short, labor is in short supply. Luckily, numerous innovative solutions on the market are proven to help support manufacturers during this trying time. While these solutions might require you to tweak your approach and process, the time and resources saved with implementing these measures cannot be overstated. 

The future of the labor shortage is uncertain, with many experts predicting it will impact the industry for a long time to come. Companies need to get on the train before it is too late to capture the knowledge and expertise their tenured employees leave. Tradeshift can help you to get started embracing and implementing a digital approach to your operations. Simply reach out to our team for a free demo to get started.

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