The Labor Shortage in Manufacturing: How to Make Your Plant More Attractive to Workers

Brian Sharp
CEO at Time Doctor

When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached the U.S. in the spring of 2020, it disrupted businesses, forcing many people out of employment. While some employees could work remotely, many roles didn’t accommodate work-from-home arrangements. To cushion its citizens from the hardships of being out of work, the U.S. government established the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act. This move played a role in shaping the future of work—for many people, the financial benefits extended well into 2021. Stimulus checks and additional unemployment assistance helped many families and individuals in need during shutdowns, but many employers faced labor shortages even after businesses were back up and running.

Statistics show that in the spring of 2021, there were a record-breaking 9.3 million job openings that businesses across the U.S. could not seem to fill. Businesses everywhere are desperately looking for workers, as there seems to be a mismatch between labor supply and demand. While the issue is not isolated to one industry, manufacturing has been one of the hardest hit. Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell when the labor shortages will come to an end. 

If companies don't take measures to address the situation, it’s predicted that they could face the worst shortage in five decades. As a result, manufacturers are being forced to rethink their labor strategies to proactively tackle this critical impact on their businesses. Let’s take a closer look at how technology can help drive some of these strategies.

What Manufacturers Can Do to Attract Workers

Employees all over the world use technology, both at home and in the work environment. It helps them accomplish their roles by exposing them to quicker, better ways of doing things. By embracing modern advancements in technology, your manufacturing company can gain a competitive edge over others when it comes to attracting talent. Yet, it’s not enough to just talk the talk—you must truly incorporate technology into your daily operations. Your workers will use it for enhanced efficiency, speed, accuracy, quality, safety, and productivity. 

The current generation of employees will excel in integrating intuitive devices and online services into the workplace. Because technology devices like smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our daily lives, the integration of technology in the workplace has never been easier. Workers often come with a base knowledge of how to operate these devices easing the integration process.

One way to ensure you're bringing the right technology into your business is to leverage your employees’ understanding of technology when making purchasing decisions. For instance, if you’re considering software for managing your plant, leadership teams should engage with employees on the plant floor to see which solutions would make a meaningful difference in their daily routines. This way, decision-makers can benefit from fresh, technology-driven perspectives

Technology Tools to Leverage in Manufacturing 

Sophisticated technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and 3D printing have played a pivotal role in shaping the future of manufacturing. They have been instrumental in lowering the cost of production, minimizing errors, and increasing the speed of operations. 

Before any of those technologies can be applied, however, you must start by looking at the data you already have in your facility. Oftentimes, plants using paper-based systems are bogging employees down with activities like manual data entry, pencil-pushing, and tracking down files, when a plant management solution can be implemented to digitize, and in some cases even automate, these tasks.

When you give employees the right set of tools, they can fulfill their roles well and have a high level of job satisfaction. The ripple effect is that they will tell other people how well they are doing in their job, facilitated by the right combination of tools and technology. As a result, others will also want to work in your company.

As you consider your recruitment strategy, here are some technologies and strategies that are notably impacting the manufacturing industry for you to consider. By bringing them into your space, you can boost your odds of attracting and retaining the right talent.

Plant Management Software 

Plant management software creates safer and more efficient facilities by helping workers keep up with the fast-paced nature of process manufacturing. Employees can do away with the outdated methods of using spreadsheets and lots of paperwork to keep records. 

When tasks and processes are automated, workers can pinpoint problems within their operations promptly and easily. Instead of simply collecting information, they use it to make better decisions to boost their performance and productivity. Moreover, plant management software reduces the human error margin, production delays, compliance risks, and unplanned downtime. 

Utilizing plant management software like SafetyChain also comes with the additional benefits of:

  • Supplier compliance

  • Preventative maintenance  

  • Audit management 

  • Task scheduling 

  • Business intelligence and analytics 

With these factors in place, your plant can increase yields, reduce rework, and save time, which can all result in better workplace satisfaction.

Moreover, the elements of plant management software are easy to integrate with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. With these features, the software enables employees to become better at what they do, while managers oversee operations more efficiently. 

The Industrial Internet of Things Technology 

The extent to which the Internet of Things (IoT) can help your plant improve is beyond measure. This explains why the manufacturing and industrial domains are rapidly embracing technology to increase productivity and reduce the complexities of processes. 

In manufacturing settings, IoT is an integration of many technologies, including sensor data, big data, machine automation, and cloud integration. When coupled with automated data collection and the real-time analytics and reporting provided by plant management software, these technologies can help your employees perform better in resource optimization, real-time monitoring, proactive maintenance, supply-chain visibility, and safety.

With these technologies in place, you can help eliminate guesswork for more efficiency and reduced error margins. You’ll also provide your employees an opportunity to use the modern technology they are already familiar with, including smartphones and tablets. 

Create Mentorship Programs for Your Employees

Providing tools and technology for your employees is an excellent start for attracting and retaining talent. As an added talent management measure, consider creating support programs for employees to encourage seasoned employees to train for niche positions. This will form part of the succession planning strategy. 

As new employees come on board, pair them with a mentor to build employee engagement and to help them feel comfortable in their new working environment. When new employees come into the company and feel empowered or are given opportunities to train, they are likely to work longer with you. 

A mentorship program will be beneficial not only to the employees but to your company as well. It can help to improve the retention rate, decrease employee turnover, and promote continued growth and success. 

Confronting the Manufacturing Labor Shortage: In Conclusion

With ongoing labor shortages in the U.S. (and especially in the manufacturing sector), attracting talent can feel like an ongoing challenge. By implementing new tools and building employee mentorship programs into your plant, you can appeal to workers while also making your facility more successful. Not only will you have a more data-driven plant, but you’ll also create a work environment people truly enjoy.  

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