According to a 2014 study conducted by Oxford Economics and SAP, two-thirds of manufacturers have made only slight or moderate progress toward meeting strategic workplace goals. This is due in part to a number of obstacles, including a shortage of workers and lack of resources to help foster better employee engagement and retention. Companies in this study, which totaled around 2,700 and spanned multiple industries and regions, also noted that engaging young people and attracting skilled employees were among the top issues they face – hardly surprising, as nearly 3.5 million positions will need to be filled by 2020.
Are there ways for manufacturers – regardless of company size, industry, or amount of revenue – to tackle these challenges head-on without compromising assets or sacrificing talent?
The following are examples of tips and tools capable of guiding you toward a healthy, sustainable pipeline of workers, which ultimately spells success for you and your company.
Engage employees… and become more productive as a result!
While time should definitely be invested in getting new, skilled workers in place, your existing workforce is just as important. Keep your employees engaged by offering them choices and opportunities to participate in operations and company decisions. Even fun activities outside of work, such as the occasional happy hour or group lunch, can boost morale, which makes employees more productive and helps generate more revenue.
Provide the right training and a gateway to development.
Employers who invest in their workers have better chances of keeping them, and offering opportunities for employees to expand their skills builds confidence and allows them to perform better overall. If your company doesn’t have training programs in-house, do some research on outside options that will help them succeed without occupying too much of their time. Investing in a company plan for business courses at a local college or university also allows for development on the professional and managerial side.
Get to know your workforce.
Whether your business sits at 50 employees or 500 employees, it’s important to be as familiar with your workforce as possible. This not only applies to day-to-day engagement, but also hard data and assessments. Less than 40 percent of manufacturers in the above study understand their workforce from a perspective of strengths and weaknesses, and getting these statistics is a great way to start thinking about long-term plans, future improvements, and ways to attract talent.
Raise awareness by acting as a manufacturing ambassador.
Young generations, such as millennials and Gen-Z, reportedly have a very negative perception of manufacturing, most of which is fueled by images of the old, dirty assembly lines of the early 20th century. However, manufacturers across the country are now seizing the chance to show what modern manufacturing has to offer through plant tours, job fairs, demonstrations, and more. Manufacturing Month, celebrated in October, is a particularly good draw, as schools, organizations, and individuals are granted access to manufacturing facilities to explore what it’s like to work in a clean, high-tech environment. This can also provide you with an opportunity to showcase the occupational benefits the sector has to offer, such as higher-than-average salaries, competitive benefits, and a stable career path.
HEADLINE The survey definitively shows that product innovation leads to more growth, while “grow your own workforce” strategies will be needed to fill the major labor shortages hampering small manufacturer growth. Emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and digital manufacturing are beginning to enhance innovation and productivity, but still have significant room for adoption amongst Ohio’s small manufacturing businesses. ABOUT THE SURVEY Under the direction of the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Ohio MEP), MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network conducted a thorough survey of Ohio’s manufacturing base. Contributing approximately 20% of Ohio’s jobs (and driving in some regions up to 50% of Ohio’s economy), and generating a disproportionate amount of export revenues and Gross Regional Product, manufacturing is critical to Ohio. Greater than 95% of Ohio’s manufacturers are small (under 500 employees), and these manufacturers need to remain competitive both nationally and internationally to ensure our economy’s health. Ohio’s Development Services Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which runs the MEP, recognizes the importance of this sector and fuels MAGNET and the Ohio MEP program to directly serve and support innovation, efficiency, and growth in small and medium manufacturers. What manufacturers need
How Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Can Help Keep Our Engineers Safe and Our Manufacturing Strong Recall how difficult it was to put together complex LEGO creations when you were a child or helping a child. Now, picture assembling a fighter plane from a room full of parts. Even highly trained engineers can benefit from technology to help improve consistency and quality. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are making near-perfect assembly a possibility in the manufacturing space. By wearing AR glasses that use cameras, depth sensors and motion sensors to overlay images onto the real working environment, engineers and factory workers can visualize the exact bolts, parts, part numbers and instructions on how to assemble a particular component correctly. Lockheed Martin began using AR goggles and improved F-35 assembly time by 30 percent, in addition to increasing accuracy to 96 percent. In order to remain competitive, businesses should consider the ways VR and AR can improve efficiency and supply chain productivity. According to a recent BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research report, AR platforms can provide companies up to 25 percent in cost savings on installation of equipment. Here are four ways VR/AR is disrupting the mid-market manufacturing space:
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