The manufacturing industry is changing fast. Experts predict around 57 percent of America’s current manufacturing jobs could be automated within the next two decades. The number of manufacturing jobs has decreased dramatically over the last 20 years, as companies large and small look for ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This sudden transformation of the industry is starting to take its toll. The COVID-19 accelerated the industry’s pivot to automation. And now some of the biggest players in town say they’re having trouble finding qualified workers for their facilities.
As the industry continues to evolve, hiring will continue to be a major sticking point. No company is immune to these challenges. At the end of the day, there might not be enough talent to go around.
The Rise of Automation
The pandemic forced the manufacturing industry to rethink the status quo. Bringing workers onsite became a threat to public safety, and consumers were ordering more products online than ever before. To keep up with demand, many facilities switched to automation. The trend began long before the pandemic, but few companies had the option of relying on traditional methods of production.
Even as the health crisis put millions of Americans out of work, companies still didn’t have access to the talent they needed to make use of this technology. Long gone were the days of manual labor where workers attached the same part a thousand times a day.
With robots doing most of the work, warehouses are now running 24/7 with little room for error. Employees need to be skilled in all aspects of production while analyzing data, scheduling maintenance, and corresponding with other team members. The average warehouse worker needs to possess skills that would be unthinkable even just a few years ago.
The average warehouse may contain a variety of advanced technology, all working in tandem toward a common goal, including smart pickers and stockers, automated guided vehicles, and a warehouse management system that fits everything into place. In some cases, the worker may never touch the product or container. Other times, the person may be wearing a robotic exoskeleton throughout the manufacturing process, improving employee safety and performance.
The Need for Outside Hires
As exciting as this technology can be, the gulf between recruiters and candidates is widening. Many veterans of the manufacturing industry don’t have the skills to utilize this technology, leaving them with few employment options. The problem is that the industry is evolving faster than the American workforce. New positions are being created before individuals have the experience to fill them.
The problem is only expected to get worse in the years ahead as more companies adopt automation. Chances are, few facilities will find this talent in-house. That’s why they need to hire outside workers will only continue to grow.
Companies will need to be strategic if they want to recruit the few candidates that possess these skills. The pandemic has changed the nature of work in many ways. Workers are looking for more remote work flexibility and a greater sense of purpose on the job.
Manufacturing firms should consider being more willing to meet candidates’ terms for employment. This will help set up workers for success, so they don’t feel the urge to look for work elsewhere.
Training, Mentorship, and Staff Development
With few workers to choose from, some companies may need to rely on these highly skilled employees in more ways than one. With the right talent in place, a person can help existing staff members transition over to the new technology. They can show workers how to repurpose their skills as they learn to work in conjunction with automation.
Some workers may be better suited to this new work environment than others. They will have to unlearn everything they’ve been taught over the years. In some cases, it may be cheaper and more practical to hire a recent graduate who’s looking to get started in the manufacturing industry. Younger workers and those new to the field will likely feel more comfortable using the latest technology, including touch screens, user interfaces, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
While the transition will put some workers at a disadvantage, these changes are becoming increasingly necessary year after year.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
The switch to automation doesn’t happen overnight. Some facilities may not be fully automated for another five to ten years. The transition is usually gradual as companies bring new technology online.
As workers learn new skills and cope with their changing work environment, companies should look for ways to increase efficiency at every turn, so staffers have more time for training.
Metal bins are designed to improve organization and storage. They come in a range of sizes and styles for the storage of all kinds of parts, tools, and accessories. Using a metal bin with a drop-down door makes it easy for workers to see inside, helping them stay on task when picking items off the shelf.
Manual tasks like putting packages together are usually a waste of the worker’s time and abilities. Companies should use bulk collapsible containers to speed up the process, so the worker can spend more time entering information into the system and less time fussing with cardboard boxes. These containers are also reusable, which reduces the need for recycling and waste management.
Industrial wire baskets also make it easy for workers to move miscellaneous inventory by hand without the use of a lift truck or forklift. Many advanced warehouse systems use automated forklifts and cranes to retrieve packages and bulky items, so these vehicles are becoming increasingly obsolete. Baskets are a much cheaper alternative, often working in tandem with automated systems.
The dawn of automation has arrived. Fully automated warehouses are taking the industry to new heights. Every company should think carefully about how to best implement this technology while bringing on qualified team members who can help smooth out the transition.