During the first two years of the pandemic, the Great Resignation greatly affected the manufacturing industry, creating a significant labor shortage. Employees were reluctant to work in high-traffic environments, which could easily lead to COVID outbreaks, and many needed to prioritize caring for at-risk or sick loved ones.
Additionally, there has been a growing movement of manufacturing workers demanding safe working environments and adequate pay for their jobs.
A year later, the industry is still dealing with the fallout of a job surplus. In 2023, manufacturing leaders need to turn their attention to the needs of their employees and how to attract, train and retain a resilient workforce. Let’s investigate the methods and tools necessary to do so:
Closing The Skills Gap
With so many different types of roles being vacated, finding employees who are not just willing but able to navigate new responsibilities has been challenging. Manufacturing.net puts it succinctly – industry leaders are “unable to find workers who have the manual, operational, and highly technical skills, knowledge, or expertise to take the open positions.”
This has been attributed to a few reasons. Contrary to popular belief, adopting new streamlining automated and robotic technology has not led to fewer jobs but increased opportunities for employees who can quickly adapt to these new tools. But while this has made technology-inclined workers highly desired, this has also isolated employees who aren’t familiar with or trained adequately in those skills.
Also, more and more baby boomers are leaving the manufacturing workforce each year. This has made it nearly impossible to find replacement employees with the same breadth of experience.
Manufacturers can position themselves as valuable employers by empowering their workers with new skills and job experiences. Today’s employees are likelier to stay with a company invested in growing their careers. It’s a win-win: your team members feel valued and more motivated at work, and you’ll have a workforce of increasingly skilled employees.
Within the first year of the pandemic, manufacturers saw the consequences of being unable to adapt quickly to industry changes. Warehouses with flexible systems and tools were more prepared to navigate these unpredictable circumstances.
A flexible workforce is a resilient workforce. If your employees are trained to quickly adjust to changing production processes, new technology, inventory changes or other differing factors, they’ll be more likely to succeed in facing obstacles. This means your warehouses will experience less costly downtime and keep up production efficiency.
Waging War Against Burnout
Employee burnout is no joke, especially in manufacturing. It normally occurs when team members are physically and mentally exhausted, leading to decreased motivation, depression, lowered cognitive skills and deadly accidents.
The likelihood of burnout has increased exponentially within the last three years due to increased eCommerce demand, quicker turnarounds and fewer employees to do the work. Burnout can take years to recover from fully, so once your employees have reached the brink, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to bounce back quickly.
There are several ways that manufacturers can reduce the probability of employee burnout:
- Stay Supportive: Have your leaders prioritize check-ins with their floor team. These discussions with employees will open the lines of communication about potential obstacles workers face, areas for improvement and ways for them to be better supported.
- Avoid Physical Overload: If a single employee is taking on the responsibility of several, they’re more likely to become physically exhausted. Make sure your team members have the right tools to perform their jobs safely without the risk of physical harm.
- Foster Motivation: Burnout can quickly diminish an employee’s sense of purpose and worth. Positive feedback, encouraging career growth and listening and acting on concerns can help make workers feel like valued company employees.
Reduce Workplace Hazards
As we’re sure you can imagine, it’s hard to stay resilient when you’re injured or feeling unsafe at work. Emotional safety can be established through increased communication between employees and team leaders. On the other hand, physical safety can be created through thorough, consistent workplace training.
Of course, warehouse safety basics (like emergency protocols and storage practices) and OSHA training are mandatory. But beyond these, we have some key recommendations of topics to cover, including:
- Safe, ergonomic lifting practices
- Loading dock safety
- Chemical handling and spill protocols
- Handling basics for all facility machinery
By giving your employees the training they need to stay safe at work, they’ll be less likely to become injured or waste precious time trying to recover from obstacles or accidents.
The Right Tools
Lastly, one of the most crucial features of a resilient workforce is the tools your employees have at their disposal. Without the right tools, your team members will be much less prepared to handle unpredictable changes confidently.
These tools include:
- Warehousing Manufacturing Systems: A WMS is a software system that controls many warehouse functions, making better data-driven decisions possible. It centralizes critical information, tracks inventory, creates work orders and more.
- Updated Storage Practices: Reviewing and updating your storage methods can not only increase your warehouse’s productivity levels and make more room for additional inventory, employee paths and more. Additionally, if items are improperly stored, there’s a higher likelihood of falling objects and accidents.
- New Picking Technology: Tech wearables can be a helpful tool for both leadership teams, who can monitor productivity and pinpoint potential bottlenecks, and employees, who can complete their picking tasks more efficiently. For example, floor workers can wear headsets with a microphone connected to voice-activated technology. This allows employees to receive picking information via an automated voice without needing to circle back or refer to paperwork.
- Material Handlers: There’s a vast array of material handling equipment that can be customized with various tools, units, appliances, vehicles and accessories. They can be used to lift, turn, transport, store, and more at different manufacturing and distribution stages.
Industrial Manipulators Create Resilient Workforces
As discussed above, manufacturers can foster a resilient workforce by providing the right tools to complete their jobs quickly and safely. And for many warehouses, that means investing in high-quality industrial manipulators.
At Dalmec, we’re passionate about working with you to build a lift-assist device that fulfills all your needs. Our team of experts takes every aspect of your facility and process into consideration, including factors like:
- Your warehouse’s dimensions, including ceiling restrictions
- The size, breadth, shape and weight of your products
- The type of tooling you need (For example, vacuum lift, grip, magnets, etc.)
- Your reach requirements (The distance from your point of pick to the point of placement)
- Your vertical travel requirements (The distance vertically from your point of pick to the point of placement)
If you’re ready to find the right material handling tool to optimize your warehouse and empower your employees, contact Dalmec today.