Scheduling & Workforce ManagementQualification Management

Bridging the Production Gap: Addressing Labor Shortages in the Industrial Enterprise

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The industrial landscape has been uniquely ripe with challenges in recent history including a labor shortage. Volatility in supply chains and shortages in critical goods or services remain a norm in international news cycles. Operators that serve in an already dynamic environment find themselves more reactive than ever -placing increasing stress against people, assets, and safe, quality-focused productivity.

This new reality is balanced with an optimism that remains across the industrial landscape. Most recently:

  • The US CHIPS Act promises heavy investments toward domestic production of mission-critical components – creating both new jobs and increased focus on talent maturation.
  • A recent manufacturing survey outlines that 95% of manufacturers expect to meet or exceed 2021 revenues.
  • The same survey outlines that over 75% of operators expect a near-term headcount increase while raising wages and expanding benefits.

People, especially those at the Operator, Trades, Supervisor, and Team Lead levels, remain a critical input to build off this momentum. Maintaining a skilled headcount aligned with production demand is a top priority of those serving the broader industrial enterprise. A lack of people, and/or lack of skills, is the most granular input towards missing production goals and maintaining a cycle of inefficient operations.

“There’s nothing more important than ensuring we have the people,” a Global Manufacturing Operations Executive tells Indeavor, “this not only includes accurate workforce planning and cultivating the skills of an evolving workforce, but also building an environment where people show up. Absenteeism is a forgotten part of this topic, creating an environment where people are committed and consistent in their attendance is key.”

How can the industrial enterprise provide a differentiated approach to Labor Shortages and capitalize off sector momentum?

How to Maintain Agility in People Operations Amidst a Labor Shortage

The production environment has categorically changed in recent history. To operate within a historical context is irresponsible and felt most by those critical to operations (Operators, Trades, Supervisors and Team Leads).

  • Listen to your Workforce: what are the company/sector needs of the organization, and who are you competing against regionally for talent?
  • Benchmark: how are industry leaders engaging their workforce? Examples include scheduling autonomy and focus on earned-wage access.
  • Introduce Flexibility: The industrial workforce is comprised of differing views toward work. Some love to work every hour available, others find comfort in the minimum required and still, others look for a more dynamic environment similar to those in the gig economy. Shift scheduling technology enables each view without the operational burden.
  • Invest in Purpose-Built Technology: People serving the Industrial Enterprise are underserved from a technology perspective. Focus on Purpose-Built tools to supplement enterprise standard systems.

Companies investing the time and capital in these efforts will pay near-term dividends and accelerate growth against those operating as status quo.

Parallel Focus Towards Supervisors and Team Leads

A focus on Operators and Skilled Trades remains present across the Industrial Enterprise. An often overlooked persona remains the Supervisor and Team Lead. Despite the criticality of their role, the burden of managing through the noise is most often placed directly on this level.

Operators need these roles to focus intensely on safety, quality, productivity, and continuous improvement. The unfortunate operating reality has these roles constantly moving manpower, ensuring teams are paid appropriately and realizing the mental fatigue of disparate data sources and rules to deliver in a dynamic environment.

Achieving appropriate staffing levels, with an underserved Supervisor/Team Lead layer is only delaying your problem. Would you prefer to work in an environment with an underserved, overburdened boss? Companies must place the same energy towards every level of their organization, including the long-forgotten supervisor.

Skills-Based Workforce Planning

Commonly, workforce planning remains high level. We expect demand to increase by X, thus we need Y people to support. This generic approach impacts effective planning in two ways:

  1. Lack of visibility in the skills present to meet unique demands at the near, medium, and long-term levels.
  2. Based on the above, a limited cohesive plan for skill development for the existing workforce at the inception of planning

Planning and forecasting should be system-driven, not spreadsheet-driven, always incorporating demands to the most granular layer possible, and the skills required to match. This data serves as a starting point for you to cultivate a level of skill planning at the inception of your future workforce needs.

A developed employee is a motivated employee, regardless of their role in the organization.

Digital Investment is NOT just for the Asset

A majority of digital investments remain asset-focused such as how to leverage big data from machines to secure productivity. In some cases, these tools have a sub-module that allows human interaction, but the priority remains clear.

Human-centric, people-focused technology is required to enable and drive efficient operations, allowing operators to enhance the employee experience while optimizing cost – a relationship once not thought possible.

Investing in purpose-built People Management technology will soon be the price of admission for enterprise operators. Digital leaders across the industrial enterprise are commonly using a People Operations Platform to:

  • Allow Employees access to work-life flexibility from the palm of their hand
  • Fully integrated with supervisor-rich tools with rule-based automation, encouraging standardization across shifts, departments, and regions
  • Access to differentiated leadership-level labor analytics
  • Cost Optimization focused workflows

To request a complimentary workforce optimization consultation, contact us at sales@indeavor.com and our team will share critical insights discovered from managing global industrial workforces.

About the Author

Bradley Jones leverages his Manufacturing Technology and Operations background to serve the Global Indeavor consumer base. To learn more or get in touch, connect with Brad on LinkedIn.

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