A few of our team members had the opportunity to attend The MFG Meeting last month in Bonita Springs, Florida. With a theme around driving change, we couldn’t help but get inspired by the future opportunities in manufacturing. While we took away learning after learning, there are a few key drivers we thought might be beneficial to share—whether you’re in the manufacturing industry or not!
2022 will be a strong year, but not as strong as 2021
Alan Beaulieu, Ph.D.’s presentation Accurately Prepare for Tomorrow outlined thoughts and predictions for the economy for the remainder of 2022 and beyond. While we’re seeing good economic growth thus far in 2022, new orders are going to slow in the coming months. Slowing orders, along with supply chain improvements, will allow companies to catch up on their backorders and shorten lead times. This is good news for customers since unfilled orders are at their highest rate in 7 years. For employers, this slowdown means that employee quit rates will also slow.
Until quit rates slow, employers are focused on hiring and retention
It’s no secret that The Great Resignation has hit almost every industry. For manufacturers, it’s been an especially hard hit on top of the skills gap and retiring baby boomers. To help solve labor and recruitment challenges, Chris Czarnik provided some hiring tips during his presentation, Winning the Talent War.
The first tip is that most people aren’t unwilling to work for you, they just don’t know you’re hiring. After all, applicants can’t apply for a job they don’t know exists. To make sure your jobs are being seen by the right people where they’re looking, interview some of your new employees to ask them:
- What made them start looking for a new position? This will help you determine if there are others in a similar situation (new education attained, life-changing event like marriage, birth of a child, etc.) that you could be targeting for open jobs.
- How did they find your company / job? Include questions like what job sites they went to, what keywords they searched for, etc. This will help ensure your job postings are in the right places.
- What details about the company should be included in the job description? Now that the employee is working at your company, ask what to include in your job description to help promote the company or position. For example, key benefits or perks to attract job seekers.
Employees are vital to an organization’s business, so searching for new employees should be just as important as trying to find customers. And you should be selling the job like you sell your products. Consider including marketing in recruiting conversations—they do this for a living and can help you better “sell” the job.
On the other hand, if you’re able to retain good people, you’ll have less of a need to hire. Hunter Lott offered some tips on keeping your best people in his presentation, Retention: How to Keep Employees from Jumping Ship.
- Are you ensuring that your “A” players have the opportunity to work with the best people? Good people like to work around other good people. If there are any sub-optimal players on the team, work with them to improve their performance or make changes to the team before they drive out the best people.
- Do your employees have an opportunity to continue to grow and develop? Offer them opportunities to attend seminars, conferences, etc. so they can continue to refine their skills and grow in their roles.
- Conduct “stay” interviews with employees. Ask for their thoughts and opinions while they’re still at the company vs. in an exit interview when it’s too late.
- Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to previous “A” players who may have left:
- Ask if they’ve found what they were looking for at their new company.
- If yes, ask what it was that they were looking for and see if it’s something you can implement at your company.
- If they didn’t find what they were looking for, see if they’d be interested in coming back.
Automation can help
Given some of the hiring/retention challenges manufacturers are facing coupled with the skills gap and advancements in technology, it’s no wonder automation is such a hot topic these days. Andra Keay provided some insight during her presentation The Evolution of Robots. Here are the top takeaways:
- Vision is making powerful progress. With the addition of machine vision, every process is instantly and significantly smarter. Vision also allows for robots to be used in additional and more sophisticated applications.
- Robot gripping still needs a bit of work. Improvements in intelligent grasping are needed for robots to better pick up objects in real-world situations that humans are able to do without much thought or planning.
- There are many more innovations in robotics technology happening now and on the horizon. We’re talking soft robots, which are more malleable and able to change and adapt their shape, and legged robots, which are more mobile and versatile than traditional wheeled robots. Even 3D-printed robots or robots-as-a-service are allowing companies of all sizes to tap into automation capabilities without the burdensome initial investment.
- All these developments will allow for robotics and automation technology to emerge in even more industries and applications where traditional solutions may have not been able to in the past.
Additive technology still has a place
Now that 3D printing has moved beyond just prototypes, it’s important to understand where additive technology can fit into the manufacturing process. Jason Jones, Ph.D. spoke about this in his presentation Peeling Back the Layers of Additive & Advanced Manufacturing Adoption.
He also discussed the 7 families of additive manufacturing according to ISO/ASTM, which is a helpful guide created by Jason and his team at Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies. The guide explores each of the 7 families to help manufacturers understand how additive can be a complement to traditional CNC machining—or the processes and technologies commonly used in subtractive manufacturing.
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