As recently discovered in the Schneider Downs 2013 Manufacturers’ Economic Survey, U.S. manufacturers noted an increase in jobs in 2013, a trend that may well carry into 2014. Since 1979 when manufacturing employment peaked, U.S.-based manufacturers have had to rely on automation and technology to remain competitive in our global economy. U.S. manufacturers spend more than $7 billion annually for technology to maintain efficiencies and competitiveness.
Who are the employees in U.S.-based manufacturers today? Gone are the days of manual labor assembly lines. Manual labor has largely been replaced by automated and robotic equipment. However, since we haven’t quite reached “Terminator” status on the factory floor, who is responsible for this production? Today’s U.S. manufacturing employee might have a technical school degree or even an engineering degree. These employees are heavily trained; they have intellectual knowledge; and they are highly sought after. I have heard the same complaints from my manufacturing clients over the last few years. They can’t find the right employees, or a competitor poached their best employees.
So, as a manufacturer, you feel like you have the right employees in place and your operations are running smoothly and efficiently. What can you do to ensure this level of operation continues?
- Monitor equipment and make updates as necessary. This doesn’t necessarily require total equipment replacement. However, make sure your equipment is utilizing the most up-to-date software and operating system. This will ensure efficient operations and communication with other operating systems. A simple one-day unplanned shutdown due to equipment malfunction can cause irreversible customer satisfaction problems.
- Monitor employees and make updates as necessary. That’s right, employees need updating too! U.S. manufacturers have to rely on these heavily trained and specialized assets to keep operations running. If you aren’t going to train them and take care of them, there is probably a competitor that will. The National Association of Manufacturers is currently working with manufacturing companies to invest in engineering, science, math and technology education to further develop U.S. manufacturing employees. Consider working with a local trade school to ensure its graduates will have the appropriate skills.
Today’s U.S. manufacturer operates in a just-in-time and mass customization economy. These companies have to be specialized, efficient and forward-thinking. To be successful, U.S. manufacturers require these skills not just from management, but from the employees on the floor. What are you doing to maintain your competitive edge?
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