Is outsourcing manufacturing the solution to your skilled labor shortage? Consider your options.

Is your manufacturing company experiencing a skilled labor shortage? Many North American and European companies cite a lack of workforce talent as a constraint to business growth. Part of the problem is demographic. Today, 30% of the skilled manufacturing workers are older than age 55. They’re not ready to retire yet, but they won’t stay on your factory floor forever.

Meanwhile, many high school graduates are choosing higher education instead of industry. Maybe it’s because they think that manufacturing jobs are dirty, dangerous, and boring. Maybe it’s because they’d rather sit at a computer in a quiet, air-conditioned office than stand on a concrete floor next to a loud machine. Some may remember how parents and grandparents lost jobs to plants closings or layoffs.

What’s the solution to your skilled labor shortage then? Will you wait for vocational programs to provide your manufacturing company with skilled workers? Will automating operations solve your challenges instead? Could you outsource some manufacturing activities, such as rubber gasket fabrication, for an immediate solution? Consider your options.

Option 1: Workforce Training

Some manufacturers are betting that the right vocational programs will solve their skilled labor shortage. They note that workforce training is increasing and that more students are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In some locations, grants for workforce development are readily available. High schools and community colleges are offering more skilled trades programs, too.

These advances are encouraging, but how many school years or semesters are there until your current workforce is ready to retire? Meanwhile,  you still don’t have enough skilled workers for your business today. Events like Manufacturing Day are helping to change popular attitudes about manufacturing, but what if the workforce of tomorrow still doesn’t want to work in your factory?

You can continue to wait for workers, but there’s a cost. For example, some manufacturers now ask higher-paid employees like welders to perform tasks such as rubber gasket cutting. That’s fine if your welders are idle, but they’re probably busy since they’re in short supply. If you ask a welder who makes $25/hour to do the work of a $15/hour gasket cutter, you’re adding avoidable costs to projects.

Option 2: Automation

Is automation the solution to your skilled labor shortage? Instead of paying any of your workers to cut rubber gaskets, you could just automate gasket cutting instead. That makes sound business sense if you’re cutting a high volume of gaskets and can realize a rapid return on investment (ROI). But what if your ROI would take many years because your gasket quantities are low?

Automation isn’t just about equipment either. Industry 4.0 is a family of technologies that lets you collect, analyze, and share data that adds business value – and then act on it. These cyber-physical systems can make your shop floor faster, more flexible, more productive, and more cost-efficient. Industry 4.0 costs are decreasing, but they’re still too high for some small-to-medium manufacturers. Here’s why.  

Acquiring the right technologies isn’t the only expense. There’s a cost to comparing systems and implementing the right solutions, typically by hiring consultants. You’ll also need to integrate legacy systems and strengthen cybersecurity, especially if you’re part of the defense supply chain. That’s why adopting automation is usually a gradual process. Meanwhile, you have jobs to run and orders to fill today.    

Option 3: Outsourcing Manufacturing

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to waiting for workers or for an ROI on automation. For parts like custom rubber gaskets, outsourcing manufacturing provides immediate benefits. Instead of paying your skilled workers to be gasket cutters (and increasing job costs), you can eliminate costly in-house fabrication. The benefits of outsourcing manufacturing also include:  

  • Reduced material waste
  • Improved quality
  • Greater consistency
  • Increased productivity
  • Knowing the true cost of each component

To get started, you need to select a custom fabricator who provides greater value instead of just the lowest price. Value-added services like design assistance, help with material selection, parts marking, kitting, and custom packaging don’t just address your skilled labor shortage. They help your company to reduce operational costs. If you’re to take a closer look, contact Elasto Proxy.

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