Today’s workforce challenges range from boosting employee morale to supervising remote employees and upskilling workers. What all of these problems have in common, however, is that you can’t solve them if you don’t have the workers you need in the first place. But what if you can’t find available labor? Whether it’s skilled or unskilled workers you need, things don’t look good. The year 2022 is still just getting started, but labor shortages could be the biggest story for employers in the months ahead.

Unfortunately, this workforce challenge may be getting worse – and not just because of the pandemic. Recently, The Economist reported “a remarkable imbalance between the need for workers and their availability in America today.” In Canada, CTV News noted how “an intensifying labor shortage is rippling through the economy.” The problem is also present in Germany, where an elected official admitted that “the shortage of skilled workers is so serious that it is dramatically slowing down our economy.        

Manufacturing Workers

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, industry was struggling to find, attract, and retain talent. The reasons are complex and range from an emphasis on college education over the skilled trades to the belief that manufacturing jobs are dirty, dangerous, and boring. Today, more people are discovering that manufacturing is changing and that it includes clean, safe and rewarding jobs. Yet, memories of plant shutdowns and offshoring still cause parents to advise their kids against manufacturing careers.

These are just some of the causes of todays’ workforce challenges in manufacturing – and they’re probably the least controversial explanations. Maybe you’d talk about how extended unemployment benefits provided employees with a financial incentive to stay home even after their employers called them back to the factory. Maybe you’d cite vaccine mandates and share examples of how the pandemic has prompted members of an already graying workforce to retire early. These are all hot topics.

Training and Automation

Conversations like this are important, but they won’t solve the problem that’s staring too many employers right in the face. If you don’t have the workers that you need right now, how will you get the job done today? You can’t wait for students to graduate from a training program or the possibility of a partnership with a nearby school or college. Automating your operations isn’t so easy either. For starters, you’ll have to identify the right technologies and then pay for and implement them.   

Automation can improve efficiency, but how long would your shiny new robot sit quietly in the corner instead of in the middle of the action? It takes time, effort, and budget to program robots – and even collaborative robots, or co-bots, that are easier to set-up can involve mis-steps. That points to more problems, but also to ways forward. To implement automation successfully, you need to optimize your processes. Yet even without automation, these improvements can help you address labor shortages.   

Process Improvements and Manufacturing Waste

Is your factory lean? If it’s not, there’s manufacturing waste. By addressing this problem, you also use your labor resources more efficiently. One of the ways to do this is to stop using highly-skilled employees to perform tasks that don’t require those skills. For example, you probably know that good welders are hard to find. If you have a few, don’t have them spend their time cutting and bonding rubber gaskets. Instead, outsource your gasket fabrication. You could even order taped gaskets that are faster and easier to install.  

Is your warehouse well-organized? If it’s not, your inventory pickers are probably spending too much time looking for items. That’s not the only time-sink either. When you receive items, how many workers have to touch them – and how many times? It’s more efficient to order all of the parts that you need for a build, receive those parts in a single box, and then have that box travel right from your receiving dock to your assembly line, bypassing inventory. You can even have kitted parts packaged in order of assembly.             

Solving Workforce Challenges Right Now

Does your current supplier of industrial rubber products help you solve workforce challenges? Now would be a good time to find out. It’s also time to ask yourself some hard questions about your own operations and what you can do, with some help from your suppliers, to improve. Don’t dismiss outsourced fabrication just because you think it costs more. Calculate your internal costs, especially for labor. There’s also an opportunity cost if, say, you’re using welders as gasket fabricators instead of as metal workers.  

Elasto Proxy is a rubber fabricator and distributor with value-added services like kitting and assembly packaging. Outsourcing work to us to isn’t the only way to address your workforce challenges, and we encourage you to look at solutions like training programs and industrial automation. Yet, partnering with Elasto Proxy is something you can do today. So, talk to our team and find out how we can help you to get all of the rubber parts that you need. Our workers might be the labor you’ve been looking for.

Leave a Reply