The Looming Crisis of Manufacturing Labor

workforce shortageA crisis is looming for the manufacturing industry in the form of a workforce shortage. What used to be a reliable path to stable employment is now seen as an undesirable fallback option. The shortage in manufacturing labor may not be making front page headlines yet, but for those in the manufacturing industry, it is an impending disaster that already has machines sitting idle.

Where Things Stand Now

The latest jobs numbers released in October 2017, show an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. That is below even the natural rate of unemployment of 4.5-5.0 percent. This trend has been extended over quite a long period now, with no unemployment rate over 5 percent since September 2015. In a distinctly small labor pool, finding qualified employees can be quite difficult, especially in manufacturing where unique skills are involved. Attracting workers from other employers is often expensive and time-consuming as well.

Looking to the Future

A leading global economic research organization, the Conference Board, recently released a report forecasting skilled labor shortages to continue for at least the next five years. If this is the case, manufacturers may see dramatic losses in efficiency as machinery is idle for lack of laborers. Retiring baby boomers will also contribute to a loss of skilled labor especially. Longer term, investments in employee development and updating skills will continue to be important issues in the manufacturing industry.

A Glimmer of Hope

Change often comes slowly, especially where large investments in new machinery and equipment are involved. However, the current labor shortages may actually speed up the move toward automation in the industry. Embracing the change now can not only give manufacturers needed efficiency now, it can become a barrier for entry to competitors down the road.

Additionally, a move toward automation could create a change in how the manufacturing industry is perceived, making manufacturing jobs more attractive. Young jobs seekers are increasingly attracted to jobs in technology. By transforming the perception of manufacturing jobs as an area where automation, robotics, and technology are necessary skills, more young people may seek jobs in the industry and help alleviate the global employment scarcity.

If you’re having trouble finding people to perform repetitive, manual tasks, give Axis Engineering Group a call at 419-872-2500. We may be able to help by designing solutions using machine vision and robotics.