For more than a decade, economists and experts have hypothesized about what will happen when the last of the baby boomers retire. How will it affect our economy? Will we be able to replace this large workforce? How much of their knowledge can be retained?

COVID may accelerate this as businesses are downsizing and shifiting their employee workforces.  Will these boomers re-enter the workforce post-COVID or take retirement? Whatever individual choices are made and trends that happen, we believe in the power of having a plan that you can execute. And the best way to start is to know the facts and understand the risks.

Many of the concerns about the coming challenges revolve around maintaining a reliable workforce. The size and experience of your workforce determines your capacity and ultimately your productivity. Should that begin to shrink or be replaced by less experienced operators either by workforce trends or by the pandemic, you can count on productivity to be impacted. The problem compounds when you consider the high turnover experienced across all verticals of manufacturing. Younger generations do not have the same sense of loyalty to an organization that the boomers have. And it’s hard to blame them. The world does not reward that kind of loyalty the same as it used to and there are plenty opportunities competing for their labor.

As the 2nd largest adult generation continues to reach the age of retirement, with 10,000 retirees per day, it can seem like an overwhelming challenge to overcome, especially in manufacturing. But it’s well worth considering a little more context. Many shop floor operators who “retire” don’t just disappear. Some still have a mortgage. Some don’t have enough retirement saved up. And many others maintain a sense of purpose by continuing to work even just part-time well into their retirement.

So the question is: how can we leverage the loyalty and experience of the older generations while attracting the more “nomadic” younger generation to take their place? I won’t, of course, pretend like I have all the answers but I’ve seen enough shop floors to offer a few tips on where to start.

  1. Capture tribal knowledge
    You’re likely all too familiar with this problem. Much of what is accomplished in manufacturing isn’t taught so much as it’s learned through trial-by-fire. Your operators use their own senses and muscle memory not only to accomplish their tasks but also to recognize when something is off.
    While you can’t capture all tribal knowledge earned by your workforce over the years, you can provide automated tools for capturing the work being done. How much time did they spend? What issues did they come across? What comments does the operator have about the work being done that the planners should know? Not only does automation capture valuable data that would otherwise be lost, but it allows the facility to be more prepared for the uncertainties of the outside world. Like ,say, a pandemic.
  2. Implement a modernized training program
    The boomers are not yet gone. And even when they retire, they’re still available and often eager to continue working. Offering them a part-time position to implement a continuous training program gives your new operators the time they need to get that experience required to maintain or even improve productivity. This training could be done remotely as needed depending on the needs of your trainers, but a good program includes job shadowing and hands on training.
    You will also want to leverage video training programs into this routine. Training videos do not have to be expensive to work. Everyone has a camera in their pocket. Capture the work being done, then organize these videos on your network as needed to provide easy access to your new employees. The younger crowd is attracted to the value of technology. A little investment here can go a long way toward retention.
  3. Maximize new employee productivity
    The biggest concern most people have when it comes to modernizing a training program is the return on investment (ROI) if a new employee decides to move on. This is a very valid concern but not one that can’t be addressed. While your shop floor requires experienced operators, it also requires untrained labor. You need clean work areas, the right supplies at each machine or work station and sometimes just need an extra set of hands for a busy work center.
    Your on-boarding procedures should take advantage of these needs by requiring inexperienced operators to provide the kind of unskilled labor that all shop floors require. And if your training program comes with incentives that require a little extra initiative from your new employees, not only does your investment have a better chance of identifying the right operators for the job, but you will have gotten some value out of those who didn’t stick around longer than a month or even a couple of weeks. Very little lost.

 

In 2020, we are rolling out meaningful tools for manufacturers that are affordable, on-target and competitive.  We are also expanding our educational offerings.      

We believe in the critical importance of manufacturing right here in North America and we work hard to keep you working.  Ask us questions; you will find that we are far more reachable than other software providers you may partner with.  We are here to help you find the right tools and use them, whether it's a Google doc, an Excel sheet or a Production Control system.  To learn more about meeting your targets for 2020 or just getting a question answered, visit us at www.cimx.com.

 

This blog was written by Max Black.  Because he has all the answers.  

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