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It’s no surprise that the manufacturing sector has a growing problem with its aging workforce. Partly due to the outdated perspective where one might go to work in an old factory, making sure screw A goes into hole B all day, the career path isn’t a top choice for today’s young adults just graduating from college. In reality, though, modern manufacturing entails a considerable amount of interaction with advanced technologies and interesting applications that require a diverse and educated skillset.
As proof of how dynamic and challenging manufacturing careers can be, consider the fact that in spite of a manufacturing labor force in the U.S. that is half of what it was in 1970, innovative applications of technology in the manufacturing arena have led to unprecedented levels of output, productivity, and global competitiveness.
As the average manufacturing operations management worker's hair gets greyer, companies are faced with two sets of challenges. First, there’s the battle of attracting new, young employees and then grooming the talent to become the next generation of leaders. And second, manufacturers have to face the reality that the details and idiosyncrasies that make things run smoothly on the shop floor are at a higher risk of being retired rather than transferred to the next generation. According to U.S. Department of Labor Bureau statistics, the average U.S. manufacturing worker's age is now 50 years old and half of the U.S. manufacturing workforce is ten to 15 years away from retirement.
This post will focus on the latter challenge and the efforts that organizations are taking to preserve and leverage tribal knowledge. In many cases, companies are utilizing emerging technologies such as manufacturing operations management software to optimize its value and mitigate associated risks.
Manufacturing workers aren’t simply expected to produce products over and over again, they’re also expected to apply their knowledge to continuously rise to new levels of efficiency and productivity by measuring and improving processes. As knowledge slowly fades away due to retiring expertise and the lack of knowledge transfer to younger workers, the real danger becomes that organizations may lose the ability to innovate and drive manufacturing competitiveness forward. Market leaders are taking several measures to make sure functional depth gets passed along and to enable this type of innovative environment.
In general, software has revolutionized how business is conducted. It’s opened up the capability to capture and analyze large amounts of manufacturing operations and performance data, and for organizations to communicate and collaborate on issues, which was traditionally one of the biggest roadblocks for large and distributed companies. When it comes to the issue preserving and leveraging tribal knowledge in the manufacturing industry, manufacturing software has been a game changer. Companies are using it in various ways to reduce risk associated with the aging workforce.
With many companies bringing back, or at least reconsidering the reshoring of manufacturing activities, we can see positive signs that manufacturing careers will regain popularity in the younger generations. Regardless, manufacturers will continue to find new ways to optimize key resources across people, processes, and technology to enable environments for continuous improvement. In the future, we will be covering each of these areas more in depth. But in the meantime, please feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions on the topic in the comments section below.
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