- December 9, 2020
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Business, Management
I recently read an article in the Hartford (Connecticut) Business Journal (as one does, when you live in Central Texas) recommending that manufacturers should focus on recovery, technology, and grooming the workforce in 2021.
While the numbers are specific to Connecticut, they represent a larger trend in the United States. Their big concern in January 202, as it was for everyone else, was to fill all the open skilled-manufacturing jobs.
Once the pandemic hit, the manufacturing workforce shrank by 4%, which was similarly reflected elsewhere. Even though manufacturers may have been working, they worked on reduced hours, trimmed-back overtime, and many open positions no longer needed to be filled.
And while I’ve said we won’t fully recover until we have successful vaccines and treatments in place, we already see these on the horizon. In the meantime, manufacturers can start preparing for 2021 and take advantage of some of the newest developments that are on the horizon.
First, understand that some of your older, more experienced workers may retire as younger, less experienced candidates enter the workforce. You may be able to lessen the drag of open positions if you can entice your senior workers to stay on and mentor the younger workers, helping them learn the ropes and dealing with different situations.
On the other hand, the new technology is coming on strong. 3D printing is becoming more and more popular in the manufacturing setting, digital manufacturing is stepping to the forefront, and even artificial intelligence and machine learning are figuring into the manufacturing process. Embracing 3D printing and additive manufacturing is a chance for your younger, more tech-savvy workers to mentor and teach older workers, especially those who have another decade or two left in them.
Additionally, you should make special preparations for digital manufacturing, which means, for one thing, learning how to measure your productivity and the machine output. If you’re not measuring everything right now, develop the processes to start measuring everything and everyone. If nothing else, it puts you into the data-driven mindset, which you’re going to need because you’re going to be overwhelmed with mountains of data from your digital manufacturing machines. (When I ran a digital manufacturing operation, we had four machines that each produced 44,000 pieces of data per day.)
This means that worker training should be a focus for 2021. Whether you’re paying for higher education, training from your manufacturing partners, or sending your workers to intensive training courses and schools to further their education, this is a way to fill those open skilled positions and earn loyalty and longevity from those workers who you’ve invested in.
From a sales perspective, you need to let your customers know you’re still here. Sure, they already know it because you’ve been supplying them with your products, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be satisfied. The companies that are going to succeed are those that are making their changes and improvements in 2021.
People will shift, positions will change, and the relationships you built in the last few years can change in a few days. That means you need to continue to call on your customers, and you may even want to increase your marketing efforts. Reach out to new customers, push to increase market share, and grow your customer base.
Remember, a slowdown in the economy or your circumstances is not a time to slow down your marketing. If anything, this is the time to ramp it up. More marketing means more customers. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope that everything will be back to normal when this is all over.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including strengthening their workforce. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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