Comment: Key trends shaping the manufacturing workforce in 2022

workforceManufacturers cannot afford to stay stagnant as the major trends reshape workforces across all sectors, says Saar Yoskovitz, CEO of Augury.

The manufacturing industry has faced severe challenges from the supply chain disruption, material shortages, Brexit, and the pandemic. These obstacles are unlikely to disappear completely as we head through 2022. And as organisations have tried to rapidly adapt to new circumstances, digital transformation projects have been introduced to help with efficiency and automation.

As a consequence of external factors and digitisation, the demands on the manufacturing workforce have grown.  These individuals, as is the case in many other industries, have had to adapt to more changes in the last two years, than the last ten or more combined. The evolution of manufacturing roles will continue throughout 2022.

While it is impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for the manufacturing workforce, here are three key areas impacting the manufacturing workforce that businesses need to be aware of.

The Great Manufacturing Resignation continues

The “great resignation” was a major talking point all last year. However, this mass shake-up of workers leaving their current roles, and seeking new ones, has mostly been viewed through the lens of office workers. What is often overlooked is that, according to Bloomberg, only the hospitality sector has been hit harder than the manufacturing industry by the great resignation. Some of the highest rates of staff turnover occurred within lower-paid manufacturing positions.  The industrial companies we work with saw a 20-30 per cent workforce attrition rate in 2021 and this will continue into 2022.

This is a real challenge for the manufacturing industry, which is already struggling under the pressures of a talent gap and an aging workforce. Workers want to feel purpose in their roles. One way to do this is through technology that frees employees from monotonous tasks and allows them to take on higher-value work. Attracting new talent will come down to investing in technology, reskilling employees, and shifting the perception of manufacturing from the dirty job of yesterday, to the high-tech environment of tomorrow.

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Automation replaces missing workers

The skills gap in the manufacturing sector is growing. New opportunities have been created at a large rate due to the need to create more reliable supply chains. This has been done through the push to reshore and onshore manufacturing. Even if the industry can bring in a new wave of workers, there will still be a significant number of gaps to fill. As such, manufacturers will increasingly seek automation to compensate for their lack of workers, and to maximize the production capacity of their current facilities. There’s no point in building a new facility if you won’t be able to staff it.

The hybrid manufacturing worker

Remote work is typically used to refer to the office worker who swaps their suit, tie, and office desk, for a T-shirt, jumper, and home laptop. While the shift to remote working may have impacted this group significantly, the impact of this trend did not cease here, and will also have a large effect on the future of manufacturing. Factory floor workers and managers who experienced remote work for the first time during the pandemic may no longer have the same desire to continue working in a factory. The workforce overall will continue to become more fluid and unpredictable, putting more pressure on the ability of less “hybrid-ready” companies like manufacturers to staff and run their operations.

Manufacturers need to make sure they can keep up with the trends that are shaping their workforces. Technology adoption will play a key role in empowering employees, attracting new talent, filling skills gaps as they arise, and enabling new hybrid workflows. Manufacturers cannot afford to stay stagnant as the major trends reshape workforces across all sectors.

Saar Yoskovitz, CEO of Augury