Manufacturing needs workers—how to make workers want manufacturing

Sept. 2, 2022
Trust = retention

By Prasad Akella, founder and chairman, Drishti

While attracting and retaining good workers is challenging in any industry, it is particularly so in manufacturing which suffers from high turnover rates. In 2021, the turnover rate in manufacturing skyrocketed to nearly 40% in the US. Today, well into our post-COVID world, the US unemployment rate across industries hovers around 3.5%, making it even trickier to find and keep good workers.

Knowing these daunting numbers, how can manufacturers attract, train, and engage more employees when the whole world has a “help wanted” sign hanging on the door? Drishti surveyed 500 American entry-level workers, both with and without prior manufacturing experience, to understand the common perspective of the industry and make recommendations for manufacturers on how to use new technology to improve industry conditions.  

Let’s take a look…

Industry perceptions

There is a lot to like about manufacturing work — people enjoy working with their hands and learning new skills. They like to be a part of the team. People also love working with new technology—only 16% of all respondents disagreed with the statement, “Having new technology in a factory, like artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, etc. would make me more likely to take a job.” 

However, when asked whether they believed factories were modern and contained these newer technologies, 60% disagreed. This is a problem. 

Artificial-intelligence technology can get more out of human brains and hands, aiding improvements both in quality and productivity, while sending a message of empowerment rather than the threat of replacement. It also helps with satisfaction; for example, people we surveyed wanted the opportunity to “change stations and learn more”—something that ordinarily requires more training, a resource-heavy requirement that conflicts with daily priorities despite its positive effects to an organization. New technology can provide video-based training support, meaning that workers are able to get clear refresher training and cross-training as needed.

With new technology your facility will become more adaptable, and quality issues  associated with flexibility will be mitigated faster and in a more focused manner—if someone calls out due to a family emergency, you will have the tools to quickly rearrange staff based on their strengths. With the 2021 absenteeism rate of 3.1%, this is a daily challenge for all manufacturers—an area they welcome assistance.

Trust = retention

AI-powered vision platforms can alleviate trust issues prevalent among line workers. The high pressure and limited room for error, combined with the common feeling that their input doesn’t matter, contributes to the poor figures seen in the survey—only 28% of those with manufacturing experience agreed that workers were trusted and respected by management. An AI-powered vision system can alleviate these issues by giving unbiased, ironclad evidence of root causes and defects that are more often a direct consequence of the process rather than the associate’s actions. No longer will they fear being blamed for something when there is proof to the contrary. In fact, you’ll capture the ideas of your creative associates, adopt them to improve your standardized work and, ultimately, improve your manufacturing processes. 

According to Deloitte, there will be a shortage of 2.1 million skilled jobs in the US by 2030—possibly larger with geo-politics currently driving reshoring. But with new technologies and shifted strategies, manufacturers can turn the tide, pay well, and attract more candidates while improving retention of their employees overall. Manufacturing needs more workers—it’s time we use new technology to make workers want manufacturing.