Only 16% of manufacturers and distributors report a vaccination rate of greater than 80%, according to a new industry report from Sikich. The latest Sikich Industry Pulse: Manufacturing and Distribution found that most respondents (28%) are reporting a vaccination rate between 41% and 60%.
The report also found that attracting and retaining talent continues to be an uphill battle for manufacturers and distributors. 84% of businesses have experienced plant-floor employee turnover in 2021, and only 9% were able to fill open positions in less than 30 days.
“The COVID-19 pandemic led to the US workforce greatly reevaluating its priorities, and employers have to adapt to meet new standards,” says Dave McKeon, leader of Sikich’s human resources advisory team. “Maintaining a safe and engaging work environment will be a top priority for manufacturers and distributors in the coming months. As the federal vaccine mandate works its way through the courts, we recommend companies prepare to comply by identifying service providers for tests and finalizing corporate policies and procedures. At the same time, company leaders also need to put in place competitive benefits, career progression paths and employee engagement activities to attract and retain talent.”
Automation offers a way forward
As manufacturers and distributors grapple with the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, many are turning to automation to fill in the gaps. One in three companies is looking to invest in automation and robotics within the next 12 months to replace a portion of its workforce. Further, more than half of respondents said they purchased or are interested in purchasing bots to use in robotic process automation.
"Automation can help fill the talent gaps manufacturers are grappling with today,” said Debbie Altham, a senior director within Sikich’s technology group. “An embrace of automation can also improve employee attraction and retention, as it offers employees looking for higher-level roles the opportunity to manage and operate robotic equipment and expand their skill sets.”
Manufacturers’ optimism declines
The Sikich report also found that manufacturing and distribution leaders are less optimistic about their business prospects. When considering their business prospects over the next six months, only 71% rated their optimism a seven or higher on a scale of one to 10, compared to more than 80% in June.
“The decline in economic optimism can be attributed to manufacturers and distributors facing continued talent shortages and unprecedented supply chain challenges,” said Jerry Murphy, partner-in-charge of manufacturing and distribution services at Sikich. “In addition to diversifying their supplier pool and increasing communication with customers, company leaders must lean on technology, such as modern ERP systems, to improve supply chain visibility and better forecast supply and demand.”
According to the report, the top three supply chain concerns executives expect to face in the next six months are material shortages (39%), project lead time (27%) and material costs (20%).