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Frontline manufacturing workers demand, deserve modern digital tools

Nov. 18, 2021

"For those working in essential frontline manufacturing roles, the public spotlight has helped boost a sense of pride in their work."

Parsable's Lawrence Whittle

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that people are at the heart of keeping companies and economies productive and sustainable. The ongoing “Great Resignation” adds to the already enormous labor challenges within the industry, including 2.1 million jobs predicted to be unfilled through 2030 in the United States. The same story is occurring in almost every country. This is a global worker crisis.

Clearly, there is a critical need for change and empowerment amongst the frontline. Parsable recently released new primary research, “The State of the Connected Frontline Manufacturing Worker, 2021” to examine frontline manufacturing workers' perception of their jobs, the usage of workplace technology and the pandemic's continuing impact.

The importance of technology on the frontlines

The research revealed 45% of frontline manufacturing workers surveyed across five countries—the US, Germany, France, Spain and the UK—say the opportunity to work in a more modern, digital environment would be part of their decision to leave their current employer. Further, the vast majority (81%) still rely on paper-based processes to follow work instructions and/or keep track of their work—even though 80% have no concerns with using digital tools.

Empowering frontline manufacturing workers with digital tools is critically important in retaining and attracting new talent. This is true across all generations, but especially for the digital natives that are needed to fill the manufacturing labor gap as older generations retire. In fact, younger workers are more likely to leave their current employers for one that offers a more modern workplace, including mobile technology.

Across the five countries surveyed, 55% of respondents aged 18-24 and nearly half (49%) of those aged 25-34 say access to technology factors into such a decision.

Frontline worker outlook amid pandemic

As desk-based employees have been able to work remotely throughout the pandemic, those working without a desk—which, by the way, make up 80% of the global workforce—have continued to report to onsite jobs. For those working in essential frontline manufacturing roles, the public spotlight has helped boost a sense of pride in their work.

The survey found 52% of frontline manufacturing workers feel more valued as a result of the pandemic. But employers must do more, as less than half (42%) report that their companies have implemented new technology to help them work better as a result of the pandemic.

Now more than ever, manufacturers that do not plan to implement technology into their processes are at a considerable disadvantage. By giving all their employees digital tools that help them work better, productivity, quality, safety and sustainability can be improved across their operations and, in fact, their entire supply chains.

Lawrence Whittle is CEO of Parsable