Coronavirus/Covid-19 Information & Updates for Manufacturers
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Manufacturing & the Workforce Shortage – Facing the Challenge

There is a huge worker shortage in this country.  What can you do about it?

Face the Facts

Many workers have re-evaluated their lives and this means the worker pool is not coming back to the level seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Boomers are retiring earlier than planned and 75 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire in the next few years. Families have rearranged their lives due to issues of school closings, quarantined children and daycare issues, resulting in another 2 million parents leaving the workforce.  Throw in the skills gap challenge and you can see this is not going away.

Eliminate Waste:

Businesses have their people wearing multiple hats to fill the worker shortage, but these employees risk burnout to keep things going.  Taking a good look at your process can save you time and aggravation- and helps ease the burden on an already overworked staff.  When we say “lean”, people usually think of doing more with fewer people.  Instead, it is about looking at what you are doing and eliminating nonvalue added work.  Eliminating waste applies to both the manufacturing floor and the front office. Where can you go paperless?  How can you make decisions faster?  How can you eliminate needless material movement or realign the plant floor for better product flow through the plant?  Where can you eliminate unnecessary paperwork and reporting?

Standardize work

There are a number of benefits to standardized work including improved quality, consistency and efficiency.  This includes an improved culture based on explicitly defined expectations, reductions in process variability and easier training of new employees.  Most organizations get hung up on the word “procedure” and feel these documents need be perfectly written instructions.  The reality is that standardization can be realized (or at least improved) with simple checklists or diagrams detailing these process expectations.  The most important first step is to create documents and to use these documents to communicate those expectations clearly.  Standardized work involves establishing precise procedures for everyone supporting a process.  The three elements are:

  • The frequency and expected duration of each task
  • The precise sequence in which an operator needs to perform these tasks; and
  • The provision of the resources required to keep the process operating smoothly.

Outsource business functions:

Do you need your people doing internal audits or your engineering team designing a plant layout?  Is there a job opening that you’ve not been able to fill with the right long-term person that you can instead outsource?  External resources can be a huge help in these times by freeing your staff to focus on getting product out the door.


Automation is growing at a rapid rate with advances in technology while at the same time costs are falling.  Co-bots are great tools that can safely work alongside a human worker.  Material handling technologies are getting better by the day.  Is there a process that is very tedious or has quality issues that result in frequent rework?  Having a team with experience in automation walk your shop floor could identify opportunities to automate and redeploy the people you do have.

Re-evaluate your strategic plan:

This involves looking at what is profitable and can be staffed appropriately in the business, and possibly saying goodbye to some parts of your business.  Perhaps realign the staff to eliminate duplication and free up existing resources.

Keep the people you have

Through cultural assessments, you can see if your employees and management are on the same page.  To retain workers, it is imperative to explicitly communicate the mission of the company to your employees, they know they’re not just running a machine but rather further the mission of your company.  For example, if your company makes healthcare components, your employees should know they are not just producing an item, they are helping people be healthier, safer and have a better quality of life.  Conducting stay interviews can help keep people connected to their work and allow the management staff identify and adapt to any growing concerns with the people you do have.

Look for ways to sell into the opportunity

Your clients are having the same personnel issues as you are.  There’s a good chance that if you look at their operations, there may be opportunities to sell more value-added services.  Do they place a sticker/label on to your part that you company could apply?  Can you make a sub assembly for your client to remove their labor?  Where can you get creative with your customers for a win-win solution that drives your sales and margins?

The faster you face the reality of the new workforce environment in your business plan and adapt, the more robust and profitable you can become.  Insyte Consulting is here to help you face these challenges by helping you innovate your current processes so you can continue to increase your profits and grow your business.


Case Study: American Sensing Inc.


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