If you own or manage a manufacturing business, there are some startling realities ahead to consider. Let’s present the facts first:

  • In next few years, approximately 800,000 workers will leave the industry, through retirement or simply to move to a non-manufacturing role.
  • This continues a drain of manufacturing workers, which has seen employees in the sector shrink from over 9m to just around 3m.
  • UK manufacturing management is not as highly rated as our European neighbours.
  • There is a shortage of new blood coming into manufacturing – both at management and operational levels.
  • The demands of anyone in the sector now are varied and complex – a need to be efficient and agile seem to be conflicting priorities.

The impact of these changes will be significant. How can you maintain a level of customer service while having fewer resources at your disposal and yet more demand for customisation of products?

As the landscape changes, the keys to success look like they are going to include flexibility, efficiency and adaptability. This has a huge impact on the requirements of staff at all levels, with a need to embrace a culture of “Can-do” when it comes to continuous improvement and change.

To be competitive on the global stage, manufacturing companies will need to ensure staff have the requisite skills and knowledge, but remain adaptable and agile to shifting changes in technology, trends and customer demands.

Some of the anticipated changes in manufacturing are identified below.

  • Resource efficiency – an incessant war on waste, efficient processes and skilled, flexible workforce.
  • End to end supply chain integration with seamless information demanding agility to respond to changes. With Brexit looming, and pressure on the environment, an emphasis on shorter supply chains may well surface.
  • Materials innovations and R&D to re-use waste materials and make resources totally productive.
  • Trends in personalisation meaning more agility in production, e.g. short and effective changeovers.
  • Requirement for staff to adapt to changing demand – ownership, decision making, an improvement mindset, problem solving and many other skills to supplement technical competence.
  • Embracing technology changes, such as nanotechnology, biotech, robotics, and data initiatives to make the supply chain leaner and more “real time”.

To meet all these impacts, organisations need to address two key HR issues – development and recruitment.

The recruitment conundrum is going to need some joined up thinking, and involvement of colleges, government and employers to attract and retain talent. One of the challenges for the government, education programmes and employers is to make manufacturing attractive to the younger generation. Currently, up to 70% of women and young people are not interested in manufacturing, as opposed to 44% of men.

The perception of manufacturing may still have a hangover from the industrial era. The reality is different, and manufacturing should not be seen in isolation, but as a central pivot in the value chain, with typical links in developing, manufacturing and bringing a product to market. This needs to be encompassed in recruiting and developing talent to the sector.

The immediate area you can explore is reviewing and assessing the skill requirements for the next 5-10 years, the succession plans at all levels to replace the “manufacturing emigrants” and the culture of the site to build empowerment and ownership around a proactive performance and improvement approach – seeking solutions not blame, building teams not silos.

Providing all staff with an insight of the end to end cycle will help employees and managers understand the importance of each step, the interdependency and the impact of change in one step on subsequent steps, as well as the prospect of recycling and re-use opportunities. Indeed, in many world class manufacturers with active continuous improvement and Kaizen activities, it is multi-functional teams who are delivering sustainable changes impacting the whole supply chain.

As the pressures on resource efficiency increase, so will the need for collaborative working between customers, manufacturers and suppliers, not to mention the logistics links in between. Use of shared data, transport efficiencies, waste management and control, energy efficiency will all become part of the mix, and therefore the perception of manufacturing as an “in the box” activity is going to have to change. The demands of a more sustainable manufacturing sector will change in the next 30 years, and this will also impact the demands on managers and staff.

A challenge? Yes. Impossible? No.

Identify your needs, build a plan, and start developing a culture of open communication, clear accountability, and a passion to improve.

If you would like to speak to our team about how to manage and implement change for the future, then get in touch.

Email ian@i2iconsultants.co.uk to know more.

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