Skilled Labor Shortages in Manufacturing: Doing More with Fewer Employees

There's a skilled labor shortage in manufacturing and it's likely to get worse before it gets better. Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute teamed up for a study of the industry in 2015. They found that over the next decade, manufacturing companies will need 3.4 million workers — but will have a 2 million-worker shortfall.

This precipitous drop in skilled talent comes from an unfortunate confluence of conditions: baby boomers are retiring just as the industry is expanding. To make matters worse, fewer tech programs and a general lack of interest in manufacturing among high school students means that reinforcements are not on the way. Because of this, the report recommends that company leadership take a proactive role in increasing interest in manufacturing and offering training to workers within companies.

The report suggests long-term actions for manufacturers, government, and schools.


However, they also offer more immediate advice. The essence of the report is that companies will have to do more with less. Instead of finding a perfect new hire for management, companies will have to develop talent from within. That means looking for promising young workers and actively developing their skills as managers.

Some executives may be hesitant to invest too much in training. After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker stays at a job for just 4.2 years (down from 4.6 years in 2014). No one wants to train an employee who ends up leaving for a competitor, but the labor shortage requires action. Luckily, there are proven ways to improve worker retention, which helps training and development investments pay off.

Ergonomic equipment helps retain employees while improving productivity.

Yes, higher wages help lure and keep good employees. But so do good ergonomics. A study published in Human Factors and Ergonomics Society showed that proactively improving ergonomics increased job satisfaction for staff and helped companies retain employees.

Equipment like Lift Tables, Tilt Tables, and Pallet Carousel and Skid Positioners help position workstations at an optimal level. Ergonomic solutions allow workers to maintain a natural, relaxed posture as they work. This reduces stress on bones, joints, and muscles, reducing the chance of injury while improving productivity.

The injury reductions alone provide quick ROIs on ergonomic equipment. Protecting workers keeps companies from losing skilled labor and having to pay the direct and indirect costs of injuries.

Besides, workers are happier when they're healthier and have the sense that management is concerned about their wellbeing — this helps retain valuable, skilled workers. And finally, workers with ergonomic equipment are more productive, which helps fill the gap left by the labor shortage.

There's not one single solution for the manufacturing labor shortfall.

Instead, companies will have to cobble together a strategy of developing employees from within their ranks and retaining them by providing an appealing workplace. The upside to this difficult situation is that companies will become leaner and more productive in the process, skilled labor shortages or no.


"Addressing the Skilled-Labor Shortage Problem in Manufacturing (and Improving Business Operations." IndustryWeek. Informa, 30 May 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

"Economic News Release: Employee Tenure Summary." BLS. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22 Sept., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

"OSHA's $afety Pays Program." OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

"Proactive office ergonomics can increase job satisfaction, employee retention." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

"The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing 2015 and beyond." TheManufacturingInstitute. The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 2015. PDF. 20 Feb. 2018.

Categories: Ergonomics, Manufacturing, Safety

Tags: Ergonomics, labor shortage, safety, Tilt Tables, Lift Tables, Pallet Carousel and Skid Positioners