How to Increase Productivity with a Reduced Workforce

Sep 18, 2020 4:57:49 PM / by David Crowley


The future of manufacturing looks lean but not so mean for companies willing to innovate with next-generation manufacturing execution system tools. 

According to a Deloitte report, the manufacturing sector will lose 2.4 million workers by 2028 due to an increase of retirees and a lack of skilled replacements.

Even before COVID-19 scorched the global economy, manufacturing jobs were already melting away. In January, CNBC reported U.S. manufacturing shed 12,000 jobs in December 2019. Quoting manufacturing investment expert Steve Rosen, the report added:

“Until we have a better-trained, more-skilled workforce, which is not really out there, you’re going to have a lot of these positions open. It’s a challenge. There are job openings, and they are very tough to fill.”

In the short term, a reduced workforce fueled by further pandemic disruption will only aggravate the labor challenge as manufacturers spiral into a Catch 22 of increased productivity demands coupled with a skills replacement drought. Forward-thinking companies, however, are finding an antidote by deploying next-level manufacturing execution system (MES) solutions.


Rise of the Machines

Despite the twin assault of COVID disruption and a troubling skills gap, manufacturers are maximizing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) with dynamic manufacturing execution system technology. A robust MES streamlines manufacturing processes holistically with a variety of features, such as:

  • Operator Tracking
  • Labeling and Barcoding
  • ERP Integration
  • Remote Monitoring
  • Real-Time Data

An MES reduces downtime by keeping even the most bare-bones team informed with actionable data and pattern recognition using real-time machine data collection and deeper downtime/scrap reporting. In addition, automated job scheduling reduces labor needs, weathering the coming employment storm.

A lack of skilled labor means fewer “eyes on the prize” on the factory floor. MES solutions adds more “eyes” to the mix with game-changing remote monitoring management. In short, MES deployment is like hiring a super-powered team of long-term, virtual machines. 


Lean Solutions for Leaner Times

If the coming labor drought has any silver lining, it’s that it provides forward-thinking manufacturers an opportunity to evaluate traditional practices. What still works? What’s unnecessary or stuck in 20th-century thinking? MES software is an insightful guide on that journey, using 21st-century solutions to reduce costs that add little to no value to OEE.

MES leads the way in the exponential growth and interest in lean manufacturing initiatives. Modern lean programs propel profitability and productivity by helping eliminate waste and allocate resources where they’re needed most.

“Lean manufacturing really is about making problems visible, addressing problems and solving problems,” Bob Argyle of Leading2Lean tells Industry Week. “Smart technologies, used correctly, have really enhanced or accelerated companies’ ability to implement lean manufacturing and drive improvement in a big way.” 


If You MES, They Will Come

Ironically, growing a robust machine presence attracts—rather than repels—skilled workers. Mediocre workers are satisfied with mediocre OEE. Sub-par workers “hide in plain sight” in a dysfunctional, disorganized plant.

A 2016 Industry Week report identifies three factors in attraction and retention of quality employees: leadership and management training, performance management, and skills training. A deeper dive into the research study reveals how smart tech enhances all three:

“Many of the technology investments [noted previously in the report] —quality, production, labor and asset management systems— deepen employee engagement and directly support attraction and retention efforts. These same technology investments also tend to improve productivity, which is the number one targeted benefit of manufacturing decision makers.”

Effective MES solutions drive prioritizes human-resource productivity, empowering managers to set smart goals and expectations on time and on task.

For example, simplified job scheduling with a drag-and-drop tool makes it simple to move projects. MES also boosts worker deployment by displaying the current time and tools being used for specific projects, allowing managers to update tools and resources or switch the order of projects in order to avoid disruption.

In addition, job summary interfaces provide a quick, up-to-date picture of what is happening on any machine. Intuitive drop-down menus quickly access important information on a desired machine and make changes to current and future jobs with a touch of the screen.

Other top-notch MES features (like job setup sheets, customizable charts and reporting, and defect collection) work together to alleviate task frustration and mission creep from OEE, creating and nurturing both management and floor worker job satisfaction. 


Effective MES solutions are designed to empower users in whatever manufacturing they do, helping them complete it quickly, easily, and accurately. Subscribe to our blog to learn more about how this technology may benefit your plant and let you face the future with confidence. 

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