How Do Strikes Impact the Manufacturing Industry?
Strikes have been in the headlines lately, with the writers’ strike bringing Hollywood to a standstill and President Biden making history as the first sitting president to ever walk a picket line (he did it in Michigan in support of the United Auto Workers strike), and most recently healthcare workers are threatening to walk out as well. The average Joe is certainly impacted by these disputes between management and workers. The writers’ strike, which was recently resolved, means no new scripted programming this fall season (say it ain’t so, Law & Order!). The auto workers’ strike means new car prices are expected to rise… as if inflation and interest rates hadn’t handled that already. And a nurses’ strike will certainly impact the care people receive.
So, it’s easy to see how everyday people are affected by strikes. How do labor strikes impact the business side of the manufacturing industry? They can wreak havoc in many facets of operations, obviously bringing production to a screeching halt during the strike itself.
But those effects, and others, can linger when employees exchange the picket line for the production line, impacting operations long after the strike is resolved. Here’s how.
Decreased output. Obviously, production is brought to a stand-still during the strike itself. So, when employees get back on the job, the entire operation is behind. It affects everything from hitting forecasted numbers to earning revenue.
Inventory snags. Other parts of the industry, like the supply chain, can be unaffected by a strike, so inventory can accumulate. Getting inventory just right is a core principle for efficiency, and it’s a delicate balancing act between too much and not enough. Strikes can throw that balance off in a big way.
Delivery delays. Product isn’t being produced during a strike, period, so obviously it’s not going to be delivered on time. But even after the strike is over, delays can continue as companies play catchup. Those delays and shortages have a ripple effect, first hitting your partners and clients, but then rippling out to their partners and clients.
Damaged relationships. Employee morale is like gold in any industry, but after a strike, especially if it’s a prolonged one, relations between employees and management can sink to an all-time low. Distrust of higher-ups can seep onto the production line, disputes may not be completely resolved to both parties’ satisfaction, collaboration can suffer. With the battle for qualified, experienced workers in manufacturing, this is a tough setback.
Bottom-line woes. All of those production delays can result in fewer orders, distrust among your clients and vendors, stock prices could even take a tumble. All of it will eat away at your profits.
How manufacturing can bounce back after strikes
When the negotiation is done and the workers are back on the job, management’s next steps can mean the difference between bouncing back quickly from a strike or feeling those nagging, lingering effects. At USC Consulting Group, we’re the experts in helping management streamline operations, become more efficient, create effective training and more — all crucial elements in the next steps after a strike.
Careful scheduling to increase production. This doesn’t mean piling on the work to make up for the shortfall. But it might mean adding additional shifts, giving people extra hours or even hiring temporary help to close that gap.
A laser focus on employee relations. Now is the time for the C-suite to get out on the production line, if they haven’t already been walking that floor. Employee relations can be at an all-time low after a strike, so it’s vital to focus on employee retention efforts, additional training and other methods to make your employees feel valued and needed.
Involve employees in the fix. Items may have been hammered out at the negotiation table, but it doesn’t mean all employees will be on board with what the union agrees to. The old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, applies here, only in reverse. It was “broke.” Involving the people on the front lines in the “fix” in terms of streamlining operations can go a long way.
Strive for operational excellence. This means efficiency and ease all the way down the line. When your shop is running on all cylinders, it’s not just good for your company’s bottom line. Employees like their jobs better when snags, delays and other frustrations aren’t happening.
Have labor strikes affected your manufacturing operations? Need some help improving your processes to please your employees and bottom line? Contact us today and we will walk you through the steps.