What’s Keeping You Up at Night? The Main Concerns of Top Executives
Slowly but surely, consumers are returning to the marketplace in full force after a number of tumultuous years. According to Industry Week, consumer spending is up 20% from this time last year. While that number is great for a manufacturer’s balance sheet, there are still challenges in the industry that are keeping CEOs up at night. Here is a look at a number of concerns of top executives — and ways you can tackle them head-on to get a good night’s sleep.
Problem: Retiring workforce
Ah, retirement. The day valued, longtime employees get their gold watches and leave the plant for the last time. It’s great for the employee, not so much for their CEO. That’s because as retirees head out to enjoy their golden years, they’re taking all of the institutional knowledge they’ve learned over many years on the job with them. The median worker age as of 2018 was 44.1 years old — over two years older than workers in other industries. And that was in 2018, the most recent stat. Those folks are 48 now. But you don’t need stats to tell you that. A walk around your shop floor (or a talk with HR) will give you the lowdown on how many of your employees are nearing retirement.
Solution: Capture that knowledge
It pays to be proactive in most situations and this is one of them. Capture that institutional knowledge before your seasoned vets walk out the door. Create mentorships between older and younger workers. Film a roundtable discussion featuring your best older workers talking about the ins and outs they’ve learned over the years. Ask your seasoned vets to be part of updating your manuals. At USC Consulting Group, when we go into a manufacturing business to improve efficiencies, we understand that the people on your front lines are your greatest resource and our greatest ally in that effort.
Problem: Skills gap
The other side of the institutional knowledge coin is the lack of skilled workers to replace them. You’ve heard about the skills gap, certainly, and this is it. There is a dearth of qualified people out there. Or enough people. Manufacturers in the U.S. are expected to see 2 million unfilled jobs by 2030. It paints a grim picture for companies that aren’t planning or prepared for the future of their workforce.
If you’re not finding skilled people, one solution is to create robust training programs that will get them the skills they need. It’s an investment, yes. But a worthy one.
Another tactic: Partner with a local trade school or community college to target upcoming grads.
Problem: Employee engagement (or lack thereof)
Are your employees happy? Do they feel valued and appreciated? If you don’t know, now’s the time to find out. To add to the problem of an aging workforce retiring and taking their skills with them, the new generation of warehouse and manufacturing workers are less and less inclined to begin and continue careers in the industry. The Great Resignation is a countrywide juggernaut that has prompted many of the younger workers to resign from and reject positions where they don’t feel adequately fulfilled or see a future career. The manufacturing industry is not immune.
The younger generation of workers needs validation and appreciation to stick around. Only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work and 74% are actively looking for a new job at any given time with their current employer.
Solution: Start walking the floor
Walking the floor is an oft-overlooked yet crucial way for managers and executives to engage with their team, foster relationships and directly affect employee retention in a positive way.
Getting out onto the shop floor shows employees that their employer cares about them and their career. For the employer, this strategy fosters retention while also affording an opportunity to discover any standout employees or ways to improve day-to-day operations. This directly combats an aging workforce by keeping new employees around long enough to become skilled themselves.
Another tactic: Invest in career pathing for your employees. It starts with promoting from within and giving people a roadmap for how to get there. It’s a powerful tool. In fact, 94% of employees said they would stay at a job that invested in their career development, according to a survey on LinkedIn.
Problem: Worldwide supply chain disruptions
While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down, the manufacturing problems it caused are still very prevalent in the industry today. Bottlenecks in every level of the supply chain and overcrowded shipping ports have become the norm over the past few years — with little signs of slowing.
According to Industry Week, a 400% increase in shipping costs from China and a 45% increase in ocean freight wait times — both increases relative to last year — is a trend that could continue for 6 to 12 months, if not longer.
Reshoring has long been suggested as idealistic and beneficial for the country, yet unrealistic. That is, until now.
The dramatic increase in outsourcing costs and interminable shipping wait times has resulted in many Fortune-500 companies — General Motors, Toyota and Samsung, to name a few — making considerable investments in the improvement, expansion and new developments of their manufacturing plants in the U.S.
Reshoring is a way for U.S. manufacturers to invest in the country and claim valuable subsidies, while also shielding themselves from any potential global supply chain issues.
Problem: Inventory management
Dialing in proper order quantities, reorder triggers and keeping an accurate and adequate lead time have long been hot buttons for manufacturers. The aforementioned bottlenecks and disruptions have not helped.
The issue compounds when all departments have a different viewpoint on the situation: operations, sales, finance and business executives can all have contrasting requirements and best practices when it comes to an inventory management philosophy. Any divergence in departmental expectations mixed with a lack of communication can spell disaster for any manufacturer.
SIOP expands on S&OP — the business management process that involves sales forecast reports and planning for demand and supply — by adding a crucial component: Inventory.
SIOP is a powerful tool that helps your company get departments in sync, ensures that everyone is on the same page and realistic about the process, helps you manage and roll with changes, and measures performance.
“A key to SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues,” explains David Shouldice, Senior Vice President and Managing Director at USC Consulting Group. “One lever of control in the SIOP process is to make inventory harder working as a strategic tool.”
SIOP helps you wrangle your inventory management, achieve the optimal balance between not enough and too much, and settle back into Lean manufacturing principles that can eliminate waste and help ramp up your efficiency.
These aren’t the only challenges keeping CEOs up at night. At USC Consulting Group, we have more than 50 years of experience helping manufacturers find opportunities for greater efficiency and productivity. Call us today to talk about how we can help you get a good night’s sleep.