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Supply Chain News: Manufacturing CEO Says Lack of Workers at Crisis Levels


Need to Improve the Attractiveness of Manufacturinig Jobs, including Higher Pay

Nov. 25, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Recently, Ohio-based manufacturing company Ranpak Holdings needed to fill some addition machine operator positions.

Historically, CEO Omar Asali says,that wasn't much of a problem. But now, even in the face of high current unemployment rates, Ranpak struggled to find these new workers at factories across the US.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

At Ranpak, the company has added "mobility channels" to help manufacturing employees move from operations into more senior assembly and office roles.

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Writing on the web site, Asali says some of that lack of candidates could be worker reluctance to take a new job in a time of virus pandemic. However, it continued a trend that Asali says was in play well before the start of the pandemic. He cites, for example, a study be Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute that estimated in 2018 that this skills gap could leave about 2.4 million manufacturing jobs unfilled between then and 2028.

"I worry that the United States simply lacks the pool of manufacturing talent that companies like mine need," Asali wrote.

Of course, the US and most other developed countries have been losing millions of manufacturing jobs since the 1970s, accelerating in the late 1990s and beyond, the result both of outsourcing to low cost countries but also automation that greatly reduced the number of workers.

As a result, the "stigmatization of "blue-collar" work as low-skilled and unstable was formed," Osali says.

Osali, however, says some changes in the environment, such as the move to more local manufacturing and the related nascent reshoring movement, should be good news for manufacturing workers.

However, Osali says, these trends raise a key question: "When rebuilding an enduring manufacturing infrastructure and the human capital necessary to support it, how do we reverse decades of offshoring and cultivate the talent we need here at home?"
That means "We must redefine the manufacturing world as one that provides its workforce with opportunity for employment and advancement and the chance to participate fully in defining our future," Osali says. "We must reimagine a society with a thriving middle class that includes our machine operators, assembly workers, supply chain workers and line workers."

Part of that will likely involve increasing wages, Osali says. But just as important, it's "also about replacing the stigma currently attached to manufacturing labor with the social standing and appreciation these essential workers deserve."

What to do? Osali has several recommendations:

Shift the education mindset: Not everyone needs an expensive four-year degree. Two-year community college and vocational training opportunities targeted toward manufacturing and logistical supply chain opportunities (especially those that integrate digital skill sets) can create a workforce more prepared for today's real-world opportunities.

(Article Continued Below)



Employ automation that enhances, not replaces, labor: Learning to work within automated facilities can be a major point of differentiation for employee advancement, Osali says, adding that "In the next wave of globalization, developing highly skilled workers to complement digital technologies will be essential."

Create middle class appeal: Many manufacturers may not want to hear it, but manufacturing jobs need to pay more and enable a middle-class lifestyle, Osari says, giving "clear signs that a life in manufacturing can be well-lived."

He adds that at Ranpak, the company has added "mobility channels" to help manufacturing employees move from operations into more senior assembly and office roles.

"As a society, we must recognize the essential value these employees bring. And as business leaders, we must offer them compelling and attractive opportunities," Osari concludes.

What are your thoughts on Osali's perpective and recommdations? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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