The job landscape has changed significantly in a Covid- 19 world. While people are returning to the office or the shop, the experience is somewhat different. They now return to hybrid work environments, fewer people on the shop floor, and supply chain issues among other things.
Digital systems have helped companies stay afloat during the pandemic, connecting employees working remotely to the workplace and to each other. It’s safe to say we’ll probably never go back to the old way and yet many shops still rely on paper documents to facilitate workflow.
Digital is here to stay. It can help shops not only adapt to this new work environment but also to recruit and train new employees to keep things running.
Countering the great resignation
Approximately 13 million people quit their jobs between July and September of 2021 at a time where there are about 10 million job openings on any given day. The magnitude of this issue is staggering and it’s squarely landing in shops. It’s a huge topic for many companies. They can’t find enough people and, when they do, they can’t retain them. Many of the applicants are minimally skilled and it can take them a long time to learn enough to be truly productive. We’re losing people who choose to work somewhere else because they can. Technology can dramatically improve that equation for shops of all sizes.
Recruiting ‘digital natives’
We developed ProShop ERP while working on the shop floor so it’s tailored to meet the needs of manufacturing operations. This digital ERP, QMS, MES ecosystem can be used to recruit and retain a company’s workforce, allowing less experienced people to be far more effective sooner in their career experience. The reality is that most of the people considering or entering the industry are very young. Because there are far more job openings than there are people, shops need to be on top of their “A” game in order to be the shop of choice when recruiting talent. For example, when a prospective employee goes in for an interview and shop tour, especially if they are young and more of a “digital native,” they will be far more interested in a company that is digitally transformed than one running on paper. Clients have told us that digitisation is a significant attraction to machinists who are trying to decide where to build or continue on their career path. These prospective employees will visit three different shops and choose the one with the cool technology. And, they aren’t keen on paper-based workflows.
Hire new, retain the proven
The challenge isn’t just limited to attracting new employees but also to retaining the talent you already have. There are a couple of factors to consider. One of our customers recently told us about a member of their office staff having to move across state lines for family reasons but still being able to remain on board. It wouldn’t have been possible if they were operating in a paper-based environment. Companies adopting a digital system can open the hiring pool to areas greater than their local region as well.
I also have lots of anecdotes from companies whose employees have reduced stress when working in a digital environment. Gone are the days of chasing down paper travellers or frustration at the lack of tribal knowledge being shared when the one person who knows how to set up a job is absent or they jotted down a note and now it’s lost.
A well-developed system for capturing tribal or institutional knowledge is key to ensuring optimal employee productivity.
Store it, share it
One of the best examples of the benefits of using your ERP/QMS/MES system to train employees quickly is a conversation I had while on a customer visit during second shift. There were very few people on the shop floor and I struck up a conversation with a guy setting up a five-axis mill. I asked him how long he had been working there. Six months. I assumed he had come from another shop because he was working on such a complicated piece of equipment. It can take years before one is good at it. I told him I was familiar with most of the shops in the area and asked where he came from. He said KFC. It was an acronym I didn’t recognise. He explained: Kentucky Fried Chicken. I then asked whether this was his first machining job (it was) and how it came to be that he was scheduled on a night shift unsupported by more experienced machinists, setting up a 5-axis mill himself. He said it was all right there in ProShop.
I then saw where the day shift programmer and more experienced machinists input an incredibly rich set of work instructions which included photos and videos and other information he needed to know to run the job. He had a good mechanical aptitude and knew how to use the right tools. It was such a clear example of someone who was new to the manufacturing industry yet doing super complicated work within just a few months of joining the company. There is no way that could have transpired in a more traditional paper-based environment. We are helping this company to hire inexperienced people with good mechanical aptitude and getting them up to speed at a much faster pace than they otherwise could. Using a system like this also helps experienced machinists, allowing them to share their knowledge and make their jobs a bit easier.
Technology plus the human touch
I’m not sure that many people think deeply enough about how things like their software can help impact these sorts
of ideas. More and more of our clients are buying robots to help keep the machines running but it can’t be done without people to set them up, create the programmes, and troubleshoot. You need people who are skilled enough to execute these complicated jobs and workflows.
Traditional approaches to recruit more skilled workers to manufacturing are not quite as effective as they used to be. The younger generation, digital natives, are attracted and well adapted to digital environments, never more so than in a post-pandemic world where their entire learning experience was reliant upon technology. Adopting a paperless work environment speaks to their needs, their way of learning and their preferred way to work. It also helps more experienced workers share their own knowledge, helping to train new workers and to alleviate their own job stress. When we’re not chasing down documents, we can easily build our own tribe and, together, be the most productive we can possibly be.
This is the viewpoint of Paul Van Metre, Founder ProShop ERP and it first appeared in Manufacturing Engineering