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Workforce Optimization Part 3: Using CMMS to Help the Next Generation of Maintenance Professionals

Paul Lachance
  • Nov 02, 2021
  • 7 minutes

“Baby Boomers” are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day. Help wanted signs are prevalent in nearly every industrial park in the US. The young women and men joining the workforce lack critical basic technology skills that manufacturers need. Sound like a mess? It is!

Consider the Stats

  • 50% of facilities personnel are set to retire in the next few years
  • 10 million shortfall in workers in the next six years
  • By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 years or older

The US has been late in recognizing this problem, and we are scrambling to fix, but at least it is now a “front-burner” topic of conversation. There are lots of approaches to help manufacturers weather these tight labor times and manufacturing has been forced to change. Although it still has the goal of making quality products in a timely and cost-effective manner to the marketplace, the approach and the operations are evolving – as well as the people doing the work. Below is a discussion on how manufacturers can help mitigate the risks of not having enough quality workers with the right skills.

Culture, Purpose and Mission

The culture in today’s manufacturing facility has changed. The next generation of workers is different. The familiar faces of the past – typically all the same gender and race – are now much more diverse (or at least should be!). The aging workforce is retiring, and we are starting to see younger faces. These changes bring new dynamics to the labor force.

Purpose and mission are critical. Young adults today don’t just work in an organization because their father and grandfather worked there. Sure, financial factors are near the top of their target employment list, but there are currently plenty of well-paying entry-level jobs – strong compensation may not be enough. Organizations that can clearly define their goals, mission and purpose and show that they care about more than the bottom line will resonate with the next generation of workers.

 Organizations that can clearly define their goals, mission and purpose and show that they care about more than the bottom line will resonate with the next generation of workers.

Manufacturers need to well articulate their care for their customers, the environment, diversity/equity/inclusion, their culture and their team. If you truly care about all these areas, and your team is on same page – you will be a more competitive and profitable organization. These organizations will attract talent – and more importantly retain it.

Read more about Dude Solutions mission and values

The next generation will appreciate – and as a result be more productive – If their management loses the “boss” mentality. Sure, workers need to follow the rules, regulations and training, but “coaching” is a favored method to motivate vs. “bossing”.

Proper training, onboarding, apprenticeship programs or similar are essential. Once ready, a coach should fine-tune team performance with a solid feedback-loop and mentorship to not just show and tell “how” to get the job done, but a healthy dose of “why” they are doing it. I am not suggesting that you allow the team to work completely independent or shy away from strict guidelines – especially around safety, but the overall militant attitude of previous generations does not resonate with tomorrow’s workers – whether you like it or not.

Training and Educational Opportunities

It is no longer adequate to post open jobs and hope you get enough quality applicants. The labor market is far too competitive. Forward thinking manufacturers must be more proactive. There are lots of amazing, exciting programs forming all over the country. These could be internal talent development programs, associations with local educational institutions or similar. If your organization is too small to create your own internal team development – look at what is available in your local community. If you are larger, and don’t already have relationships with local programs or have started building your internal training and apprenticeship programs – get started!

Calhoun Community College in Tanner, AL has an extremely successful model “Alliance for Machining Professionals”. This program has around 20% theory and 80% hands-on training that sets up their graduates with numerous paths from certifications to associates degrees and beyond. They work with local manufacturers where the students – some while still attending school – earn competitive wages and set themselves up with lots of well-paying, growth and careers opportunities. There are similar programs popping up all over the US.

Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, KY offer a great program for high-school students in conjunction with GE Appliances – a local large manufacturing operation – entitled GEA2DAY. High school students can start training and work paid apprenticeship programs two days a week, all while still enrolled in high school. These students learn cutting-edge advanced manufacturing, setting them up for a well-paying career. GE gets much needed team help, with many students continuing to full-time work. The two-days-a-week program was so popular, they opened to anyone in the community that needed this flexibility. Now mothers, soon-to-be-retired workers and others are participating, helping both the employees and employers.

As a country and industry we are behind training these next-generation workers, but progress is being made and we are seeing some amazing public/private programs filling these much-needed gaps. The examples like GEA2TODAY and Calhoun Community College are fortunately becoming more commonplace.

Best Practices and Technology

Anytime I research, study and write about challenges with team availability and lack of proper skills, I cannot help but be reminded of the major value of “lean” and efficient operations, aided by proven best-practices and modern technology. Programs such as 5S, “Gemba Walks” and Total Productive Maintenance continuously improve our operating environments by being better organized, safer, and more efficient and productive. You may be challenged filling all your roles, but if you are lean and efficient, those pains are lessened. The team will also feel more involved and in line with the organization’s goals and purpose.

The technology that is available in the manufacturing environment should feel comfortable for the next generation of workers to use given they have grown up using computers. Manufacturing maintenance operations is a good example. CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) make manufacturers stronger by optimizing asset and production performance, promote a preventive and even predictive maintenance culture, optimize work orders, manage spare parts and much more. The overall goal of CMMS helps promote increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), optimizing manufacturing and business processes, helping control costs and ultimately drive profitability. Served up via a computer – or better yet a younger-generation-favored mobile device, this technology will feel very natural in these younger generation worker’s hands.

Mobile CMMS
Access CMMS from your personal mobile device allows for instant access to all key operational work from anywhere.

 

Mobile CMMS 2
Easy to identify workload “to-do”, both for supervisors and for team-members.

 

Technology such as the industrial internet of things, robotics and similar, which often will cause the older generation to shrink, are welcomed by these next generation. This further emphasizes the importance of having excellent training programs – often very attractive to the younger generation.

Conclusion

There are numerous forces creating the “help wanted” signs we see everywhere, most of which difficult to control. What we can control is being proactive and planning. Working with our local educational organizations, developing internal training programs, embracing lean and efficient operations – aided by CMMS are all areas we can control – and must embrace.

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