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Overcoming Labor Shortages in the Manufacturing Sector

Like many sectors, the manufacturing industry suffered substantial job losses during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many manufacturing companies have recovered, but they now face a new challenge: filling job vacancies. As many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could be unfilled by 2030, according to a 2021 survey.


Like many sectors, the manufacturing industry suffered substantial job losses during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many manufacturing companies have recovered, but they now face a new challenge: filling job vacancies. As many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could be unfilled by 2030, according to a 2021 survey.

Much of this shortfall will result from a scarcity of skilled employees. Let’s look at the causes underlying the shortage of skilled manufacturing labor and the impact on manufacturers.

What Are the Causes?

As smart manufacturing grows, finding workers who have the technology and software skills to manage complex operations is becoming essential. But the struggle to find skilled workers has many root causes, including:

  • College graduates with technology skills do not perceive manufacturing as a potential career path. They still view the industry as one based on manual labor.
  • Qualified workers assume that manufacturers won’t offer training programs to help keep their technology skills up to date.
  • Software developers worry that they may not receive the same level of support that they find in other industries.

The general dynamics of the manufacturing job market have also changed. During the pandemic, skilled workers have become more aware of career opportunities beyond local employers and outside the manufacturing industry itself.

What Is the Impact of Labor Challenges on Manufacturers?

The shortfall of skilled workers in the labor force will have a wide range of effects on a manufacturer’s bottom line. The increased competition for skilled workers means that it will take longer to fill open positions, which can lower productivity.

To meet this challenge, companies may need to improve their recruiting methods and streamline their onboarding processes. The tight job market also creates incentives for businesses to retain employees in order to fill the skills gap. As a result, they may need to invest in improving compensation, benefits, training and technology.

How Can MES Help?

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and other automated technologies can help manufacturers address the shortfall in skilled frontline labor. Automated tools can increase productivity by eliminating data silos, streamlining production processes, and providing actionable data to drive better employee assignments. These may include such as digital work instructions, digital dashboards, direct machine interfaces, and paperless dispatching. These tools will also improve employee retention by increasing job satisfaction and helping your shop floor employees build digital skills.

ShopVue has been providing manufacturers with proven frontline connected workforce solutions for more than 30 years. To learn more about how our modular, user-friendly MES can help improve your operations, watch this brief overview video, or ask the experts at ShopVue.