China has lost its luster for many manufacturing companies, and some that left are even considering a return, according to Milwaukee Business Journal. U.S. labor costs have remained flat for twelve years, the paper reported, and it's actually more expensive for consumers to buy products made in China.
The Business Journal also explains that the recession has helped drive U.S. costs down by removing much of the seniority that drove high wages. Essentially, labor rates in China have gone up and those in America have gone down, and the end result is that the U.S. looks more appealing to companies as they consider the future of manufacturing. However, the U.S. labor market could pose some problems.
Skills Gap Continues to Grow
Nearshoring is certainly exciting news for American workers, however, U.S. News and World Report said that a skills gap is developing in the U.S. manufacturing labor force. While work is returning to the U.S., the population is aging and retiring. Many manufacturers have said there simply are not enough skilled employees to fill the void.
Ted Toth, vice president and managing director of manufacturing technologies at Rosenberger-Toth told U.S. News that one issue facing manufacturing is removing the stigma associated with the work. He said the public's perception of the industry as "dark, dirty and dangerous" is no longer accurate.
"Now due to advances in technology, we now define our workers as 'blue tech workers,'" Toth said in an interview with U.S. News. "They utilize technology such as computerized machines and robotics, and also in new and exciting careers in 3 to 4 times the minimum wage."
High-Tech Tools In Manufacturing
Blue-tech worker is a pretty accurate observation because most manufacturers now put some sort of new gadget in the hands of nearly every worker. One area where workers are utilizing new technology is data collection. Once a monotonous and time-consuming task, workers can now use barcode scanning devices or even their own smartphones to electronically capture and catalog data. The worker is able to focus more on the primary job requirement and less on gathering information.
Toth told U.S. News that one tactic many companies will need to use to fill the skills gap is the hiring of younger workers who can learn on the job. Automated data collection tools can help ensure that this training is focused on the most important areas of the position. Furthermore, many younger workers will have grown up with the type of technology now found in warehouse and plants. Many will have an easier time learning to use these devices than they would a paper-based system.
Automated data collection will not only improve employee engagement and satisfaction, but keeps costs low by reducing errors and increasing productivity. These tools are easy to use so even older workers will have no problem transitioning to a better way to gather information on the shop floor.