• Data Collection
  • Workforce
  • Manufacturing

Manufacturing Remains Strong but Labor Challenges Persist: How Mobile Barcoding Can Help

Written by Michael Clark
September 23, 2020


  • Manufacturing saw record growth in Q3, but labor challenges persist amid the pandemic.
  • Technology is a must to meet sustained demand with reduced labor numbers.
  • Mobile barcoding solutions can help manufacturers augment smaller labor forces and protect future profitability.

Manufacturers must act quickly to solve today’s labor challenges and keep up with increased demand.

Manufacturers must act quickly to solve today’s labor challenges and keep up with increased demand.

U.S. manufacturing hit a two-year high in late summer, marking three straight months of growth. However, challenges in finding and retaining skilled labor remain. Market unpredictability and other COVID-19 impacts only add to the difficulty.

Manufacturers must determine how to meet demand with fewer workers. Many businesses are turning to technologies to augment worker productivity with quick ROI and to enhance social distancing.

Mobile barcoding is one such technology capable of filling the gap.

WATCH VIDEO: How one manufacturer hit the gas on productivity »


How Does Mobility Solve Manufacturing Labor Challenges?

Unstable workforce numbers due to labor shortages has been a historic problem in manufacturing. The labor crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Now, manufacturers must also contend with:

  • Fewer workers on the floor to meet social distancing requirements
  • Higher absenteeism
  • Increased time between shifts for sanitation and cleaning
  • Risk of shutdown due to COVID-19 contamination

You might turn to temporary staffing through an agency to fill these gaps. But new employees take time to onboard and reach full productivity. In an industry with high turnover, your operation may never reach its full potential to process demand.

Ultimately, these factors make finding labor one of the greatest challenges facing manufacturing today, even amid the pandemic. Contracted markets only cut deeper into potential revenue.

Labor-augmenting technologies like mobile barcoding can help alleviate these pressures and mitigate the impact of reduced team sizes. With mobile barcoding solutions, manufacturers can do more with less, more efficiently, and at lower cost.

ALSO READ: 5 things to know about digitizing the shop floor »


Empowering Smaller Teams to Accomplish More

With mobile barcoding, even new hires or seasonal workers can become proficient quickly and easily to better keep up with order fulfillment.

With mobile barcoding, even new hires or seasonal workers can become proficient quickly and easily to better keep up with order fulfillment.

Mobile barcoding is a powerful technology that acts as a workforce multiplier, empowering fewer workers to accomplish more work in less time. RFgen users typically experience 30% greater efficiency and productivity or more.

A combination of barcode software, mobile hardware and mobile apps for supply chain make this possible. Other benefits include real-time visibility and 99.5% or higher inventory accuracy.

Its easy to learn and intuitive to use. Adopters experience 80% faster training for new or seasonal labor. If you need to rely on temporary staffing to help you meet increased demand, you can get new workers trained quickly to maximum productivity in less time.

Mobile barcoding also supports faster work reallocation in the face of absenteeism or demand fluctuations. With manual processes, if your customer suddenly changes an order, you have to reassign the available work by hand. This causes costly downtime as you take time to determine inventory levels, rush ship materials or reallocate time to another project or customer. But with mobile barcoding, you have up-to-date and accurate stock levels at your fingertips. This means you can pivot priorities quickly and keep production moving with minimal downtime.

Case Study: Global Steel Manufacturer Cuts Cycle Count Labor Time by 60%

Leading worldwide steel manufacturer NMLK was beset by shipping delays and impact to customer relationships. Their workers weren’t able to track and locate finished steel coils efficiently.

The manufacturer implemented mobile barcoding across its three busy U.S. steel mills to combat the problem. The mobility solution transformed their inventory management and eliminated delays in locating steel coils and shipping to customers. The company also reduced labor time for cycle counting inventory by 60%, as well as other tasks.

Increased productivity ensured their team could meet customer needs even during peak demand.

Case Study: Construction Manufacturer Reduces Training Time by 96%

One construction materials manufacturer was using an inefficient homegrown warehouse system that necessitated manual data entry. By modernizing this system with a mobile data collection solution, this manufacturer reduced employee training time by 96%—from six months to just one week.

New or seasonal employees can be brought up to speed quickly and efficiently, keeping productivity high.

Sustainable Social Distancing to Keep Workers Safe

Mobilizing your workforce helps support social distancing and sanitation measures to minimize virus spread.

Mobilizing your workforce helps support social distancing and sanitation measures to minimize virus spread.

In today’s pandemic climate, manufacturers must protect essential workers from COVID-19 contamination. Adjusting to new social distancing, increased sanitation measures, and fewer people on the floor and more time between shifts all help.

Mobile barcode solutions can enhance all of these safety initiatives.

Mobile technology is also emerging as a new form of personal protective equipment (PPE). In the words of one RFgen manufacturing customer: “The mobility aspect of the project allowed the team to abide by the guidelines and keep the employees safe while keeping production steady. This is an additional benefit…that we had not planned for.”

Our customers have used mobile barcoding to support their social distancing measures by:

  • Eliminating paperwork and reducing shared touch from workstation keyboards.
  • Communicating to employees directly via the mobile device, reducing in-person meetings.
  • Reducing time spent walking back and forth between inventory and a computer workstation.
  • Supporting long-range barcode scanning of 40-feet or more.
  • Facilitating easy sanitation of enterprise mobile hardware between shifts.


Labor challenges aren’t new, but they’ve certainly been exacerbated by pandemic conditions.

Manufacturers must take a proactive approach to solve this problem today to protect profit margins and continue delivering customer service in the face of unpredictability. Future uncertainty makes the need to compensate for reduced labor more pressing than ever.

Manufacturers using mobile barcoding technology are already experiencing greater ability to meet demand and protect workers. For companies who have yet to digitize or mobilize inventory operations, manual processes could be holding you back and putting profitability at risk. The time to mobilize your inventory and supply chain processes is now.