Opportunities within the manufacturing workforce

It’s not a stretch to claim that the future prosperity of
the Australian economy depends heavily on the manufacturing sector’s fate. As
an industry, manufacturing supports millions of jobs, ensuring Australia
remains competitive in today’s global marketplace.

However, the manufacturing industry’s destiny is subject to
much conjecture. With the high profile crash of Australia’s car manufacturing
industry, job losses have been felt across South Australia and Victoria.

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is under
considerable pressure as globalisation fuels competition from lower-cost
international rival economies. High input costs and low local demand have
continued to add to the burden that manufacturing businesses are carrying.

Given that Australia is facing a seismic shift away from
being a mining and resources driven economy, our manufacturing sector is more
important now than ever. Rather than turning away from this industry, we need
to be investing more time and effort into looking at opportunities for
manufacturers to be as agile and efficient as possible. We need to help them
put more focus on attracting and retaining talent, creating a motivated,
productive workforce culture to ensure future growth and to remain competitive
in our increasingly global economy.

Kronos recently undertook a survey to examine the feedback
from people working in the manufacturing sector. The results, understandably,
found that morale in the Australian manufacturing industry is low. More than
half or respondents were not confident about the amount of work available in
the future and three quarters believed their workplace doesn’t do a good job at
matching employee skills to roles.

So where are the opportunities in the sector that are not
being taking advantage of?

1) Tapping the hidden workforce – experienced older workers and
parents returning to work

A third of the workforce believe there are a lot of older
workers in the industry whose experience is not being utilised. Making better
use of the talents of older workers is an opportunity that will only grow as
the country’s workforce ages and the retirement age rises.

Alarmingly the survey found 60 per cent of workers in the
manufacturing food and beverage sector agree that younger employees do not
appreciate the experience of their older counterparts.

By changing this mindset and turning this intergenerational
tension into collaboration and cooperation this sector may improve the
efficiency of how employees complete tasks.

2) Engaging employees, providing training, upskilling and
providing mentoring programs

The survey found that half of manufacturing workers think
they need more training to broaden their skills and cited new technology as a
key area for development. Nearly three quarters agreed the surging use of high
technology in manufacturing meant they require good computer skills.

Companies that increase the level of employee engagement,
encourage innovative reverse mentoring programs to bridge intergenerational
gaps and implement skills training programs can improve workforce productivity,
increase production and lift their level of customer service.

3) Investing in workforce scheduling technology

Workers pointed to shift management and rostering as ripe
for change with more than one third agreeing they want more control over their
shifts and the ability to adjust the roster. However only 17 per cent of
manufacturing businesses (the lowest of all industries surveyed) use
applications to roster and schedule shifts.

Providing greater employee access to, and control over,
rostering systems could contribute to improved communication between workers,
which in turn could minimise disruption to manufacturing processes.

4) Providing instant access to information to make more informed
decisions

Over half of those surveyed believe having better access to
best practice information would help them to become more efficient and
productive. One in three manufacturing workers said mobile devices would
improve efficiency, communications and productivity rates, while 29 per cent
said tablets loaded with product information would improve their work
performance.

Manufacturers can take advantage of workforce management
solutions that provide easy access to detailed data for informed decision
making, improving operational efficiency.

Understanding the needs of its workforce will ensure
manufacturing companies can build a flexible, skilled and innovative employee
base that will lead to greater productivity, agility, better service levels and
more efficient operations. With this culture in place, manufacturing businesses
can better meet the myriad of challenges that confront their industry now and
into the future.

[Peter
Harte (pictured) is Managing Director, Kronos ANZ].