3 Manufacturing Challenges and Solutions

January 24, 2022


Roughly three years into the pandemic, the world is growing tired of the same old excuses. Whether it be a stockout or a labor shortage, it’s time for manufacturers to shrug off their pandemic-related excuses and take responsibility.

In fact, according to Bloomberg, it’s actually what consumers have grown to expect. They’re so accustomed to such excuses that they’re now considered “well-established market conditions – not pandemic blows.”

Rather than lean on tired justifications, manufacturers should address their problems directly. To help mitigate those challenges, here are three common problems and how manufacturers can start solving them in 2022.

Problem: Labor shortages
Indeed, the manufacturing industry has long struggled with its supply of skilled labor. Deloitte estimates that by 2030, the U.S. manufacturing industry will be short 2.1 million jobs – not to mention trillions of dollars in productivity. Moreover, their 2021 report also reveals that finding the right talent is 36% more difficult for manufacturers than it was in 2018. Suffice to say, their concerns are certainly valid, but without change, the problem will surely grow worse.

Solution: Temporary workers
Manufacturers can easily leverage seasonal employees to bridge their labor gap and maintain productivity. Not only can seasonal workers be onboarded more rapidly, they already have knowledge and experience in the industry. Their existing expertise can help manufacturers pick up the slack and meet fluctuations in demand. Better still, hiring from a pool of previously contracted employees retains some institutional familiarity.

Problem: Supply chain disruptions
Bottlenecks are to supply chains what kryptonite is to Superman – a major headache at the very least. Delays and stockouts are not only detrimental to manufacturing productivity, they send cascading ripple effects throughout the entire supply chain.

Solution: Automation
Smart technologies, like robotics and artificial intelligence, can help supply chains become more resilient. According to Deloitte’s outlook of the manufacturing industry in 2022, automation can not only mitigate labor shortages but also help navigate disruption.

Their research indicates that many delays are, in fact, caused by an overreliance on low inventories. With a cloud-based inventory management system, manufacturers can automate certain inventory tasks and avoid costly stockouts by proactively ordering new material.

Problem: Burnout
The stresses of manufacturing are well-documented. When demand reaches its busiest season, so too does the pressure to perform at a high level. The result? If you’re not careful, a burned-out workforce. With labor shortages already a pressing obstacle, manufacturers can’t afford to let this issue spiral out of control.

Solution: Empathy and communication
Sometimes, all it takes to refresh an employee and give them peace of mind is an honest conversation. But simply talking to a worker isn’t enough – leaders need to listen, too. That means having regular 1:1 conversations and actively listening to their concerns. More importantly, it means responding with empathy and allowing them to feel understood.

Other times, offering more breaks or a more flexible schedule can go a long way toward setting an employee at ease. In any case, managers should do what they can to address workplace concerns, lingering questions and confirm expectations.