The skills gap continues to plague manufacturers around the world. In fact, the 2016 edition of the Hays Global Skills Index says that the skills gap is fast becoming a skills chasm. Many manufacturers are struggling to fill factory jobs, which can be especially difficult in regions of low unemployment or in industries or positions that have fallen out of favor with workers because the jobs are seen as boring, injury-prone, or unappealing. Recently a front-page story in the Washington Post created wide-spread attention as it documented how Tenere, a Wisconsin-based contract manufacturer, struggled to fill 132 open positions on its production line. As an administrator in Tenere’s human resources department put it: finding people was like trying to "climb Everest" – even after the company increased wages and loosened policies on hiring people with criminal records.
For many manufacturers, temporary labor has been an option, but that approach has its own challenges. Ask any plant manager about temporary workers and prepare for a litany of complaints. Workers don’t show up, or they show up under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or they show up and then simply disappear at the first break—bored, unhappy, or tempted by other options.
With little motivation for company loyalty or pride in their work, temporary workers are more likely to miss productivity goals and to make errors that result in product quality issues, rework, and increased scrap. All of that forces companies to weed out workers who are present but simply aren’t, well, working out.
In many cases, companies are forced to increase compensation to compete for workers, but even that isn’t enough. And the constantly revolving door of unreliable labor means that other costs continue to rise—for training, staffing, and materials. At the same time, customer satisfaction takes a hit from reduced product quality or delivery delays.
While the problem is multi-faceted, with no simple answers, automation offers opportunities to address many of these issues. Collaborative robots—which are designed to work alongside human workers, doing the dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs that human workers don’t want—can offer immediate as well as long-term relief. Here are 7 reasons to consider cobot colleagues to solve your staffing woes: