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Manufacturing Industry Updates Supply Chain Industry Updates

Survey Provides Snapshot of Manufacturers’ Labor Challenges

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Small- and medium-size manufacturers (SME) are struggling with a workforce “paradox” as they adjust to the “new normal” of operating in 2021.

The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and national CPA firm BKD recently released results from their first survey of manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees. They said they found:

  • More than 77% expect to continue struggling to identify talent in 2021 and beyond — “Sales [are] recovering but [we’re having a] difficult time with labor,” one manufacturer said. “Some people [are] afraid to work and others [are] using the system, unemployment benefits. This has reduced [the] labor pool in our area.”
  • Nearly 64% had reevaluated what work could be done remotely where possible — “We have adopted remote working as the new norm for our business; 60–75% of workforce will no longer be in a traditional office on a daily basis,” one SME executive told the survey. Another noted that “jobs that we thought could not be done remotely are being done well remotely.”
  • More than 83% had enhanced workplace safety measures and requirements — One survey respondent reported that their company is “24/7 dealing with effects of COVID-19, daily employee symptom screening, temperature checks, waiting for test results, contact tracing, COVID fatigue, masks requirements, etc. Folks are mentally exhausted from dealing with COVID.”

“It may seem like a paradox, but even with pandemic-induced unemployment, manufacturers are still facing challenges finding the workers they need. With about half-a-million jobs open in manufacturing, that need is great — perhaps even greater than before the pandemic,” said Chad Moutray, Center for Manufacturing Research director and National Association of Manufacturers chief economist. “The survey also reveals the diverse ways that small and medium-sized manufacturers have adapted to the pandemic — and what they expect in the coming months.”

The results of “The ‘New Normal’ and Post-Pandemic Workforce Challenges” can be downloaded here.

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