Problems Manufacturing Automation Solves

Help on the Way: 3 Urgent Problems Manufacturing Automation Solves

The ninth largest industry in the country with 5.5 percent of the GDP, manufacturing is one of the core business sectors in the U.S. In the past decade, manufacturing has seen a huge resurgence as it begins to adapt with modern technological advancements, making processes more productive, efficient and reliable. However, with drastic changes, especially with the global pandemic, come new challenges and opportunities manufacturers must face to remain in business, grow and support their customers. Here are three of the biggest problems manufacturing automation solves, plus information on a fourth challenge for manufacturers:

1. The Skills Gap

It is no secret that there is a historically low number of skilled workers. The current industry workforce is mainly the baby boomer generation, which is approaching retirement. According to the Manufacturing Institute, approximately 22 percent of the existing skilled manufacturing workforce will retire by the end of 2025. The industry is in desperate need of young, skilled workers. In addition, the Manufacturing Institute also predicts that there will be two to three million unfilled manufacturing jobs by the end of 2025. 

Of course, the shortage of labor is one of the problems manufacturing automation solves. Still, with the rise in automation and other simplified tasks being handled by tech, the desire for skilled workers is higher than ever. The pandemic is another influencing factor in the manufacturing skills gap.

One solution to both retain employees and gain skilled workers is implementing in-house or outsourced training programs and upskilling lower-skilled employees. Teaching them the necessary skills to move them into new roles is optimal if the individuals can do the work. As Gino Wickman says in his book Traction, “if they want it, get it and have the capacity to do the job, they are fit for the role.” 

Another solution to attract younger talent is to partner with educational institutions to give future workers exposure to the manufacturing industry. Attending job fairs, partnering with college or university’s news outlets and perhaps speaking to classes allows industry leaders to show prospective employees the benefits of working in manufacturing. In addition, implementing internships or on-the-job training gives students even more firsthand experience of the industry.

2. Outsourced Supply Chains

Many manufacturers outsource materials from China and other overseas countries for reduced costs compared to domestic suppliers. When COVID hit, this outsourcing caused a major problem: The entire supply chain was disrupted and manufacturers had to quickly find alternative solutions. Additionally, foreign wages and tariffs on materials such as steel and aluminum are rising, and more companies are looking to reshore their supply chain. This desire is something that began well before the pandemic, according to the Reshoring Institute. In a survey done in 2019, 97 percent of manufacturers said they would use domestic suppliers if it was competitive with overseas prices and quality. 

This issue is playing out right now in the automotive industry: Ford and GM have both halted production in many plants because of a chip shortage. When a $5 chip impedes production of an item worth tens of thousands of dollars, it is obvious why manufacturers need comprehensive supply chain plans that don’t only rely on one supplier and can still work even if one step fails. 

A simple solution to make a supply chain more reliable would be to dual-source. Having more than one supplier for repeat materials enables a manufacturer to have more flexible buying power when ordering supplies.Another solution for many manufacturers is to “reshore” or bring manufacturing back to the USA (using automation to lower overall costs) while lessening dependence on overseas supply chains.

The supply chain problem exists in many industries. For medical device manufacturers, it is essential to learn the benefits of early supplier involvement for development, production and commercialization of such products.

3. Issues With Speed, Quality and Cost

Manufacturers know that one of their clients’ biggest pain points is on-time delivery of high-quality parts. Clients are also constantly searching for better prices. Automation can be one solution to being better providers for clients.

Automation allows manufacturers to produce more efficiently and with greater ROI, and the investment pays back. Meeting (or beating) a client’s deadline and offering lower price points translates to higher profit margins for manufacturers and better service for clients. 

>>> Click here for a cheat sheet on how to convince your leadership team to invest in automation.

Marketing Strategy Is Another Challenge

While it can’t be solved by manufacturing automation, lack of clear marketing strategy can inhibit manufacturers’ growth. As with almost every industry, a strong online presence and marketing strategy is vital for acquiring new customers and raising awareness of services. Because manufacturing is a practical discipline, marketing and other business aspects may be pushed to the wayside by company leaders. Many manufacturing companies have difficulty being efficient, effective and knowledgeable about the impact of their marketing channels such as paid media, enterprise SEO, local SEO, content strategy or social media. 

As manufacturers focus on making production processes more efficient and productive, they should also give the same attention to marketing strategy. Investing in a marketing team, whether in-house or outsourced, is necessary to take full advantage of the manufacturing resurgence. Companies who aren’t dedicated to gaining digital experience, strong website design and brand presentation will fall short of companies that are. 

Manufacturing leadership can utilize various tools to present themselves as thought leaders and trusted experts in their fields. Creating digital content such as blog posts, demo videos, white papers, case studies and other valuable resources builds familiarity and credibility among clients. A website can be one of a manufacturer’s greatest assets: if it is well-organized and professionally designed to give customers a positive first impression. In fact, according to research data from Demandbase, 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete before making any contact with sales. This is why it’s so important to make sure potential customers have as much information as possible from social media channels, websites, paid media and other online resources. 

Identifying Problems Manufacturing Automation Solves

While not a complete cure-all, automation can be a way to innovate processes, improve efficiency and reduce labor-intensive tasks. Investment in automation can pay back tenfold, as it increases efficiency, productivity and product quality while reducing overall costs. It can also reduce safety risks and increase customer and employer satisfaction. Automation and robotic processes also play a role in helping decrease the skills gap mentioned earlier. The workers whose tasks are replaced by automation can now focus on being upskilled and the manufacturer can complete more complex projects while easing employees’ fears about being replaced by technology.

Looking to solve today’s pressing manufacturing problems? To learn more about how automation can help, contact us for a complimentary application review.

AMS Machines

Automated Machine Systems, Inc. (AMS) increases the productivity of manufacturers by helping them design, build and implement their factory automation systems.