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Back to the future in manufacturing

Updated: Jun 21



With the previous presidential administration’s campaign to “Make America Great Again,” large manufacturers were looking at bringing some of their operations back to America, reshoring, as well as shining a light on Made in the USA. With this and the economic conditions that tariffs, trade wars and strained international relations created, manufacturers already were in a transformation mindset in reacting to the economic environment in 2020.

In spite of the challenges the last two years have thrown at us, manufacturers got up every day and got to work. At the beginning of 2021, as with most businesses, many manufacturers were planning for a post-COVID-19 landscape and taking advantage of the opportunities it created. With the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act relief, manufacturers were able to focus on process improvements, new technology platforms and expansion opportunities – focusing on expanding operation processes to facilitate business growth and streamline efficient business models.

In addition, manufacturers were investing in new technologies and equipment to support their strategic plans. Many of the manufacturers in Missouri experienced a record-breaking 2021 in sales and in production. All while navigating the supply chain and workforce challenges making the headlines. The key for manufacturers is agility.

Looking ahead at 2022, manufacturers are not likely to slow this momentum. The increasing demands for products bring increased demands to light in some immediate areas of focus that manufacturers will want to pay attention to:

  • Attracting, developing and retaining a skilled workforce.

  • Meeting the standards and compliance requirements in the area of cybersecurity.

  • Supply chain, transportation and logistics for on-time delivery of materials needed and product delivery.

Workforce Attracting, developing and retaining top talent in an industry that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, has an average employee age of 41.2 years old is a big issue with no single solution. In a Deloitte survey of manufacturing executives, 38% reported that attracting new workers is their top priority for the production workforce in 2022.

There is a big need to rebrand what manufacturing is today, with many positions paying top dollar and not requiring a shower at the end of the workday. In order to attract a younger skilled workforce, manufacturers have to connect with what resonates.

Employers providing growth opportunities along with flexibility certainly will have an edge in this competitive market. A company with a strong focus on sustainability and environmental awareness, along with offering community engagement opportunities, will stand out above the rest. Look at providing paid volunteer days as part of a benefits package. This speaks to a company’s culture and core values, which are key to attracting and retaining talent.

Upskilling an existing workforce also will complement a company’s culture and goes a long way with employee retention efforts. Partnering with local educational institutions and certification programs is critical in developing avenues for developing, attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.

Cybersecurity In planning for continued growth opportunities by bringing in advanced manufacturing technologies, manufacturers are being faced with additional cybersecurity threats, from administrative functions to the factory floor. We see this in the news almost daily, and the manufacturers, large and small, need to be on top of the cybersecurity issue.

Much of the new equipment and machines on the manufacturing floor incorporate the latest technologies connected to support services through the internet, creating a number of risks and vulnerabilities. Several new regulations and compliance requirements already are in place for manufacturers working on government and defense contracts. These regulations are not just for contracting with manufacturers but all tiered contractors.

Vigilance, cyber defenses and resiliency in the event of a cyberattack need to be part of the strategic growth plan – with cybersecurity being one of the critical issues identified by the current presidential and state administrations.

Supply chain/logistics In talking with many manufacturers in the state, most seem to be prepared for the issues surrounding the supply chain at some level. Communication from the suppliers, as well as communication to the customers, is a key component in managing this challenge. Supply chain strategies include expanding the suppliers they work with, as well as managing operational data to better forecast the needs.

Manufacturers are passionate and proud. They are creative problem solvers. They are building back strong and quickly, even with the current challenges identified. It’s all creating a positive manufacturing outlook in 2022.

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