Key Learning Objectives
We began this process by defining the key questions we wanted to answer and critical topics to learn more about regarding the experiences of manufacturers in Missouri.
The Research Program
Our research program features a variety of methods, including a 50+ item electronic survey distributed to thousands of potential respondents, four focus groups with manufacturing leaders across Missouri, and the experiences of the Missouri Association of Manufacturers as they toured the state over an
18-month period. Our data reflects perspectives from manufacturers of various tenures, subindustries, and organizational roles.
The Landscape. We wanted to know about manufacturers’ perspectives on both the current state of their organization, as well as the current state of manufacturing in Missouri and in the United States.
Perspectives on Workforce. Workforce continues to dominate headlines on a national, state, and local level, so we wanted to identify the unique workforce issues challenging manufacturers in Missouri.
Internal Strategy & Operations. A portion of the research was dedicated to better understanding how manufacturers are using internal strategic and operational initiatives to overcome challenges facing their industry.
Expectations for the Future. We wanted to know how manufacturers feel about the future of their organization, as well as their perspective on the outlook for the industry, more broadly.
See the full State of Manufacturing Research Report to understand the industry, organization, and respondent information of those participating in the research.
We wanted to know how many manufacturers across the state were dedicating internal resources (e.g., time, focus) to developing common operational tools, including strategic plans, marketing plans, standard operating procedures, and the like. This data proved useful as, in later sections, we’ll illustrate how optimism is tied to organizations with many of these tools.
As manufacturers attempt to grow and develop their workforce in a difficult market, we wanted to know what kinds of benefits organizations are offering their employees. The data below illustrates both the type(s) of benefits and the percentage of respondent organizations offering that perk to their team members.
Workforce, supply chain, and resources & support.
Missouri’s manufacturers are facing a number of challenges, including workforce issues, disruptions in supply chains and increasing material costs, and a general lack of support from partner institutions.
Workforce issues were identified as the primary challenge for the manufacturers in Missouri, with 61% of respondents saying it is the most significant challenge facing the industry. These findings align with the National Association of Manufacturers’ Q4 2022 survey, which found that 75.7% of respondents listed attracting and retaining a quality workforce as being the number one business challenge.
Workforce development contains a number of elements, from talent recruitment and hiring to onboarding and retaining employees. Of the elements that make up workforce development, we asked which of the following has been the most significant challenge for respondents’ organizations over the last one to two years.
Missouri manufacturers report operating at just 73% of capacity due to workforce shortages.
There is a meaningful difference in responses to this item related to organizational size. Respondents in organizations with 11-50 employees were significantly less likely to identify workforce issues as their primary challenge as compared to respondents from organizations with 51-200 employees.
To better understand why manufacturers are struggling with turnover, we asked respondents to identify the primary reason people have left their organization over the last one to two years.
*Common responses listed as “other” were retirement, childcare, transportation, and labor participation reduction.
Supply Chain Issues
Supply Chain Challenges
97% of respondents expressed agreement that, at some level, supply chain issues have affected their organization over the last one to two years. These findings align with the National Association of Manufacturers’ Q4 2022 survey, which found that 65.7% of respondents listed supply chain as a primary business challenge and expect the issue to linger longer than desired.
Adapting to New Realities
Focus group participants reported that supply chain issues have been mitigated partly due to an increased emphasis on diversifying suppliers. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have served as a catalyst for manufacturers to become less reliant on single suppliers for parts and products. This approach has enabled manufacturers to reduce the strain on their supply chains and improve their supply chain management.
Resources & Support Issues
Support from Partner Organizations
Results from the survey indicated a mix of opinions on the role of partner organizations and institutions (i.e., governments). The Missouri Association of Manufacturers was viewed positively by survey respondents, with 71% believing the organization was providing adequate support to manufacturers. By contrast, only 44% of respondents indicated the National Association of Manufacturers was doing enough to support manufacturers.
Education & Perception
Focus group participants suggested that a significant challenge facing the industry is the negative perception of the manufacturing (commonly referred to as “dark, dingy, and dangerous”) by younger generations. Respondents indicated that broad-based, government-driven initiatives to educate current and emerging workforce members on the opportunities available in manufacturing could offset looming talent challenges.
“As we’ve grown, we’re doing as much as we can to shed that image of dirty, dark, and dangerous, that manufacturers have had over the years, to more of a technological opportunity that embraces many career opportunities.”
Summary of Challenges
Pain Points Felt Across the State
The greatest challenges faced by Missouri manufacturers today fall squarely into three areas: workforce, supply chain, and resources and support for the industry.
Many manufacturers report operating at least 25% below full capacity because they can’t find quality candidates for open positions.
Disruptions to supply chains posed a significant challenge to Missouri’s manufacturers in recent years. These challenges are often two-fold: it’s difficult to get the materials needed to get items out the door and often just as difficult to get new tools that are needed to increase efficiency and offset the widespread workforce challenges.
As manufacturers grapple with these workforce and supply chain challenges, many organizations also find themselves frustrated with the lack of resources and support from government agencies.
Feelings About The Future
Workforce, supply chain, and optimism.
Manufacturers don’t expect workforce or supply chain challenges to go away anytime soon, but they’re still feeling optimistic about the future of the industry.
Specific details about manufacturers’ feelings about the future.