Solving the Skilled Worker Shortage

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • For the first time in modern history there are more job openings than there are eligible workers to fill them
  • Skilled labor shortages are critical
  • Education and Automation are the best solutions for manufacturers and industry
  • Higher wages and image must be addressed

 

Manufacturers worldwide are having a difficult time finding and retaining skilled workers. According to the latest Gallup Manpower “Talent Shortage Survey” 44% of employers across the globe report they cannot find the skills they need.

In the United States, the BLS reported that in April 2018 there were 6.7 million job openings and in May 2018 there were just over 6 million people the BLS classified as unemployed. The shortage is reaching a critical point. If the trend continues, job openings will eclipse the labor pool for the first time. This trend will only get worse as the “baby boomers” continue to retire at a pace faster than subsequent generations can fill them. Based on a study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, Forbes reported in 2017 that 22% of skilled manufacturing workers, or 2.7 million employees, are retiring over the next decade.

Education and Automation will be the best solutions for manufacturers and industry. The solution for most manufacturers will be education and automation. A good public relations plan and higher wages would also be helpful.

Education: Although many school districts and technical colleges throughout the country offer good programs in manufacturing, welding and robotics, they are not equipped to train the number of skilled workers needed. To overcome this obstacle, some companies have begun in-house training for their own unskilled workers to develop them into higher skilled employees. Others offer apprenticeships and technical college education for new hires.

Automation: Increased automation and robotics in manufacturing solves several problems: It decreases the number of skilled and unskilled workers needed, and it creates safer, cleaner and more efficient manufacturing environments.

Wages: With the economy growing and the number of workers decreasing, higher wages are inevitable (and a reality for many companies already).

Image: The image of dirty and non-progressive manufacturing work place hurts recruitment of qualified skilled labor. Manufacturing has become much more technical, many factories are clean and high-tech, and jobs are more interesting than in the past. The manufacturing environment is increasingly automated. The workforce of the future will need to be better trained and educated than past generations.

Facing the skilled worker shortage means creative problem solving and embracing and implementing the solutions discussed above. The key to our continued success will be a combination of automation of our manufacturing processes and educating our workforce to utilize the technology to its fullest. The companies that can accomplish this will be the winners in the next industrial revolution.

 

Sources

https://cerasis.com/2016/01/28/image-of-manufacturing/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/07/05/us-wage-growth-in-june-was-2018s-strongest-so-far/36579285/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/maryjosephs/2017/03/15/u-s-manufacturing-labor-shortage-how-to-make-your-company-a-happy-exception/#4642ee3d7e13

https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/236180/new-solution-skilled-workers-shortage.aspx

My Daddy’s Robots Are Orange!

Last Friday, I received an email from KUKA – celebrating 120 years of providing innovative ideas and solutions for manufacturing processes. The feature picture (see below) says, “Thinking Orange”. It reminded me of a story I heard from Jerry Schrott, Applications Engineer at KC Robotics.

Mallory & Jerry Schrott

When five-year-old Mallory Schrott colored a robot picture at her preschool class, her classmates told her she colored it the wrong color. Mallory, whose father is an Applications Engineer and Project Manager at KC Robotics, colored her robot ORANGE. The other preschoolers colored their robots grey and black. Mallory quickly retorted to her classmates, “My daddy’s robots are orange!” And indeed they are! Many of the robots that Jerry Schrott programs and integrates for KC Robotics’ customers are KUKA Orange. Mallory has visited our office many times and take great interest in the robots. And she knows her colors!

KC Robotics is proud to be a KUKA System Partner. Our experience integrating and installing KUKA robots spans various industries and applications, including Plastic cutting, Palletizing, welding, and specialized applications for defense research.

For more information about KC Robotics’ integration services, call or email us. (513) 860-4442 or contact@kcrobotics.com

KUKA Robotics

What is a Robotic Integrator and why do I need one?

Robot Integrators customize the robot to fit the needs of the end user’s application. The Robot Manufacturers do not usually do this because they do not have the staff or resources to handle the needs of all end users. Integrators fill this gap with specialized design, engineering and programming resources.

A good integrator is a process specialist and is trained and supported by their robot manufacturer partner. They will help to define the problem or need in the end user’s process, find a solution, build it and test it. They will then integrate the robotic solution into the customer’s manufacturing processes and provide training to make sure that the end user can operate and maintain the system properly and successfully.   

What to look for in a robotic integrator – The 5 C’s

Capabilities

Robot System integrators are not experts in every application. They will specialize in a select few. Most applications are very process intensive and selecting an integrator with a skillset that matches your application is key. You may want to think twice about selecting an integrator that specializes in material handling to do a welding application. Look for an integrator that has a track record of successful applications similar to yours. If your system requires custom tooling, find an integrator with experience in the type of tooling you need. The End of Arm Tooling gives your system functionality. A good integrator will understand the functional requirements of the tool and guide the tool-maker on design, payload, moment of inertia, and process requirements.

Concept

Consider the concept of the system closely. You want to make sure that the process is balanced and that you are not solving one issue by creating another. How is the integrator utilizing the features and technology within the system? Are you able to shrink the footprint of the cell or take advantage of a collaborative application by utilizing Functional Safety? Is the integrator rehashing something that was done once 20 years ago without taking advantage of today’s technology? A good integrator is a creative problem solver.

Cost

Make sure the true cost of your robotic system is clear in the proposal. Find out what the actual deliverables are so you can compare proposals more effectively. Understand the payment terms for the system. An integrator might charge 30% down with the order and then a milestone payment when the system engineering is approved. And then other payments along the way. Discuss how the integrator handles engineering change orders.

Capacity

Lead times to delivery fluctuate. Can the integrator deliver your system within the timeframe you are looking for?

Certification

In 2012 the RIA rolled out a Certified Robot Integrator Program in response to the needs of the industry. It is a benchmark for evaluating technical and robot safety as well as the overall business practices of integrators. The certification involves a rigorous process that includes an onsite audit, practical assessment of key personnel, safety training, etc. As your integrators if they are certified or working toward certification.

Also contact the robot manufacturer and ask if the integrator is part of their certified partner program and in good standing with the robot manufacturer.