While manufacturing has been quite successful in recovering from the Great Recession thanks to technology such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015, a specter looms on the horizon. The problem isn't something related to the economy so much as the structure of the industry itself. It's a matter of age: As the Census Bureau reported, the baby boomers will all reach retirement age by 2029. Considering they represent the backbone of many factories, there is a need to replace them to keep the sector running at healthy rate. However, for various reasons that can be attributed to this elder generation and the rising millennials taking its place, there are signs that the process is being undermined. Dealing with the new generation means addressing issues that have been neglected by these older Americans and understanding the younger workforce and their needs.
Forming a line to the throne
When it comes to baby boomers, what looms is their eventual retirement. Worse, it's an issue that is affecting the majority of manufacturing employees. A recent survey by supply chain firm ThomasNet reported that 80 percent of its respondents were at least age 45, while 49 percent were 55 and over. That's a lot of people nearing the end of their careers. The company also found that 71 percent of respondents expect to retire within 20 years, with 38 percent saying they will do so within the next 10.
With such a high number of people, there is some expectation that millennials will simply step in to fill the void. However, with manufacturing becoming more complex, there is a serious concern that baby boomers aren't taking the future of the industry seriously. Some 65 percent of the people surveyed said they had no succession plan in place to hand off their roles or other jobs to younger employees. Without this process being implemented, there's a very good chance that operations and productivity will be heavily disrupted.
The punk and the grandfather
Not helping matters is the strained relationship between millennials and baby boomers. With the younger generation expected to represent 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, it's surprising that 62 percent of manufacturers have very few millennials on their staff, and 56 percent are electing to keep it that way. Various issues of distrust toward the new workers and their behavior are also apparent.
Equally debilitating is that, as manufacturing firm CMTC notes, millennials just aren't interested in manufacturing careers. This is in part due to a combination of education budget cuts, the mentality that schools should send students to college and the perception that working in a factory means that it's low-paying job and therefore not cool.
To address this problem, two situations need to be fixed that are interconnected. The first is that new training and transition systems should be implemented to smoothly transition younger people into greater roles in the factory. The other is that manufacturers should demonstrate that their industry is once again a great career path for young people. Manufacturing software solutions such as mobile WMS that play to millennials' tech savvy can help.
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