Preparing for the Trump era of manufacturing
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“Business as usual” is obsolete among today’s manufacturers. The shifting global landscape and the rise of nationalism in the U.S. are some of the most dramatic points of the manufacturing evolution, and certainly areas gaining significant attention.

Ignited by political rhetoric and President Donald Trump’s promise to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector, the dialog can quickly become emotional, rather than factual. In his short time as president, Trump has created a Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, pulled the U.S. out of the TPP, and proposed a steep tax on border imports. It’s evident he isn’t wasting any time when it comes to jobs and trade, and U.S. manufacturers must prepare to keep up.

Keeping production plants and jobs in America is a complex mission, with many naysayers pointing out that the jobs being brought back no longer exist. Advancements in tech like cognitive technology, robotics and automation, complicate the issue.

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To understand some the nuances of this topic, here is a macro look at U.S. manufacturing employment from the 1970’s to now.

 

Where did the jobs go?

U.S. manufacturing employment peaked in the late 1970s with the total industry output increasing more than 250 percent from 1980 to 2015. However, the workforce slumped by roughly 40 percent in that time.

While the U.S. economy is pumping out manufactured goods in record volumes, it is achieving that feat with 7.3 million fewer factory hands than in 1979, government figures show. Advances in shop floor productivity, plant automation, use of robotics, streamlined activities, and optimized processes all contribute to today’s highly efficient model.  

The gains in productivity are even more dramatic. In 1980, it took 25 jobs to generate one million dollars in manufacturing output in the U.S. Today, it takes just 6.5 jobs to generate that amount of revenue. This supports the claim that off-shoring alone can’t be blamed for loss of jobs.

Those skeptical about Trump’s promise to bring outsourced jobs back to America point out that the types of jobs that were lost are no longer relevant. With fewer workers needed to run plants, a massive 26 percent surge in manufacturing output would be needed to re-employ seven million factory workers.

Why are jobs unfilled?

On the other hand, manufacturers are still struggling to fill the vacancies left by retiring baby boomers. It’s estimated that in the next decade, there will be nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs — two million of which are expected to go unfilled. Without skilled personnel in place, manufacturers will be hard-pressed to keep up with market demands.

Some say that misconceptions about manufacturing are keeping applicants away. A recent poll conducted by the Foundation of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association reported that 52 percent of all teenagers have no interest in a manufacturing career and a study conducted by Deloitte and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that only 37 percent of adult respondents would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

The resulting contradiction is troublesome. On one hand, President TrumpDonald John TrumpReturn hope to the Middle East by returning to the Iran Deal Government shutdowns tend to increase government spending 'Full Frontal' gives six-bedroom house to group that works with detained immigrants MORE is promising to bring manufacturing jobs back. On the other hand, the existing jobs in manufacturing can’t be filled.

Forecasting the future

As the international political climate quickly evolves, the U.S. outlook for manufacturing is also in the throes of political scrutiny and upheaval. Creating American jobs and keeping U.S. plants on U.S. soil are topics generating headlines and debate. This points to one certainty: disruptive change has become the new normal for manufacturing.

So what can manufacturers do to drive progress for their business, while mitigating risk during a time of high uncertainty?

Educate, re-skill and hire right. Manufacturing automation is about to rapidly accelerate and companies need to re-skill their workforce to adapt to this irreversible trend. Manufacturers need to recruit and retain top talent, and should rely on talent software to help guide hiring decisions. Software like Infor Talent Science helps hiring managers make the best decisions based on the needs of the company and demands of the job.

Invest in technology that gives a clear competitive advantage

To compete in today’s global economy, manufacturers must take advantage of a smart supply network and integrated connection of vendors, suppliers, partners and contractors. Cloud solutions make that visibility practical and easy to manage. Portals, collaboration tools, and mobile connectivity help keep extended teams in constant communication.

Use predictive analytics

Big data and predictive analytics allow manufacturers to anticipate changes on the horizon and maintain a proactive stance. Manufacturers can anticipate customer needs and be prepared with the right resources on hand.  

Seize the opportunities

A highly flexible organization can benefit from the constant waves of change, as it pivots to seize new opportunities. However, as market pressures mount and the competitive landscape escalates, the real test of a manufacturer’s fortitude is the ability to evolve business in a way that supersedes the competition and anticipates future market demands while maintaining stability and integrity along the way.

Mark Humphlett is the senior director of industry and product marketing for Infor. He has over 16 years of experience in technology and more than 25 years in the manufacturing and distribution industry, Humphlett joined the Infor team in 2006. He previously led supply chain solutions marketing and served as a principal business consultant leading presales, solution design, and implementations for several software solutions. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.