The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) says Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce. Generation Y is coming up behind them. And in between, there's a gap -- in attitudes, skills and work styles.
According to "Developing & Engaging the Manufacturing Workforce," a white paper released this month by the Manufacturing Excellence Share Group (MESG) of the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE), consumer packaged goods manufacturers (CPGs) contend with hiring challenges that stretch from mechanical knowledge to generational differences.
AIOE was founded in 2011 by PMMI, working with charter partner the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), and enables production executives from CPG companies and suppliers to meet and identify best practices for the production operations of CPG businesses.
MESG developed the paper in conjunction with a Booz & Co. study and panel discussion in which more than a dozen manufacturing executives spoke about hiring, training, skill requirements and development, operational styles and new ways to uncover talent.
"Consumer goods companies deal with twin challenges," says Charles Yuska, president & CEO, PMMI. "There's the business side of things, including cost controls, and adapting to new regulations and trends, and managing the supply chain. There's also an incoming workforce that seems to be resisting jobs in manufacturing and missing critical problem-solving skills."
The report cites a 2011 Booz & Co. survey that found 50 percent of engineering students consider manufacturing an "attractive" career option, and just 8 percent of them calling it "very attractive." In comparison, the same study said, more than 75 percent regarded R&D or product development "attractive," and 44 percent as "very attractive."
Problem-solving skills are critical to CPGs. They're also in short supply, as are mechanical and electrical skills, the report notes.
"Not long ago, many factory workers came from farming backgrounds, environments where problem-solving skills were required on a daily basis," says Patricia Riedl, Principal, Booz & Co. "Today's workers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds, and have been brought up in an educational system that is challenged to emphasize critical thinking. And that shortcoming is hurting us."
"The 20th Century manufacturing model kept career paths separate and distinct. With very few exceptions, career advancement would be linear, that is, 'up the ladder.' The 21st Century talent model, which better engages Generation Y, looks at companies as groups of capabilities that can be deployed where and when appropriate. Further, technical and leadership skills are both necessary and valued, whereas the old system primarily focused on deep functional expertise," says Greg Flickinger, VP Manufacturing, Snyder's-Lance.
The report also speaks of looking outside grocery manufacturing for workers -- to the military or the auto industry, for example.
"Some organizations are backing up their workforce development goals with comprehensive training -- either on their own or by collaborating with other organizations, especially in continuous improvement tools and problem solving methodologies. The bottom line is in today's environment developing skill sets is a strategic imperative that must be pursued with intent, it will not spontaneously happen," Flickinger adds.
To download a copy of "Developing & Engaging the Manufacturing Workforce," visit the Alliance online at http://alliance.pmmi.org