How manufacturers can engage the next generation of workers: study

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

March 11, 2015

3 Min Read
How manufacturers can engage the next generation of workers: study


Manufacturing workers

"Developing & Engaging the Manufacturing Workforce," a new study available from PMMI, shares steps that consumer goods manufacturers can take to ensure manufacturing success with the next generation of workers: Generation Y.


Developed by the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE) Manufacturing Excellence Share Group (MESG) and sponsored by Siemens, the study presents qualitative feedback from brand owners (including Sunny Delight and Coca Cola), as well as research from Booz & Co. to illustrate the challenges faced by the manufacturing sector in attracting and retaining Gen Yers, a.k.a. Echo Boomers (generally those born from the later-1970s or early 1980s to the mid 2000s).


In addition to defining the challenges, the research also provides examples of new programs and strategies undertaken by manufacturers to update their recruitment and training process-and outlines steps to a "21st Century Operating Model."



The study is available for $3,500 for immediate download (sign-in required).

CORRECTION 7-5-2012: The study, a 17-page PDF, is available for free for immediate download (sign-in required) from the PMMI website.


Here are a few excerpts from the report, which also contains a case study of how Snyder's-Lance has developed high-performance manufacturing work teams in its plant:


A shortage of talented labor will only worsen as Generation Y, which has so far shown a lack of interest towards manufacturing, takes its place as the largest segment of the U.S. working age population. At the same time, productivity is at risk of falling at these companies, as they seem to be unable to develop the capabilities in their workforce needed to improve operational performance.

In painting a picture of the ideal candidate for a manufacturing job today, says Greg Flickinger, Vice President of Manufacturing and Corporate Engineering at Snyder's-Lance, perhaps only somewhat hyperbolically: "We have to pay more in order to compete with other industries for a finite talent pool. This requires us to lean our systems and become even more efficient to maintain margins, especially when faced with commodity pressures. A lean work system drives each individual to fulfill the role of not just operator, but mechanic, quality and sanitation. If that is not enough for a day's work, this same person must also leverage CI tools to solve recurring problems and drive cost savings. In the best High Performance Work Systems, members of the hourly team even hold patents and invention records for their improvement efforts."


The upcoming generational turnover presents an opportunity to transform the consumer goods manufacturing operating model from one dominated by a culture of command and control to a more collaborative model where workforce development and engagement are essential components driving productivity and growth.

"They're amazed at the robotics and other new tools that are out there now on the manufacturing floor. They are energized to learn that new technologies are constantly being developed and implemented every year," says Greg Flickinger of Snyder's-Lance.

Are grocery manufacturers ready to move beyond the isolated manufacturing improvements and incremental benefits they've mostly focused on in the past and embrace a full-fledged workforce and production culture shift? Those that do won't be hard to find: they'll be the distinctive companies at the top rung of market share, productivity, and performance in their sectors.


About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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