Manufacturing continues its evolution away from labor-intensive processes toward knowledge-based skills. These require technological problem solving. But, the way an organization regards its workforce must evolve as well.
Companies must recognize that manufacturing employees need new combinations of skills. Cost reduction initiatives adopted by large manufacturers and have been forced down the supply chain. In turn, small companies must move past the position of low-value, low-wage supplier.
Before the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, gains in human productivity were slow and immeasurable. Then productivity began growing exponentially with the use of moving water and then steam. Then, internal combustion engines began to drive devices used for manufacturing.
Then, in the 1950’s and 60’s, the computer revolution further increased productivity. In the 70’s and 80’s the Internet came into fashion and another explosion of productivity began.
The best way to drive employee productivity growth is to increase investment in workers. This could happen through education and training, technology, and capital equipment.
But to do this, organizations must do more than hope for productivity improvement. Any justified technology purchase should be part of a strategic productivity improvement plan. The plan helps create a “culture” of productivity within an organization.
Building a plan around productivity delivers benefits to firms that need to make every dollar of investment count. It’s an ongoing effort that requires hard work, vigilance and continuous improvement. But it’s a key component to the longer term health of a manufacturer and its workforce.