If the pre-pandemic years were good to you, you might be one of the many industry leaders, business owners, and changemakers still hoping beyond hope that the world will return to the way it was.
Make no mistake: if you are waiting for someone to hit rewind on the big, baffling jukebox of life, you’re about to be in a heap of trouble.
Change is here. Now. And it’s happening—with or without you.
The time to “wait and see” is over. The only move you have left is to adapt.
The Workplace of the Future Is Here
Adapting doesn’t mean abandoning your vision or values. Adaptive leaders are those who curiously and creatively fit their vision and values into the new landscape. And if anyone isequipped to adapt, it’s manufacturing professionals.
If you can learn to program a CNC machine, to hold tight tolerances with a router, to calculate complicated quotes within the hour—you can learn new ways of running a successful, sustainable, modern machine shop.
Manufacturing has evolved dramatically over the last three years, but one timeless truth remains:
Good change happens because good people make it happen.
While the definition of a “good” employee may vary slightly from one industry and culture to the next, the foundation is fairly consistent. Ask any owner or manager about their best team members, and they’ll invariably use words like dedicated, reliable, resourceful, and collaborative.
But where do you find “good people” to hire in today’s challenging recruitment environment? How do you hold on to top talent once you’ve found them? And what do you do while you’re still looking for your dream team?
Prioritize people over skills
Of course, you need your employees to have the right set of skills. But when a specific skill set is hard to find (and often even when it’s readily available), you need to stop searching for skills and start seeking the right personalities.
Look for individuals who are willing and eager to learn. You can teach them to operate a lathe.
Focus on hires who demonstrate problem-solving abilities. You can train them to build a quote.
Open your doors to employees who are exceptional team players. You can develop them into leaders.
NTMA members have unprecedented access to workforce development solutions, including training tools and funding resources. And as the US expands its Registered Apprenticeship programs, even more zero-cost training opportunities are on the horizon for manufacturers.
Speak the common language
People born as recently as 2005 will graduate from high school in 2023—and we promise: they are not scanning the local paper’s “Help Wanted” ads for job opportunities. Even older, more experienced workers have embraced new means of networking and job hunting.
If you want to attract forward-thinking problem solvers with a willingness to learn, you must show up where they are.
Are you actively posting shop videos and manufacturing tips on social media? Do you have an up-to-date website that effectively represents your modern machine shop’s vision and values? Are you involved in initiatives to better your community and the world around you? Have you considered progressive policies and benefits packages that enable your employees to live full lives—not live at work?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to catch up. Check out NTMA’s affinity and industry partners to find resources with members-only pricing.
Work smarter, not harder
To sustain your business, you need to make money. To make money, you need customers. And to earn customers, you need people on your shop floor who care about the parts and products they’re making.
Some might call it a “bottom-up” approach, but we call it working smarter, not harder.
Align your business practices with your vision and values, and you’ll have fulfilled workers, satisfied customers, and a thriving business.
Give technology its proper place
There’s no question about it: to improve manufacturing processes in your modern machine shop, you must embrace the latest technology.
Robotics and automation can help you keep your shop running as you fill your company’s employment gaps. But don’t let a fully staffed shop stop you from implementing new technologies. The most successful shops haven’t replaced their people with machines; rather, they’ve learned to optimize the strengths of both.
When it comes to repetitive tasks, dirty jobs, and hazardous machining, automation technology is your solution. Robots and cobots don’t experience performance fatigue. They don’t mind working in unpleasant conditions. And they’ll never get distracted and injure themselves.
Human beings, on the other hand, offer capabilities that machines can’t master. People can brainstorm creative solutions, interact and engage with customers, and make critical decisions about subjective issues—and they won’t need a software update to stay on top of the latest trends and techniques.
To maintain efficiency, cost-consciousness, and competition, it’s in your best interest to bring in people plus technology.
What Was, What Is, and What’s Still to Come
Humanity’s aversion to radical change makes total sense. Change—even objectively good change—is fraught with uncertainty. However, refusing to accept change is an exercise in futility because change is as inevitable as rain. Defy the sky all you want, but the rain will come, and you will get wet.
The question each of us must answer is this: will you do what it takes to navigate this new world, or will you stand in the rain, shaking your fist at the sky and getting drenched?
Waiting for life to “return to normal” prevents us from learning, growing, connecting, and, ultimately, succeeding. So make this the year when you let go of old habits and unhelpful beliefs. Embrace change with all its challenges, and welcome the future of manufacturing with eyes and arms wide open.
NTMA will be right there with you every step of the way.