Hiring Qualified Workers Remains Industry’s Top Challenge


Ahead of other worthy contenders like customer demand for lower prices, faster response times, competitive pressure, and forecasting, manufacturers named “hiring qualified workers” as their top challenge in the 2019 Material Handling Institute (MHI) Annual Industry Report

Unemployment rates are at historic lows in the US and abroad. May 2019 saw a 49-year low of 3.6 percent in the US, which just barely rose to 3.7 percent in June. Meanwhile, baby boomers are just starting to retire, a trend that will affect labor dynamics for years to come. These factors have made it difficult for industries like manufacturing to retain the talent they need.

According to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs are projected to be created by 2028, but 2.4 million of them could go unfilled because of a skilled-labor shortage. This phenomenon—termed “the skills gap”—is currently the top challenge within the 2.5 trillion-dollar industry. 

It makes sense that 91% of companies listed “hiring qualified workers” as somewhat, very, or extremely challenging in the new MHI Industry Report. This is one of the biggest reasons why manufacturing companies are looking to implement automation solutions: to assist their workforces, especially during peak demand periods. 

Rather than replacing workers with robots, it’s important to note that manufacturers are generally seeking to enable increasingly scarce supply chain workers to take on higher-value work—the kind of work only humans are capable of doing.

Figure 1. Companies ranked hiring qualified workers as their number-one challenge in new MHI Industry Report.

“The current generation wants the opportunity to be creative and solve challenging problems. They are not infatuated with the mundane. They want the flexibility to leverage their unique understanding of NextGen supply chains.”—Randy Bradley, University of Tennessee

OTTO Motors’ mission has always been to automate the world's dullest, deadliest and most dangerous jobs—which are exactly the jobs that manufacturers are having a hard time hiring. In manufacturing, one of the dullest jobs possible is material handling. It’s tedious for everyone—plant managers and workers alike—as it requires the person to leave their work station and it adds more "touch points" within the process, which generally decreases throughput. 

“OTTO helps solve the hiring challenge because it allows manufacturers to automate repetitive, dull and unappealing tasks, so they can focus on hiring for more complex roles where humans add the most value.”—Matt Rendall, OTTO Motors

On an average day, a warehouse worker can walk up to 20 miles and lift a total of 50,000 pounds. The work is hard, the environment is harsh, and the pay is low. Injuries are common and turnover in this line of work is high.

Automated material-handling solutions like OTTO self-driving vehicles perform the dull work so humans can focus on higher value-added tasks. OTTO is not designed to replace delivery routes that are serviced by traditional conveyors, cranes or AGVs. Rather, OTTO is designed to automate the delivery routes that are still manually serviced, so people can re-focus on more valuable and more rewarding work.

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