Automation Goes Mainstream to Aid in Manufacturing Labor Shortages

ERP can harness the latest in innovative technology to offer a digital view of business processes, monitoring steps from start to finish and help businesses avoid mistakes as a result of human error and ensure they are maximizing resources.

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Ongoing supply chain difficulties and a persisting labor shortage continue to create challenges for manufacturers. In a recent CNBC survey, more than half of logistics managers do not expect the supply chain to return to normal until at least 2024 – and likely after. On top of that, manufacturing leaders are concerned with the shortage of skilled workers. 75% of respondents cited problems with hiring to address the skills gap, while 65% are troubled with employee burnout. Deloitte reports that by 2030, U.S. manufacturing is expected to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs. This inability to meet full staffing needs continues to impact the production levels required to satisfy growing customer demand, pursue new market opportunities, scale and even implement new innovative technology.

Manual operations are a methodology of the past, with employees using spreadsheets, clipboards and basic accounting software to perform daily tasks. Not only are these methods time-consuming and expensive, but these outdated tools and processes create a host of problems, including overuse of resources, lack of reliable quality and scalability, and employee burnout. Quality and reputation can become major concerns as well. Solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) harness the latest in innovative technology to offer a digital view of business processes, monitoring steps from start to finish and help businesses avoid mistakes as a result of human error and ensure they are maximizing resources.

Per ECI Software Solution’s most recent State of Manufacturing Digital Transformation report, 70% of manufacturers use an ERP solution to drive their day-to-day operations. This number will likely increase as the industry sees growing success and expanded adoption. Now more than ever it’s imperative that manufacturers adopt automation technology and solutions to mitigate the effects of the labor shortages and supply chain challenges to take their operations into the future while contributing positively to their current success.

Automation offers visibility and quality control to manufacturers

Among its many benefits, automation delivers flexibility, organizational alignment and shifts employee focus to more rewarding and value-adding tasks. Through automation made available via enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturers can access real-time operation information in a centralized location, meaning that there are no conflicting answers. ERP can be applied to sales, accounts payable, e-commerce, customer service, pricing, rebate management and other departments within an organization.

This alignment and internal visibility allow manufacturers to better predict material purchase demands by incorporating forecasts, sales and production requirements into one central view. This enables manufacturers to be more agile in pivoting with shifting market trends and helps mitigate the impacts of ongoing challenges caused by supply chain disruption.

This visibility also means enhanced quality control, a vital element in the manufacturing process that drives growth and brand loyalty among end customers. Through a modern ERP solution, businesses can reduce the risk of liability and product recalls and ensure that accurate, real-time test results are accessible.

As an example, baby formula manufacturer Nature’s One used ERP automation to uphold and manage its stringent regulatory compliance requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ERP provides the visibility to track and trace each ingredient from the moment it enters the facility as a raw ingredient through its shipment as a finished good. This dramatically reduces the likelihood that contaminated, mislabeled or unlabeled products are shipped. With this powerful technology in hand, manufacturers can strengthen supply chain visibility and position themselves to succeed in a constantly shifting environment.

Automation Can Help Attract, Retain and Supplement Talent

A critical use case for automation across the manufacturing enterprise is its ability to close talent gaps and address the larger labor shortage. According to a Deloitte report, 57% of manufacturers surveyed have been able to improve the job responsibilities through automation and other advanced technologies, reducing one of the pain points of a career in manufacturing: being required to perform repetitive and monotonous tasks. ERP automation takes control of repetitive and mundane tasks that in many cases can make workers feel insignificant. The repetition of mindless work can lead to errors or delays, as well as employee burnout.

At a larger level, ERP technology helps elevate the employee workplace experience by automating lower value tasks and instead asking employees to contribute with higher leverage analysis. This shift makes employees feel more valued in their day-to-day work and can act as a method of talent attraction and retention. Automation makes sure that employees are working to their strengths, as opposed to being stretched across many manual tasks with different levels of proficiency.

Investing in Automation Technology

Automation allows manufacturers to improve flexibility and agility, all while improving day to day operations for workers. Given the benefits of automation, it’s no surprise that an ABB survey found 70% of U.S. and European businesses plan to invest in robotics and automation over the next three years to combat supply chain challenges. Not only does automation improve employee satisfaction and performance, but it also improves the quality and flow of overall business operations.

In this vein, upgrading automation technology becomes not just a ‘nice to have’ but a significant competitive advantage that propels your manufacturing enterprise forward. As labor shortages and supply chain turbulence persist, talent retention and quality control will remain vital advantages. Automation offers accurate information and visibility into your company and reduces human errors. Ultimately, manual processes waste time and time is money.