A recent report from PMMI Business Intelligence found that most consumer-packaged goods (CPG) professionals are still faced with overcoming the poor reputation saddling the manufacturing industry as a whole.

In its Vision 2025 report, that CPGs polled said that their biggest workforce challenge is “recruiting and training for technical skills” and that they spend a dominant amount of time focusing on growing their business rather than on employees.

This negative reputation goes back decades.

From the time when manual labor on the manufacturing floor were locked into the same dirty, dingy job with little to no opportunity for advancement. This reputation has been a big turnoff in attracting new and skilled talent to manufacturing work forces.

The report said CPGs are trying to develop benefits their employees are looking for to help with recruitment and retention.

“Several CPGs report that they are getting more in tune with the benefits that employees want and finding a way to give them to them, e.g., paid time off, flexible work schedules, etc.” the report said.

While that may work for existing employees, the challenge remains when recruiting new, young talent out of high school or college. Manufacturing still has the image of being long hours, low pay and dirty.

But, many in the manufacturing field know that isn’t true anymore.

Many manufacturing floors are pristine work areas and the pay for skilled labor is traditionally much higher on the average than it was even 10 years ago. Skilled professionals, whether contract or direct hire, can command strong salaries for jobs that paid a fraction a decade ago.

The problem here is that manufacturers are doing little to spread that message. There must be a concerted effort on the part of everyone in manufacturing to explain that this isn’t your grandfather’s manufacturing.

In terms of being locked into the same job for years, CPGs and other manufacturing leaders report they are consistently “looking for alternative paths to help balance speed with the time it takes to understand a job” with the hopes of fostering quicker advancement for employees. These leaders must continue to focus on making jobs more interesting for employees along with better engagement and a deeper connection between employees and their jobs.

Another way to combat the negative perception of manufacturing is to highlight the technology.

There needs to continue to be a priority placed on implementing innovative technologies on equipment used on the floor along with digitizing workflow. This means improving the flow of all paper and dealing with “error corrections in data so as not to perpetuate faulty information exchange.”

Implementing things like automation and robotics can modernize a manufacturing floor and spearhead training for existing employees to broaden their skill set. It could also provide a sense of pride with employees that they are working in a high-tech environment.

Process improvement is another avenue where manufacturing can take hold and improve its image. Continuously implementing ways to increase production without over-burdening labor is a constant struggle, but one manufacturer need to continue to do.

The bottom line here is manufacturers have to do a better job overcoming the previous stigma of its work. It’s no longer gritty and grimy, but more high-tech and skilled.

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