Addressing the manufacturing talent crunch

This guide helps manufacturing leaders and department heads to better attract, upskill, and retain top engineering and design talent while increasing employee satisfaction. Learn how people development,employee engagement, enriching work, and automation can clear the path to innovation.

The state of manufacturing talent

The pressure to get new talent, develop what you have with less employee turnover, and never let them go is stronger than ever. Post-COVID growth in manufacturing and record-low unemployment means manufacturing companies are fighting over the best talent. How do we compete?

Closing the Gap: Manufacturing's Quest for Skilled Workforce
84% of Manufacturing Executives believe there is a talent shortage in the US primarily due to a shortage of training opportunities and advancements
Source: Autodesk Design & Make Report 2023

Talent pool challenges and opportunities

Adoption: Embracing Change

Leaders in engineering and design are often met with resistance from their talented employees when introducing new processes and technologies. This hesitancy can stem from a discomfort with change or a lack of understanding of the new system’s benefits. To mitigate this, involving a team member in the early stages of the adoption process—such as in requirements gathering and vendor selection—is crucial. When engineers and designers see firsthand how their workflows will be streamlined and improved with the new technology, buy-in becomes more likely. Providing clear launch dates and comprehensive training ensures that the team feels prepared and supported, fostering a sense of ownership and excitement toward the change for a better company culture. For instance, adopting Fusion 360 in the workflow demonstrated a tangible improvement, where Nexus3 Manufacturing and Engineering were able to design and model a new face shield in a mere three days, including the time taken for learning through resources like KETIV Virtual Academy.

Collaboration: Building Synergy

Knowing that effective collaboration is the bedrock of innovation and efficiency for product teams, how can we foster team-based problem-solving, knowledge sharing, employee feedback, and optimize workflows within our manufacturing workforce?

Enabling a digital thread

Strong collaboration relies on effective strategies such as real-time communication and data accessibility. Leveraging Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems streamlines teamwork, drastically reducing the chances of data loss, unnecessary re-work, and the confusion that can often arise from less integrated methods. For example, TOMRA Foods’ use of 3D modeling libraries facilitates the quick assembly and pricing of customer-specific system layouts, significantly enhancing client satisfaction.

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Course: 5 Steps to Streamline Engineering Data Management

Continuity throughout the transaction

Create an end-to-end purchase to delivery workflow powered by up front product configuration and automated pricing and quoting. Engineering and production teams benefit from accurate configurations that respect their product rules, with minimal team resources to support estimates and change orders for a better employee experience. Enjoy seamless order knowledge and team collaboration without deep dependencies on Excel, paper, and email.

Such forward-thinking approaches ensure that teams are more aligned and can trust in their capacity to meet customer promises which boosts employee morale, exemplified by MAN Truck & Bus’s notable savings of between 70% and 80% of their engineering resources. These systems not only foster collaboration but also empower teams to deliver consistently and efficiently, with a substantial impact on the bottom line.

Sales Training: Accelerating Expertise

It can take months for a new sales person to learn enough about the product catalog, pricing, and the organization to be an effective seller. You need them quickly focused on what truly matters: engaging with customers, understanding their needs, and driving value through upselling, cross-selling, and personalization of the sales experience.

In the competitive realm of sales, the rapid onboarding and training of new personnel are crucial. Configure, price, and quote (CPQ) software is revolutionizing this space by simplifying complex product options, dependencies, and pricing strategies. Don’t bog down new salespeople with the intricacies of product configurations. Instead, use best practices and provide them with a visual, guided selling experience, where product options are preset to adhere to engineering and production rules, and pricing adjustments are automated for easy employee development.

As noted by Alicia Vivier Brockhoff from HMF, “It’s easier to be a customer and an HMF distributor. It’s easier for us to implement new products and train new salespeople. There are a lot of great benefits”.

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The Power of Proposals: Connecting sales and engineering for exceptional customer service

Retention: Cultivating Creativity

How do we shift towards more engaging and value-added work that builds confidence and job satisfaction among engineers? We need to enable them to see a direct and more significant impact of their daily work on the company’s goals.

In the drive to retain top talent, the implementation of design automation tools is becoming increasingly important for employee retention strategy and career growth. These tools liberate engineers and designers from the mundane, repetitive tasks that stifle creativity and lead to job dissatisfaction for a current employee. By streamlining design workflows, design automation not only accelerates the process of creating solutions but also enhances the creative output by allowing more time for innovation and problem-solving through a flexible work arrangement.

Jeremy Smith of Jellyfish Pictures underscores the necessity of a stimulating work environment, in the 2023 State of Design and Make Report by Autodesk. They note that their technology infrastructure has been key in attracting global talent and keeping them engaged with interesting projects. It is a clear reminder that the desire for creative stimulation is universal among professionals, and addressing this need can be a game-changer in employee retention. Design automation stands out as a pivotal tool in fostering such an environment, ensuring that employees feel valued and engaged in their work.

Innovation: Driving Growth

Companies are only as innovative as their people in the manufacturing sector. Fostering a culture of innovation within engineering and design teams is essential for growth and competitiveness. We have to encourage the exploration of new concepts and directions, allowing for the development of breakthrough market wins, while decreasing the number of departing employees.

More predictive outcomes for everyone

Simulation technology is a key driver of this innovation, enabling engineeing talent to test and refine ideas in a virtual environment where the risks and costs are significantly reduced. This means less risk for the product development team and the overall organization as they deliver products to customers. As Gabe Hill from IDEX Corporation points out, using simulation is not just about internal innovation; it also “…aids in us keeping our commitments to our customers and their overall satisfaction”.

Advanced digital manufacturing goes hand-in-hand with attracting and retaining top talent. Modern, efficient workflows and the latest digital tools empower manufacturing employees to work beyond mundane tasks for better career advancement. Stefan List, Head of Cabin Market Insights, Airbus, a designer, manufacturer, and seller of aircraft, helicopters and space vehicles, explains, “To get the best talent, you need to have an appealing work culture. Employees want to know that they won’t just be completing tasks given to them. They want to bring their own viewpoints and creativity to their jobs. That’s key.” [2023 State of Design and Make]

Manufacturers and Regulations: The 2,000+ Hour Dilemma
More than 63% of manufacturers report spending more than 2,000 hours per year complying with federal regulations.
Source: Autodesk Design & Make Report 2023

Simulation for Manufacturers
Is your production process being held back by outdated product development and validation? Embrace simulation software to elevate the functionality of your products. Exceed customer expectations and command premium prices.

Retain better by upskilling your workforce

By offering a culture where employees’ creativity and viewpoints are valued, companies can attract professionals who are looking for meaningful and stimulating work.

Training in new technologies and methodologies aligns with the ambitions of today’s top engineers, as shown by the State of Design and Make, where over 90% agree on the importance of upskilling. To truly embed innovation into the DNA of a company, it is crucial to reduce manual, transactional work and invest in upskilling the workforce. This not only drives a more ideal product development lifecycle but also ensures that the workforce remains on the cutting edge of industry advancements with regular training and introduction to the newest technologies.

Labor Pool: Addressing Shortages

The manufacturing industry is facing a critical challenge: an aging workforce coupled with a growing shortage of skilled labor. Companies’ talent shortages are delaying customer orders and large projects. This gap not only threatens the pace of sales and innovation, but also puts increased pressure on your existing staff.

64% said that access to skilled employees presents a barrier to business growth [2023 State of Design and Make Report]

Doing more with less

Automation stands out as a strategic solution to the issue of staffing struggles. By taking over routine and time-consuming tasks, it allows engineers and designers growth opportunities to focus on higher-level work that demands their expertise and creativity. This shift not only promotes a more innovative approach to design but also broadens the scope of who can contribute, as Eric Andres from Nucor Warehouse Systems highlights.

“All the ways this tool can help us are so exciting. Our designers can turn around a quote much more quickly, while the automation expedites the steps to put the system together. The simplicity and efficiency widens the net on who can participate in our design process.”

With automation, the turnaround time for tasks such as quoting is reduced, and the design process becomes more inclusive, allowing a wider range of participants to contribute to innovation. Ultimately, this can help offset talent shortages and rejuvenate the workforce by creating roles that are less about manual tasks and more about strategic, creative thinking.

Employee Overload: Streamlining Operations

As demands for your manufacturing business continue to grow, but the workforce does not, streamlining operations is not just beneficial; it’s imperative. Integrated platform solutions are vital in this regard. They enhance communication and data accessibility, allowing teams to work more cohesively and efficiently, even when resources are limited.

Design automation takes the painstaking, manual aspects out of drafting and creating BOMs and quotes. Automating the tedious parts of an engineer or designer’s job will allow them to grow, contribute more, and feel more gratified in their work. That’s an employee who’ll want to stay, and do better work for you organization and your customers.

“To protect against a high turnover rate, we do have to be faster, and we must get better. Our employees want to get away from tedious daily work. They want to design cool things. They want to see it get built.”

CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) systems further streamline operations by automating the sales configuration process, ensuring accurate pricing and quotes, which not only accelerates the sales cycle but also reduces the workload on engineering and design teams, allowing them to focus on fulfilling increased orders with efficiency.

Implementing proper Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems can dramatically reduce the time lost in data retrieval, prevent costly re-work from errors, and avoid the confusion that can arise from miscommunication.

These strategies are crucial when considering the stark reality reported by the National Association of Manufacturers, which noted that 45% of manufacturers had to decline business due to insufficient workforce. By optimizing workflows through these integrated platforms, companies can better manage increased orders and maximize the productivity of their existing workforce, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and efficiency.

Upskilling: Bridging the Skills Gap

The gap in skills within the existing workforce, especially concerning the latest digital tools and techniques, can be a significant hurdle for any organization. The 2023 State of Design and Make survey highlights a rapidly aging workforce and the challenges companies face in adapting to the preferences of a younger generation. To address this, companies must create continuous learning opportunities and pathways for career development that align with the evolving landscape of design and manufacturing.

Upskilling is a strategic necessity to bridge this gap and ensure that all employees, not just new hires, are proficient with modern technologies. Providing comprehensive training and support to existing employees not only enhances their capabilities but also brings a sense of value and growth within the company, fostering a more innovative and adaptable workforce.

By investing in the development of their current team, organizations can maintain a competitive edge and ensure a seamless integration of seasoned experience with cutting-edge innovation. This is essential not only to retain talent, but also to attract a younger workforce that seeks out employers who invest in their employees’ growth and adapt to the changing technological environment.

KETIV Learning Program
Unlock deeper productivity and innovation from your most valuable resource...your designers and engineers that are so critical to product development.

Retention: Keeping Talent In-House

To retain talent effectively, companies must create an environment that not only nurtures but also values each employee’s growth and contributions. This is particularly crucial in the engineering and design sectors, where the competition for skilled professionals is fierce. By providing accessible training tools and developing clear career and goal-oriented training paths, employees can see a future for themselves within the organization. Aligning these training initiatives with performance development plans and tangible incentives reinforces the message that the company is invested in their personal and professional development.

The 2023 State of Design and Make survey indicates that nearly half of the respondents identify talent retention as their primary challenge. To address this, companies must go beyond traditional benefits and salary; they need to ensure that engineers and designers feel their work is impactful and recognized. This involves creating opportunities for advancement, recognizing achievements, and engaging employees in the decision-making processes that affect their work. By doing so, companies not only prevent their trained talent from being lured away but also become more attractive to potential new hires who are seeking a dynamic and supportive workplace.

Resources for talent development

Next Steps

Let's work together to build strategies to retain, grow, and attract top talent to your organization.