Published on

February 9, 2022


Nick Halliday

In bar and chocolate manufacturing, labour shortages aren’t likely to ease any time soon.

We can expect to see almost 3.5 million more manufacturing jobs by 2030 in the United States. The majority – about two million – will stay empty. That’s according to a study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.  

Surveyed manufacturers have said that finding talent is now 36% harder than in 2018, even with twice as many people unemployed.

Some companies are landing on innovative solutions – like Vermont chocolate manufacturer, Lake Champlain Chocolates, which in 2021 implemented staff sharing with a local ice cream company to help with its busy Christmas period. Others are looking into automation as a way to minimise the need for staff. A third piece of the puzzle could be to improve the work and the environment, making it easier to attract and retain staff.  

Here are four areas to consider.  

Create fewer, higher-skilled jobs

Studies have put numbers behind something any business owner can observe. Low-paid, low-skilled workers have a far higher turnover rate than their high-skilled colleagues. One ‘dead-end’ job is as good as the next, so low-skilled workers are ready to move jobs because of seemingly trivial factors like slight wage increases or more convenient locations and hours.  

Automation could be the answer here – remove the grunt work, and instead create ‘new collar’ jobs, where workers oversee computerised or high-tech systems. A good example of this is Levi Strauss, which invested in laser finishing technology to add patterns, scuffs and rips to its denim. This replaced hundreds of workers using chemicals and sandpaper to distress the jeans by hand with a single laser technician. While that’s an extreme example, it’s true an automated facility will need fewer, more highly-skilled workers, who’ll earn higher pay and stay longer.  

The chance to train into using new technology can also make your plant more attractive to younger generations – a survey from the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research found that 69% of those under 25 would stay with their current employer for training and career opportunities.  

Make work easier and more enjoyable

The same survey found that 83% of employees would stay in their job if they liked the work.  

It makes sense then that reducing the heaviest, most monotonous and awkward tasks could improve working conditions, make the day-to-day more enjoyable and improve staff retention. For example, equipment that can be easily broken down and reassembled for sanitisation makes short work of a factory’s most unwelcome task.  

Automate safety procedures

Manufacturers manage what seems like an endless list of safety procedures, and dealing with it can be a double-edged sword when it comes to staff retention. Failure to follow protocol rigorously can send the message that employers don’t care for the welfare of their staff – a fast way to lose people. On the other hand, constantly badgering staff to complete administrative tasks can feel like pointless red tape, whittling away job satisfaction. Dedicated health and safety software minimises the time and resources required from your team and also offers better protection for management by reducing the need for oversight and risk of error. Good software will make it easy for managers to track health and safety training and offer a centralised location for all employees to find checklists and process information.  

Invest in intuitive machinery

Equipment that’s seamless and easy to use helps tackle labour shortages on multiple levels. First, losing operators won’t be as devastating or expensive if new workers can figure out equipment as they go. That will also add to job satisfaction and improve retention as new workers find they’re successful much faster.

That, amongst other benefits, is part of why ease-of-use has always been a core focus when developing PTL equipment. Each generation of our machinery has brought thousands of subtle usability improvements. After over three decades, our range is notably intuitive in the market – even untrained workers can quickly understand how things work and fit together.  

Keep the staff you have  

While the manufacturing industry struggles to staff its factories, it’s worth looking at all sides of the equation – not just minimising your reliance on workers, but taking steps to keep the ones you have. That means offering opportunities for advancement, making the work more enjoyable and getting rid of health and safety red tape. With each of those elements taken care of, you may find you’re recruiting and training far less, so you can get back to producing more.