Digitization will save the maintenance industry from a labour shortage

By Chris Turlica, CEO at MaintainX   

News labour maintenance manufacturing

By 2025, the manufacturing and maintenance industries will need to fill an estimated 3.4 million jobs as technicians hang up their hardhats and settle in for retirement. However, the current state of work in manufacturing and maintenance has made it difficult to entice younger generations to dive in.
Unfortunately, younger workers will be less interested in occupations that rely on the old workflows of paper, pens, and clipboards. Digitization of work across these industries will be the only solution to recruiting generations born with an iPad in their hands. But incorporating more streamlined workflows doesn’t only appease Gen Z, it also increases efficiency, safety, and productivity.
The Current State of Maintenance Workers
The average age of a general maintenance worker is 47. As this group ages, and eventually retires, the potential for a critical labor shortage in the maintenance industry becomes more imminent. For years, we have been hearing that machines are able to do the jobs of humans, but the critical work of maintenance workers will leave an unfillable gap in the industry if a shortage occurs.
In fact, the impact of the aging maintenance worker population could have real economic implications. According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the manufacturing skills gap may result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, and the cost of those unfilled jobs may total $1 trillion in 2030 alone.
With a trillion-dollar deficit looming, the importance of determining the right way to incentivize younger generations to explore career opportunities in the maintenance and manufacturing industries becomes even more critical.
A Disconnected Industry
So, where is the labour shortage coming from? If the potential skills gap could have such detrimental effects, where is the disconnect? There have been substantial gains in technology advancements in manufacturing but, unfortunately, public awareness still lags.
Manufacturing is at an inflection point: the sector is increasingly viewed as crucial to economic and pandemic recovery, yet outdated public perceptions impact recruiting vital new workers. Although maintenance work is no longer restricted to blue-collar work, dispelling the commonly held image of the industry requires both increased visibility into the opportunities that exist within the industry and workflow digitization to attract additional talent.
The Benefits of Digitization
Greater workflow digitization in maintenance jobs will attract younger generations to the work. Understanding that these young professionals have grown up using smartphones and tablets, incorporating these tools into their workflows will be seamless. In fact, dependence on physical papers for reporting likely deters those interested in the work.
Additionally, digitizing workflows eliminates time wasted on the extra steps for reporting and analysis, enabling maintenance workers to spend their time on work that provides the greatest value to their organizations. In doing so, maintenance workers will be able to provide additional data and insights that not only help the business, but elevate the importance of their work and provide a seat at the table.
Safety and efficiency also increase exponentially with digitization. When preventive maintenance measures and checks are automated and equipment connected to real time sensors, teams can better maintain uptime and assure compliance, leading to their machinery and tools being used efficiently while avoiding any unnecessary downtime and unplanned reactive maintenance.
While none of these aspects is directly associated with recruitment, each has impacts on maintenance team performance and job satisfaction, thus making the work more attractive to younger generations that grew up with technology weaved into their daily lives.
Greater efficiency and safety, as well as increased growth opportunities enabled through digitization, can enable the maintenance industry to avoid the impending labor shortage by providing the type of work that new workers seek.

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