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Time to turn turbulence to a recruitment revolution in manufacturing

22/11/18 Brett Longden Senior Consultant, Electronics & Technology

Confidence among manufacturing firms has slumped to its lowest level for more than a year, a new study suggests. Research by business advisers BDO LLP indicated a “concerning turnaround” in the fortunes of the manufacturing sector due to scarce availability of talent. Research among more than 1,000 employers suggested that specialist manufacturing and operations vacancies are becoming ever harder to fill. The squeeze on skills is leading employers to increase salaries, said the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  

With this universal concern among business leaders that manufacturing jobs  are being left unfilled due to the availability of qualified candidates. The big question is, what should hiring managers and directors be doing in order to secure the specialist talent for their open manufacturing and operations jobs. 

We spoke with Brett Longden, Redline's Manufacturing and Operation's Consultant about how business leaders can think outside the box in order to really push the envelope, innovate and get ahead of the competition.

“Unless manufacturers start exploring new strategies, they won’t be able to find enough suitable candidates to work in their high-tech manufacturing facilities,” says Brett. Businesses should put aside the “best” in best practice, what’s best in your business is not necessarily the model for the absolute best.  This is especially true because there are plenty of overlaps between industries such as electronics, automotive, food and pharmaceutical, and the jobs, culture, and processes can be ignored when siloed into a particular field and discipline. Take Lean manufacturing or lean production, often simply "lean”, is a systematic method for waste minimisation within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity, a process engineers’ job will apply the same methodologies in a semiconductor fab to the processes adopted by a manufacturing engineer’s job in an automotive plant. Often processes which may not work for one could be combined to yield surprising results in another environment.

Increasingly, we have seen employers only considering candidates with directly relevant experience in their sector rather than evaluating the competencies required. At a time when ‘diversity’ is the most over-used word on the HR front, businesses need to look beyond their candidates’ prior manufacturing experience and look at competencies, skills, and experience that may be transferable for particular jobs. 

Building, supporting and scaling a sustainable business with sound policies is no easy feat, regardless of industry. Some fields may be more competitive than others, and businesses that break the mould have something in common - they look outside their industry sector for inspiration on best practices. This kind of external benchmarking is key for any business that hopes to not only survive but flourish, in today's high-tech manufacturing sector. 

Manufacturers need to ‘reinvent’ their workforce

Two-thirds of manufacturers expect their workforce to increase in the next five years, according to EEF’s report, ‘Reinventing the Manufacturing Workforce’. 

This being primarily driven by plans to introduce new products, but also due to the adoption of new technologies and techniques. Despite this, just one-third (32%) of manufacturers have a workforce plan.

That means two-thirds don’t. Yet, there is also a greater need for companies to ensure that they have the right people with the right skills to navigate the many changes the manufacturing and operations sector is to face in the coming years. As the war for talent continues, companies must put the candidate at the centre of the process, often leading to businesses broadening their recruitment options and seeking new employees from aligned sectors and industries, as competition for skills remains high.

AI could create jobs and aid recruitment

Despite many people believing AI systems might ‘steal’ their job, AI could actually create many more jobs than it displaces.

The rise of machines, robots and algorithms in the workplace could actually create 133 million new roles in place of the 75 million that AI is set to displace between now and 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.

WEF’s findings also showed that just over half (54%) of employees of large corporates would need to significantly upskill their current workforce in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As their workforce grows and changes, manufacturers need to integrate these types of advanced systems if they are to acquire the best and most suitable talent. Businesses need skills of the future – which of course are hard to predict – in order to drive business growth, offer up new ways of thinking and propel operations, all to align with the technological revolution manufacturing is undergoing.

“Manufacturers are facing both turbulent but also a revolutionary time,” says Brett. “Recruitment planning is crucial, not just to prepare for challenges, but also to take advantage of analysing future strategies and look at future manufacturing job opportunities. Technological change has the potential to radically change the workplace in ways never seen before. Employees in the sector will be at the heart of change, not only learning how to adapt to new ways of working, but also adapting to new manufacturing and operations job roles. This will ultimately require a step change in the way employers train their new and existing workforce and deploy their skills.”

Redline’s Manufacturing Recruitment and Operations division specialises in the selection of both permanent, contract and interim professionals throughout the UK and Europe. Since its formation in 1982, the manufacturing jobs division has been staffed by expert consultants and industry professionals giving them a unique perception of the full product manufacturing life-cycle including all aspects of production, supply chain, manufacturing engineering and test and maintenance.

To find out more about operations and careers in manufacturing or to see our latest job opportunities, please click here or alternatively contact Brett Longden on 01582 878841 or email