A couple weekends ago I participated in a golf tournament up in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. And no, my foursome didn’t win.
I have to say that things were fairly normal in the village until the morning we left. We checked out of the hotel and started the drive home. We stopped at the first coffee opportunity and pulled in. I was astonished to see a sign on the McDonalds door that stated both the drive thru and restaurant were closed due to staff shortage. We continued down the highway and another one came up. We pulled in and only the drive thru was open. The line was a coil around the building. Again, a sign on the door said that it was due to the labour shortage.
As we pulled out to head to the next rest stop, I noticed on the McDonalds sign that they were offering a $1000 signing bonus.
In woodworking, we’ve always struggled to find good people and keep them. Well, it seems the rest of the world is in the same boat now. I’m guessing that will make it even harder for our industry. Candidates will be pulled in every direction and crazy things will be offered in order to win that candidate over from the rest of the suffering companies looking to hire. It’s like a sea of piranhas out there!
So, what do we do? We can’t eliminate employees in our business, but we can sure use the ones we have as efficiently as possible and minimize the new hires required. Anything that can be streamlined and done by a machine or software should be thoroughly considered.
If we can’t find workers to help with our bottlenecks, we should turn to technology. We really don’t have many other options. Both software and machines are available to help with our bottlenecks no matter where they are. Sometimes it’s just a question of added training in order to better optimize what’s being sent to the shop floor.
For example, what can be done to empower the assemblers to get more done in the same amount of time? We know that we won’t be eliminating assemblers anytime soon, so this is a good station to focus on for optimization. Are assemblers missing parts? Are they working hard to figure out how to assemble? Can we reduce or eliminate the need for a tape measure at assembly? Are there more operations that can be performed on the CNC so that assembly is easier? All the same questions for installers…
If we identify the hardest stations to replace humans, then we can focus on optimizing those so that each human is producing at maximum capacity. Simplicity and speed should be the focus. If it takes days/weeks/months to train someone on a certain station, there’s work to be done. Either through process documentation, MES software or better instructions. We no longer have the luxury of taking days/weeks/months to train someone. We must be able to put someone new in the shop and have them produce at maximum capacity with minimal errors as fast as possible. That only happens if we keep pushing the boundaries with technology and machines.