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ASCM Insights

Revealing Manufacturing’s Future

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The state of manufacturing jobs in the United States is complicated. This idea was reinforced last week in The Washington Post’s article “Trump Tried to Save Their Jobs. These Workers Are Quitting Anyway.” 

“At a time when the Trump administration argues that creating manufacturing jobs is a critical national goal — even coordinating with states on generous subsidy packages to woo blue-collar employers — many factory workers are making a surprising decision: They’re quitting,” Danielle Paquette writes. 

The article profiles Kipp Glenn, a Carrier employee who assembles steel furnace doors. Although President Trump vowed to save jobs at the Indianapolis Carrier plant where Glenn works, Glenn took a buyout instead. And he’s not alone. Nearly half of the 337 employees who left Carrier in July did so willingly and for a variety of reasons, including increasing automation that threatened their job security; the idea they could find better, more fulfilling jobs; and a generous severance package. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), manufacturing employees have voluntarily left the industry at a rate of 1.6 percent, up from 1.1 percent in June 2015. The Washington Post reports that 194,000 factory workers quit their jobs in June. 
Experts suggest that the increasing percentage of workers leaving is a favorable adjustment in an industry that will add fewer jobs as technology advances.

“People had the impression that manufacturing was shrinking because people were getting fired,” said Christian Zimmermann, an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, in the article. “But there is a lot of churn going on. People are quitting to take other jobs.” 

Charlotte Oslund is a statistician at the U.S. BLS who studies employment changes. She, too, was quoted by The Washington Post. “You want to see a lot of quits, actually," she says. "It’s a good thing for workers and the economy.”

The challenge comes for employers, who struggle to find the workers they need. Manufacturers increasingly need employees with more training than a high school education delivers. 

Preparing for the future

In the eight years I’ve been writing APICS Supply Chain Management Now, I’ve written often about how manufacturing is transforming — moving away from the monotonous, noisy and dirty environment of the past to a high-tech, integrated and precise atmosphere of the future. In this evolving environment, manufacturing’s future relies on highly skilled workers. 

This future also requires highly trained supply chain professionals. We already see how supply chain professionals are in high demand. Many of the leaders I talk to voice their hiring concerns. At APICS, we are dedicated to addressing this need and preparing manufacturing and other industries for the future. 

Although APICS credentials might be the most well-known way we promote supply chain knowledge and advancement, I do want to highlight two other programs: APICS Supply Chain STEM and the upcoming Women in Supply Chain Forum. 

First, through our Supply Chain STEM Educational Outreach Program, APICS seeks to educate 100,000 K-12 students by 2020. By demonstrating the importance of supply chain management and the promising career paths it offers, the APICS Supply Chain STEM Educational Outreach Program is tackling the talent gap. Find out more about the program and how you can help by visiting apics.org/stem

Another APICS effort to nurture the future of supply chain is through programs that encourage women in the field. Specifically, I am proud that APICS is hosting its first-ever Women in Supply Chain Forum on October 17 as part of APICS 2017 in San Antonio. During the forum, participants will share ideas about how to attract, promote and retain women in supply chain. For more information or to register, visit apics.org/annual-conference/schedule/women-in-supply-chain-forum.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted at abe@ascm.org.

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