Workforce Development

Manufacturers can overcome technician shortage by empowering workers

There is a shortage of qualified technicians that will continue as the skills gap widens. Manufacturers should take advantage of the technicians currently employed and empower them with the technology to improve their efficiency.

By Emily Poklar, MSI Data May 27, 2016

With an average of six out of 10 jobs going unfilled today in manufacturing, the lack of qualified technicians will continue to take its toll on industrial businesses. The demand for skilled technicians has been on the rise for years. With a proactive business mindset, however, service organizations can make the most of the qualified technicians by equipping the service team with an all-in-one service management solution.

The AED Foundation researched and analyzed the growing skills gap in field service and manufacturing and the impact it’s having in the industry. Its findings explain how the technician shortage affects businesses and offers advice on what organizations can do to overcome ongoing challenges. 

Addressing skills gap challenges

AED defines the skills gap as a: "Mismatch between the skills that businesses are looking for in employees and the skills present in the workforce." This is an important topic for equipment distributors, manufacturers, and service providers because the gap has been widening for years. According to AED manufacturing executives surveyed in the report, 87% believe the high school systems are to blame in the lack of technical workers. Along with the increasingly poor perception of vocational careers, students are being encouraged to pursue a four-year program instead of a technical degree. And, according to the report, those who do attend a two-year technical program are not gaining the preparation and experience they need.

AED reported, "67% of executives answered that employees lack the hard skills that they need in the industry." They end up applying to open positions in which they do not have the experience needed in tasks like maintaining and repairing equipment. As the number of new, qualified technicians continues to dwindle, the number of job openings continues to increase as the baby boomer technician generation retires. 

How it affects businesses

Distributors’ difficulty recruiting new technicians, based on the lack of technical skills needed, affects business. According to AED’s survey results, "Studies of the manufacturing industry indicate that businesses may be foregoing 11% of earnings and 9% of revenue due to the skills gap and the inability to hire qualified workers."

With over 50% of survey respondents stating that the inability to find qualified technicians hinders business growth, increases costs and inefficiencies, and makes them unable to meet customer demand, it is clear that something needs to be done. 

How to make technicians more effective

Manufacturers need to make the most of their existing technicians during this shortage by equipping them with the tools and information they need to do their jobs efficiently and accurately.

Eliminate paper by automating the process with a mobile service app so techs can complete a work order and sync with the back office for instant accessibility and faster billing. 

Using visual schedule software as part of a field service management suite allows companies to schedule work orders in the most efficient pattern for each technician. Dispatchers can filter by tech availability and skill-set so they assign the best worker for each job. Also, give techs access to service history, parts and inventory information so they know what they need before they get to the job site By giving technicians mobile access to the history of the site and the needs for the service call, they will know which parts they need for the job. This will save time and eliminate the need for return visits. Invest in your workforce for increased retention.

Reward technicians for a job well done; invest in career development and training; and invest in the FSM software to enable technician success. These are all strategies you can use to keep your techs happy and reduce employee churn. 

Make use of the technicians already employed

It’s harder than ever to attract talented service technicians and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get easier any time soon. Manufacturers should make the most of the existing workforce by giving them the tools and support they need to be more efficient. Manufacturers should recognize technicians’ efforts with incentives and rewards so they know they’re valued.

Emily Poklar is a content marketing specialist at MSI Data. MSI Data is a CFE Media content partner. See the original article here. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering,

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