- On January 31, 2024
In recent years, Massachusetts has faced a growing workforce dilemma, particularly within the manufacturing sector. At the January 2023 MassEcon event, Mark Melnik, UMass Donahue Institute, shed some light on the current challenges, emphasizing the critical need for solutions as employers grapple with labor shortages. The impact of an aging population, declining workforce, and the outward migration of residents is at a critical point and technology can play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges for Massachusetts manufacturing companies.
Workforce Dilemma in Massachusetts:
According to Melnik’s presentation, Massachusetts is grappling with a workforce crisis driven by an aging population and declining migration. With the state having the 17th oldest population in the country and a median age of 40.3, the imminent retirement of baby boomers poses a significant threat. In 2020, 14 percent of Massachusetts residents were 65 or older, and projections indicate that by 2050, this number will soar to 27 percent.
Moreover, the state witnessed a 0.4 percent population decrease between 2020 and 2023. Factors contributing to this decline include domestic outmigration to other states and a slowdown in international immigrants, both exacerbated by the challenges posed by the pandemic. Melnik highlighted a noticeable spike in the outwardtrend in 2022, with remote work being a key factor. However, manufacturing companies, unlike some industries, face the limitation of requiring on-site workers to ensure seamless production processes.
The Role of Technology in Massachusetts Manufacturing:
Manufacturing companies must confront the dual challenge of a shrinking workforce and the need for on-site presence. To navigate these challenges, technology can be a game-changer. Companies need to proactively embrace technological advancements to streamline processes, enhance productivity, and retain a skilled workforce.
1. Automation and Robotics:
· Implementing automation and robotics in manufacturing processes can significantly reduce the reliance on manual labor.
· Robotic systems can handle repetitive tasks, allowing human workers to focus on more complex and strategic aspects of production.
2. Remote Monitoring and Control:
· Leveraging remote monitoring technologies enables manufacturers to oversee operations from a distance.
· This can be particularly beneficial for managing multiple facilities or monitoring equipment performance without the need for physical presence.
3. Advanced Training and Skill Development:
· Technology can be harnessed for employee training and skill development, ensuring that the existing workforce remains adaptable and up-to-date with industry trends.
· Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can provide immersive training experiences for workers.
4. Data Analytics for Predictive Maintenance:
· Utilizing data analytics allows manufacturers to predict equipment failures before they occur.
· Predictive maintenance can reduce downtime, enhance equipment lifespan, and optimize overall operational efficiency.
As Massachusetts grapples with a challenging workforce landscape, manufacturing companies must proactively embrace technology to ensure their long-term viability. The integration of automation, remote monitoring, advanced training, and data analytics can revolutionize the manufacturing sector, allowing companies to navigate the current workforce dilemma effectively. By strategically incorporating technology, Massachusetts manufacturing companies can not only address the immediate challenges but also position themselves for a sustainable and innovative future.
Be sure to save the date for MassMEP’s Manufacturing Your Future Summit, on May 9, 2023 at Polar Park Worcester, which will showcase best practices in this area to improve your company.