5 Soft Trends that are Disrupting Manufacturing Growth today!

How do you leverage soft trends in manufacturing today?

I was in Detroit last week looking for my new office space in Michigan. I had a chance to meet with several future potential clients and partners. They are very excited about what is happening throughout manufacturing in Michigan. Detroit is changing. Soft trends are transforming manufacturing organizations today!

The manufacturing and technology communities are converging. It’s too early to tell, but one thing is for certain, having the right people on your team is critical to your organization’s success. There are several soft trends ready to disrupt this growing community.

The employment needs for quality engineering and technology talent is at an all-time high, so I’m told. When talking with many of these people it becomes very clear they feel in control of their own destiny again. Judging from the stories I was told I may even want to get back into a technology leadership role. Several people suggested I polish up my resume, the opportunities in the Michigan area are great. What could disrupt this amazing story of Midwest reinvention?

Here are five key soft trends I found that might challenge the recruiting and team building efforts for successful organizations. This is based on over 50 phone calls and 30 plus in person discussions with corporate executives located in Michigan. I will be attending the TU Automotive Detroit conference in several weeks. I plan to learn how leading manufacturing organizations plan to deal with this possible disruption.

The first of these soft trends is decentralized manufacturing teams. Not that this is a new idea in Michigan, but technology is empowering the next generation of technology leaders.  Multidisciplinary teams need to learn how to work together where buzz words rule, and they don’t always mean the same thing in the different disciplines. Almost all manufacturing teams are doing more with less. Learning how to build and lead these teams is critical to the organization’s success.

The second of these soft trends involves shifting demographics. Almost 35% of the people I met and talked with are closing in on retirement and there are no signs of this letting up. Boomers retire and with them goes a large portion of critical operational and manufacturing information.  Your pool of leadership talent is becoming shallower.  Good leadership requires experience in leading, and younger people don’t feel comfortable managing their peers.

The third of these soft trends is that many of the GenX and Millennials are looking to move into management roles. The challenge here is many organizations are looking for leaders, rather than managers in attempts to run leaner manufacturing operations. The way to build leaders is through management roles.  How do you train leaders who are now responsible for managing their peers and global resources?

Many employees feel unprepared for the task. These same employees work so many hours there is little time for family, additional training, and advanced education. With full employment in this this market, employers need to find new ways to empower and engage their workforce.

The fourth of these soft trends involves leveraging new technologies in manufacturing. Mobile technologies should be empowering the manufacturing workforce, but many organizations have been slow to adopt these technologies.

Many of the younger team members I met shared stories about how their bosses are not allowing them to innovate because they don’t want to learn new technologies. For millennials and GenX workers, technology is a trusted ally to help them get more things done in less time and lower cost. Several financial people told me how difficult it is to get their executives to look at new options for finance and accounting processes.

The fifth, and final, of these soft trends is competition is being replaced by collaboration. How an organization works with their many stakeholders determines how successful the organization is in their markets. Many of these engineers share the frustration that they cannot access the data they need from their internal customers in a timely manner. They shared how long it takes to close the books every month as an example that should be going away but isn’t.

Finally, collaboration is based on trust. If your coworkers don’t provide you with the right information, what are the chances your newest technology partner will get what they need to help you succeed in your markets?

Many individuals I spoke with were frustrated in dealing with many partners and customers who expect transparency in their value and supply chain. This frustration comes from having so many sources of data and not knowing which to share when trying to deal with outside organizations.

The good news is these soft trends can be made to work in your favor. It requires your people to learn how to work differently. It requires a different mindset when it comes to dealing with others in all aspects of your life.

Next week, I’ll start sharing a different way of dealing with the world. One that allows you to perform at a higher level, one that helps you work through these soft trends in your organization. A way that helps provide a solution to many of the challenges we face in manufacturing.  See you next week.

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