By Terri Ghio, President of FactoryEye
Since the start of the pandemic, manufacturers aged 65 and older have been retiring at unprecedented rates, sparking analysts to declare a “Silver Tsunami.” By 2030, 75 million Baby Boomers are positioned to leave the workforce, paving the way for “The Great Retirement,” a phenomenon set to transcend the effects of “The Great Resignation” of 2022. Whether the mass exodus stems from reevaluating what‘s important in life, health issues, or choosing to stop working after being laid off, radical changes to the job market have already begun.
One in four workers in the United States are Boomers, and their rapid retirements are creating real problems. In manufacturing, as seasoned employees exit the workforce, they take years of experience with them, and companies are losing opportunities to properly train younger, inexperienced employees. As a result, knowledge and skills gaps continue to widen.
While businesses in the manufacturing sector have traditionally attracted a generation of workers who took pride in performing strenuous manual labor and grew up before the internet, filling today’s vacant positions will require innovative, digitally driven solutions. To diversify the talent pipeline and stabilize the industry, companies must pivot operations to attract the next largest working generation, Gen Z.
What Gen Z is looking for in a job
Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012, will account for 30% of the workforce by 2025. Gen Z grew up in a society where global information, opportunities, and new technologies are readily available. As a result, about half are more likely to choose an engaging, lower-paying job than a mundane, higher-salary job. Additionally, the new generation prioritizes jobs that will expand their skills, talents, and experiences. Although many large corporations have already started embracing digitization and Industry 4.0 implementation to meet evolving workforce expectations, small to midsize food manufacturers are at risk of falling behind. Attracting tech-savvy, younger employees requires intentional manufacturing modernization.
Here are three ways food manufacturing executives can begin to modernize operations and improve productivity, all while attracting Gen Z.
1. Integrate new tech
As digital natives, Gen Z grew up in a world where technology was everywhere, and they expect the same to be true in their workplaces. By adopting smart manufacturing techniques, factories improve productivity and create more attractive environments for the next generation of manufacturers.
The first step towards digitization is integrating data collection technology with existing systems. Machine sensors, IoT software, and a secure cloud solution can help facilities eliminate tedious paper-based processes and streamline data analysis. Automated machines offer insights into real-time production data, highlight blind spots, and unveil pain points across the value chain. Rather than losing critical, undocumented industry knowledge and best practices when older employees leave, standardized digital processes ensure that operational insights are accurately recorded and accessible in a centralized location.
2. Provide mentorship and education
Gen Z watched their parents navigate the 2008 market crash, a global pandemic, and real-time effects of climate change. One historic event after another has proven the future is uncertain, and it has changed how younger generations view workplace longevity. To recruit and retain talent, companies must clearly communicate opportunities to learn and develop new skills. Over 90% of Gen Z-ers on the Student Advisory Committee of Enactus, an international organization dedicated to inspiring students, reported that the top three factors when choosing an employer are career advancement opportunities, a manager they can learn from, and professional development and training opportunities.
Providing clear career paths, mentorship programs, and educational assistance proves to young candidates that a business values their long-term potential over the ability to simply fill an entry-level role. Part of an Industry 4.0 roadmap is continuous monitoring and improvement, which gives employees a chance to play an active role in achieving quantifiable benefits and impacting the company’s bottom line. Additionally, investing in an internal talent pool reduces the time and money lost through constant turnover and re-training. If new candidates feel like a manufacturing role is stagnant and disengaging, they won’t hesitate to look for a new job.
3. Prioritize social responsibility
In addition to working alongside robotics and visionary managers, Gen Z expects employers to foster a socially conscious and sustainable working environment. They’re looking to join a team that aligns with their personal values, and 93% of young adults in the US agree that addressing climate change is critical for the future of the planet. Subsequently, small to midsize food processing manufacturers must make steps towards reducing their carbon footprint and adhering to the EPA’s industrial-specific laws and regulations that demand proof of compliance.
With energy-efficient IoT sensor devices, manufacturing businesses will not only appeal to younger generations but will optimize operations and contribute to their carbon-neutral goals. With integrated machines designed to communicate effectively with each other, it’s easy to monitor energy consumption throughout the factory floor and determine how to produce the least amount of waste possible. The combination of energy savings and real-time actionable information offers a substantial return on investment for technology that is now easily accessible and affordable.
The future of manufacturing
North American manufacturing is experiencing a new wave of innovation and energy as companies double down on domestic manufacturing. However, maintaining this momentum will require a new generation to take up the mantle and lead the way. Generation Z wants to work with exciting technology, collaborate with passionate leaders, and invest their time in a company they can be proud of. As Boomers continue to retire, it’s critical for manufacturers to understand and engage the next largest working generation. If they do, they’ll write the next chapter of manufacturing history, which will be full of unrivaled innovation.
Terri Ghio is president of FactoryEye by Magic Software Enterprises and is responsible for the development and implementation of FactoryEye’s overall corporate strategy, business development, and strategic partnerships. Ghio has been an invaluable resource in expanding on Magic’s global success and building Magic’s Industry 4.0 solution for mid-sized manufacturers, FactoryEye.