The question seems as obvious as the sun in the sky. Our company can make more money if we can find skilled workers to run our machines. Where are they?
What if that is the wrong question?
What if there were a dozen questions and the simple, straightforward one was leading you into a brick wall?
What if a better question was how much will it cost to hire the skilled workers I need?
If I paid workers 50 percent more than what I am currently paying, would it do damage to my business or enable it to grow? How much would an increase in labor costs hurt the company or enable it to acquire additional opportunities?
I do not know the answer for every business. Each company must ask the question themself and decide whether to take the gamble to discover the answer.
A follow up question could be should I try hiring a more diverse group of people? Maybe people “on the spectrum,” with varying degrees of autism, or folks in wheelchairs, people with MS, or cerebral palsy. What about applicants with seizure disorders, Down syndrome, blindness, or deafness? Applicants with jail records?
Another idea might be to recruit office workers or people who could only work limited hours because of child care or parent care obligations.
Another question to consider is whether I’m using my current equipment just because I already own it. Should I be thinking of alternate ways of making the product?
We are seeing such dilemmas increasingly in our machine tool business. Rather than buying million dollar CNC equipment that can make finished parts on one machine (slowly), some of our customers are blanking parts first on a Hydromat, or screw machine, or cold former and then finishing them on a drill and tap machine or a simple lathe with a robot loader. As we see AI join the machining world, this solution is likely to become more common.
Another approach could be to outsource the parts to somebody else better and faster than you are.
Finally, there is the radical idea to pick up and move the company. If in Illinois there are no workers to be found, or the real estate taxes are absurdly high, or people are shooting at each other on the way home, I could consider Indiana. If Los Angeles or San Francisco cost a fortune for a house, maybe Nevada or Idaho is a better option.
The beauty of America is that it is friendly to novel answers to old problems and not afraid of change–except in politics.
One approach I have used when I am stumped is to ask myself, “What is the obvious wrong answer?” And then I try it out.
As stupid as it sounds, sometimes it actually works.
Question: What ideas have you implemented or thought of trying to solve the worker shortage problem?
This article was originally posted on https://todaysmachiningworld.com/skilled-workers-shortage/