Redefining Manufacturing in 2019


With the start of a new year, businesses are inspired to reflect on the progress and changes they’ve made in the past year. If they were to look back five or 10 years, most manufacturers would realize their companies have changed so tremendously, that they are unrecognizable compared to how they once were. These transformations in processes, products, staffing and innovations have altered how their businesses appear and operate. This begs the question, what will manufacturing look like in 2019?

New technologies and trends are changing the manufacturing industry. With so many advancements happening at once, it can be difficult for manufacturers to know where the industry is headed, or where to focus their energy in order to stay prosperous and competitive in the coming year. To learn how to navigate this ever-changing market, let’s break down some of the biggest issues, challenges and concerns of manufacturers today and discover how to best mitigate them to ensure success in 2019.

Tackling a Talent Shortage
On the top of all manufacturers’ minds is a shortage of talent. A recent poll conducted by Tooling U-SME found 99% of manufacturers reported that their top workforce challenge was finding skilled new hires. Manufacturers have been dealing with a massive talent shortage for years due to the looming retirement of the baby boomer generation and a general disinterest in manufacturing careers amongst the younger population. However, recent efforts such as National Manufacturing Day, apprenticeships and education reform have worked to improve perceptions of the industry and establish manufacturing as a viable career path for incoming workers. These efforts are proving effective, with more than 66% of those polled saying they would be somewhat or very likely to encourage someone to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Many manufacturers have proactively tackled this challenge by engaging incoming workers with apprenticeships, which equip students with the skills and education needed to excel in manufacturing while securing them as future workers in the facility. Apprenticeships are a win-win situation that can set manufacturers up for success in 2019.

Ensuring Employee Retention & Engagement
As important as it is to find great talent, it is even more important to retain it. As unemployment has reached a 50-year low, companies must offer increasingly competitive benefits to retain workers. This is especially true for manufacturers. In fact, 43% of manufacturers report an average of 20% or higher annual turnover, according to the report by Tooling U-SME.

What can a manufacturer do to preserve the talent they have? There are a few ways to combat this issue, with leadership being a large determining factor for employee engagement. Ask yourself, do you engage with other workers on a personal level? Do you demonstrate appreciation to workers beyond paychecks? Do you include workers in upcoming changes to the facility or operations? Learning how to effectively navigate these situations significantly impacts employee engagement and determines if you will have a loyal, driven team or disinterested staff with one foot out the door.

Offering training and education is another way to inspire loyalty and engagement in workers, also while filling shortages in talent at your facility. By investing in the right training, existing workers can seamlessly move into the positions you need to fill most, eliminating gaps in your facility and increasing engagement in newly trained workers. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 94% of workers say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Leveraging the Power of Technology
With Industry 4.0 becoming more engrained in modern manufacturing facilities, an increasing number of manufacturers are committing to technology. While some manufacturers are already well-positioned to succeed in this new technology-focused landscape, with employees on board and initiatives underway, others have yet to get started.

Concerns about technology implementations being too expensive, too time consuming or unnecessary have largely held small manufacturers back from taking the initial steps towards smart manufacturing. However, adopting technology does not need to be dreaded or difficult. By taking the right approach to technology and investing in the right training, manufacturers can identify innovations that are relevant and affordable to get the most out of all investments.

To start, manufacturers should use their business needs and goals to identify areas that could be improved, which will then highlight areas that could best benefit from technological innovations. Once these areas have been identified, appropriate technologies can be applied. With more technology options available than ever before, affordable solutions can be easily provided to those who want to improve operations on a budget. Instead of avoiding technology and the benefits it can provide altogether, manufacturers should learn to embrace it in a way that makes sense for their business to ensure they can stay ahead of the competition in the coming year and beyond.

Looking back, manufacturing has changed in many ways since the beginning of 2018. The same can be expected for 2019, with new and ongoing transformations in the workforce, technology and market forcing manufacturers to advance or be left behind. The question remains: what will your manufacturing look like in 2019?


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at





Categories: Data & Trends, Industry 4.0, Leadership/Culture, Technology, Workforce