Manual Tasks in Manufacturing: Risky? Expensive? Both!
Published on 04 November, 2021 in Flexible Manufacturing
There are fewer people employed in the manufacturing sector now than at any other point in the last 25 years!! According to the Office for National Statistics, the 6- month period between October 2020 and April 2021 saw the lowest level of employment in the manufacturing sector since 1996. Conversely, consumer demand is at an all-time high. The impact of this is acutely felt in the food industry where a severe shortage of workers has led to unprecedented levels of job vacancies..
This situation creates a growing need for manufacturers in the food and beverage sector to look at manual tasks on a more granular level to identify potential areas to reduce risk and streamline cost. In this article, we’ll take a look at what some of the major risks and costs that are involved with manual tasks on the factory floor and think about how they can be minimised.
One of the principal risks to any operation reliant on manual workers is availability of labour. Simply put, workers get sick. This can take the form of short-term sickness, long term illness or injuries. Either way, the worker is out of action for a period of time, resulting in capacity limitations for the manufacturer.
Secondly, going to work can be dangerous - particularly for those working with machinery. The risks of human interaction with machines have been well documented over the past 20 years, however, they are still a critical consideration for any process. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a new breed of risk - the risk of infectious diseases spreading in production environments with space limitations. Add into that the impact of local lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing, and there is clearly a huge storm brewing.
…but also Expensive Business
The nature of repetitive, manual tasks creates a challenge to keep staff motivated and engaged. The tasks become frustrating and tiresome causing the worker to jump ship for even the most minor of pay increases. The investment in onboarding such employees is lost, without return, alongside potentially valuable knowledge. In addition, the ageingnature of the workforce in UK manufacture is causing an enormous gap in skills that is extremely difficult to replace.
The consequence of these scenarios is increased recruitment activities for factory operators - but recruitment is expensive! Younger generations see little appeal in jobs in manufacturing - increasing the time taken to recruit - those that are keen to work in manufacturing often lack the requisite skills of those they are replacing making the cost of onboarding and upskilling much higher - all with very little certainty of any return on investment.
Enter the Robots...
More and more manufacturers are beginning to think much more strategically about how human capital is being utilised in the factory floor. The days of humans performing repetitive tasks for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week are slowly ebbing away to be replaced by sophisticated automated systems. Not only does this create a new set of jobs for workers to engage in, it also solves the increased vacancy conundrum in a safe, reliable and efficient way.