The U.S. passed a signifcant milestone in the spring of 2018. For the frst time ever, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported more job openings than people available to fill them. 

While exceptionally low unemployment may seem like a boon to the country, this creates fnancial headwinds for individual companies — especially those within the manufacturing sector — as well as the U.S. economy overall.

Manufacturing Jobs by the Numbers

The most recent skills gap study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute projects more than half of the 4.6 million manufacturing jobs created over the next decade will go unfilled.

Workers between the ages of 55 and 64 represented 65.5% of the overall labor pool in December 2018, and 22 to 27% of the nation’s manufacturing workforce. That means that a 1,000-person manufacturing operation needs to attract between 220 and 270 new workers just to fill retirement vacancies.

Workers between the ages of 55 and 64 represented 65.5% of the overall labor pool in December 2018, and 22 to 27% of the nation’s manufacturing workforce. That means that a 1,000-person manufacturing operation needs to attract between 220 and 270 new workers just to fill retirement vacancies. Millennials, meanwhile, do not appear interested in filling the gap left by departing boomers. Additional research by Deloitte found that while 83% of the U.S public regarded manufacturing as important to the economy, less than one-third would encourage their children to pursue manufacturing jobs.
A recent study from Accenture conducted for the Manufacturing Institute estimated average corporate losses in the U.S. of 11% annual earnings due to unfilled positions, or losses of $3,000 per year per existing worker. That condition is likely to worsen.

Skills Gap

Adding fuel to the fre is the widely discussed skills gap. According to the Manufacturing Institute, only 20% of manufacturing jobs are “unskilled,” with the remaining 80% of jobs requiring two or more years of training in areas such as welding, maintenance, and clerical work.

The Good News

Today’s cobots are both similar to and vastly different from the industrial robots widely used by U.S. corporations since the 1970s.

Cobots offer the same benefts as traditional robotics: taking over dirty, dangerous, or repetitive jobs; improving product quality; and enhancing productivity and yield. In exchange for lower payload capacities compared to traditional robots, cobots offer manufacturers several new benefts that traditional robotics cannot.

cobots are designed to work right next to people without a safetyfence in between.
Many designs can be deployed 50% faster than industrial robots and often impose an installation cost lower than the annual new employee wage.

By eliminating the need for a formal education in programming or robotics, such interfaces and capabilities make the skills gap and learning curve for using cobots diminishingly small. This also greatly reduces the time, effort, and cost associated with retasking a cobot for temporary jobs or burst production during busy seasons.

By speeding deployment with minimal disruption to a factory layout, and by enabling minimally trained workers to safely program and use the technology to multiply productivity and improve quality, cobots’ payback is often measured in weeks or months.

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