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The Frail Workforce And The Fragile Manufacturing Renaissance

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/27/2017 | 8:54 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


Ummm, where to begin . . . There appears to be a growing sentiment - and is just that, a sentiment, a feeling, that the nagging manufacturing skills gap is closing.  As I blogged a very few weeks ago, and as reported early in the new year in Material Handling and Logistics, the skills shortage is very much with us, and imho, is likely to continue to impede inshoring and reshoring initiatives.

Harry Moser is passionate about prospects for moving manufacturing back from the brink.  Sandy Montalbano is a knowledgeable cheerleader who tirelessly promotes a return to US shores, and never wearies of relating success stories.  She recently joined a chorus of true believers who think that we have progressed mightily in the retraining of those skills necessary for renewed US manufacturing.

President Trumpf, of course, continues his campaign to bring back US industries, with, again, imho, the challenge of swimming upstream, but, sadly, not to spawn.  This has been a continuing theme, first in the Great Race against Mrs. Clinton, and now in tweets and jawboning a handful of selected corporations.

But the news is not all that persuasive.  As a plethora of infrastructure initiatives threatens to engulf us, our jobs and skills positions are as shaky as the San Andreas Fault.

OK, hiring hit a 7-month high early in 2017, but at a somewhat anemic pace of 675,000 a month.  Meanwhile, Donald J. Is looking for 25 million new positions.

Happily, employers are expecting more added workers than in 2016, 41% versus 32% - over 12%.  But, 80% of executives project a negative impact of a shortage of skilled workers.  Worse, at year-end, open manufacturing slots were about 32% more than a year ago.

The gap, when there's full employment in IT and professional fields, corporations are forced to use immigrants and overseas workers, to compensate.  When jobs cannot be exported to solve the skills challenge, automation, now on a runaway track, will, with contingent employees and contractors, create a more flexible workforce, while reducing labor and reliability shortfalls.

I'll take a six-pack of welders, to go, please . . .



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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