Despite rhetoric suggesting that manufacturing is on the decline, many areas of the country are experiencing a thriving manufacturing sector. While the uptick can certainly be seen as a positive, even those industries experiencing a resurgence will continue to face challenges in the years ahead.
We talk with many manufacturers every day and hear first-hand about the issues they’re dealing with. The struggle is real, so we thought we’d highlight a few of those challenges most commonly faced and provide insights into how innovators in the manufacturing sector can address them head on.
1. Skilled Labor Shortage
As Baby Boomers exit the workforce and take valuable skills with them, it’s expected that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become available over the next decade. Manufacturers are already feeling the pressure to fill currently open positions, and the exodus of skilled laborers will only accentuate the need. While automation and robotics may help fill the labor gap, humans will still be required for their unique ability to problem solve, analyze issues and manage output.
The solution is two-fold. First, one reason manufacturers are finding it difficult to fill positions, both skilled and unskilled, is because the trade school opportunities for young men and women have shriveled over the years. Many manufacturers are developing robust training programs that teach candidates everything from die making and welding to programming robots and sheet rolling.
Second, manufacturers will need to get creative in their efforts to attract a skilled workforce by meeting them where they’re at today – not in the newspaper, but online. Strategically connect with prospective employees through social media and networking, and keep in mind that potential employees aren’t just looking for a career; they’re also concerned with culture. Use video to highlight the benefits of working for your organization, and promote your culture as an asset.
2. Technology Advances
Automation, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), robotics, cloud computing and more...technology is advancing at warp speed, and most manufacturers struggle to keep up, let alone stay on the leading edge. By the time many IT departments have gone through the process of researching, getting approval, purchasing and installing new technology, a faster and more agile solution may emerge. The best first step to incorporating useful technologies to help your organization improve efficiencies is to work with a business consulting firm that has expertise in manufacturing. These teams can help you make inroads faster, as they have the insights to help you select the most practical, cost-effective technologies and equipment, oversee implementation, train your team, and help you get the greatest ROI.
As technology advances, so do the efforts of cybercriminals. Hackers aren’t just interested in stealing data; they’re also amping up their efforts to hold data hostage. Ransomware attacks increased 50% last year alone, and the manufacturing sector can expect even greater risks as they integrate more technology. Hackers can access a corporation’s IT networks and gain access to their robots’ software, for example, shutting down an entire production line until their demands for payment are met.
The best weapons for combating cyberattacks are ensuring that all computer security software is routinely updated, and educating employees about the warning signs that you’re being breached. One way cybercriminals get into your network is via email. One of our clients has a helpful list of clues that may indicate if an email is a phishing scam that you may find helpful in avoiding a breach that could be very costly to your organization.
4. Global Competition
There was a time when “Made in America” held more weight than it does today. When manufacturers started seeing foreign competition taking over part of their market share starting in the 1970s, many failed to change their business models and processes to adapt.
To help combat global competition, manufacturers need to make their value known in the marketplace. If your cost is higher than others, this is even more critical and requires you to focus messaging around the expertise of your people, the breadth of your service, speed to market, innovation, supply chain efficiency and more – the things that simplify customers’ lives and mitigate risks associated with poor quality and sluggish timelines. Demonstrating a deep understanding of your customers’ industries will also help solidify mutually beneficial partnerships.
5. Changing Regulations
Part of any successful business model is mitigating risk and avoiding uncertainty. When regulations affecting the manufacturing sector ebb and flow, costs can escalate or fall with them. Potential tax implications and changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seem to evolve with each news cycle, and changes in government administrations can wreak havoc on some business plans, while providing greater opportunities for others…until the next administration. Manufacturers need to stay informed to ensure compliance and, most importantly, focus on their core competencies to gain a competitive advantage rather than rely on potential legislation to give them an edge.
6. B2B Marketing
Traditional marketing efforts for manufacturers are proving far less effective than in the past. Trade shows, trade publication ads and cold calls aren’t working like they used to. In the digital age, organizations need to do more than put up a website and hope that prospects will stumble across it. B2B marketers need to make a concerted effort to be found organically through online searches and position themselves as experts. That means manufacturers need to leverage inbound marketing and SEO tactics by creating content that provides answers to potential customers’ questions.
Robust manufacturing marketing strategies generate sales-qualified leads by building trust through relevant blogs, case studies, eBooks, infographics and other helpful resources. Once that trust is built through online engagement, those leads are more likely to engage on a personal level by requesting a free consultation or assessment. Creating all that content takes time, and a high level of expertise is needed to help map out your buyer’s journey and make your organization’s content rank higher in search engine results.
Marketing strategies are not one-size-fits-all, and the tactics that may work for B2C typically fall short for B2B manufacturers. Enlist the help of inbound marketing experts who understand your pain points and are laser-focused on the manufacturing sector and you’ll be better equipped to meet these challenges head on. To learn more, check out our Inbound Marketing Guide for Industrial Manufacturers by clicking the link below. Then, reach out to us to explore even more.
Tammy Borden is a copywriter at Weidert Group. With a lengthy background in insurance marketing and nonprofits, Tammy has in-depth knowledge of digital content creation and writing for a variety of industries.