Manufacturing Production

Manufacturing production got back up to 101 in January, back where it was in October of 2018…and in 2015, and in 2017, when it peaked at 105.We hadn’t hit those heights before, and haven’t climbed back up to that top point since the Great Recession brought numbers back down.

The lesser plunge during the pandemic was deep, but short-lived. Demand is high, and manufacturing is recovering quickly. But when will it reach 2017 levels and continue heading upward, as it has done for half a century?

Supply chain issues

American manufacturing continues to suffer from supply chain bottlenecks.

In some cases, demand for products fell and makers pivoted to other revenue streams. Getting that stock and flow system going again can take time. In other cases, supplies of raw materials or important components dried up. Transport and storage options shifted and suffered from disruption, too.

Demand and capacity may be on target in some industries, but problems along the supply chain can limit actual production in spite of those good positions.

Labor shortages

For manufacturing as well as other industries, labor shortages are a real problem. While increasing automation — including double the number of robots in use compared with before the pandemic — has increased productivity, manufacturers continue to have trouble getting and keeping the skilled labor they need.

856,000 job openings are available in manufacturing. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates a 2.1 million worker shortage in manufacturing in the next decade.

An article in Forbes announced that smart technology, including smart factories, need smart people. They expanded that to say that people need to be trained to have the required smarts, and that Industry 4.0 needs to be smart enough to draw smart people to manufacturing. I think we’re all in favor of those things, but they may be easier said than done.

The future of manufacturing is digital, though, and as long as American workers’ digital skills are limited, labor shortages will continue to be an issue. No matter how smart the people are.

It’s good that productivity is rising, but frustrating for manufacturers that factors beyond our control are keeping that rise from being as definitive as we want.

If support and service needs with your Rexroth drive and control systems are affecting productivity in your facility, give us a call at (479) 422-0390.

We can help.

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