You have the tools already

Friday, May 17, 2019

President of Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc.

You are likely living these two realities: One, struggling to find the skilled workers you seek; The other, as a company working to become lean by respecting and trusting your people.

The second is part of the solution to the first. There are three simple actions you can take to obviate the perceived skills shortage.

Now, first I want to put some context around the shortage. Over the past 30 years many North American manufacturers moved their operations to low labor rate countries like China or outsourced production there completely. Skilled manufacturing jobs here disappeared. Of course, those people had to find new skills, and they did just that. For example, many are now in health care. 

None of us are born knowing valuable skill sets but all of us are able to learn them. Learning one does not preclude learning others. That darned box we tend to put people in becomes our own constraint.


Now let me share those 3 actions with you:


Upskill current employees
People are much more capable than we give them credit for. If you have a constraint in a particular area of skill, don’t teach that most valuable resource to do more; instead teach all the rest how to take less complicated work from them and do it well. Everyone wins.


Think surgeon and nurse
Maximize the productivity of your constrained resources by having others ensure they have everything they need when they need it. Hospitals have the operating room ready when the surgeon walks in. She doesn’t have to look for instruments or prepare the patient. She simply does the extremely high-skilled work she is trained to do.

And Third,

Look forward, not backwards
I know you’re worried about today’s orders but a change in thinking of how best to do that is necessary. Hire adaptability, thinking, and demonstrated willingness to learn. That’s what getting orders out next year requires. And you likely have people meeting that description already in your company. Another person who can run today’s equipment but isn’t interested in learning the new technologies of tomorrow is merely a band-aid.

Yes, I’ve just described SMED, cross-training, TOC and strategic concepts to solve a very real problem you see today. There are many ways to solve a predicament, and you have many tools at your disposal. Just as you want workers to look beyond the obvious easy solution to a challenge they face, so too should management.

So, don’t let the perceived skill shortage stop you. 

  • Upskill current employees
  • Think surgeon and nurse
  • Look forward not backwards

Becky Morgan is an operations strategist working with leaders of mid-sized manufacturing companies. Subscribe to her newsletter and receive a free copy of her e-book, Strategic Profits.