Manufacturing in Challenging Environments: 8 Challenges the Global Manufacturing Industry Is Facing in the Modern Times

The sluggish growth in the global manufacturing sector finally shows slight hope. Yet amidst this, the massive, ever-changing beast isn’t immune to challenges!

Image result for Global manufacturer

Global manufacturers of all sizes today attest to the presence of problems, some so huge that even the once-mighty brands are slowly succumbing to them. Forget about the typical highs and lows in profitability and production levels or the adverse effects technology has had on the industry; the real challenges are enormous.

Let’s highlight some of the most pressing challenges that bedevil this industry today, shall we?

The Massive Aging Workforce

This is perhaps the biggest threat facing the otherwise rising industry. Baby boomers, regarded as the majority workforce, are nearing their exit from the service, which isn’t a good thing. The main concern is that this group will sadly leave with the invaluable skills and experience that Generation X-ers and early millennials do not have.

According to Deloitte, there will be about 4.6 million manufacturing jobs over the next ten years. And out of this, approximately 2.4 million of them will be left unfilled because the incoming lot comprises those who grew up under the belief of education and merit instead of experience. This, of course, presents another issue to an industry already lacking a qualified workforce. It is an immense struggle that not even the automation and robotics wave will suitably solve altogether.

Sustaining the Environment

In the past, environmental sustainability advocates’ vocal voices were nonexistent, which significantly contributed to the then-manufacturing industry’s rise. However, things are entirely different today. The growth of environmental awareness has greatly changed the way manufacturing industries conduct themselves.

Sustaining the environment, in this regard, encompass pretty much anything made in an eco-friendly way. It could be a product made from recycled material or an industry that has reduced carbon emissions. Fuelled by the practice, fondly known as the shift to ethical products, there’s a relatively higher eco-friendliness in the industry.

According to Nielsen, most massive millennial consumers prefer to consume a product whose production is sustainable or eco-friendly. And because the millennial generation will certainly outnumber Baby Boomers in a couple of years, manufacturers who will stand are eco-friendly.

The Terrific Rate of Technological Advancements

The manufacturing industry has always been adapting to new technologies. But the technological change recently has adversely affected it. Most global manufacturing behemoths have had to keep up with the competition to remain afloat. And this has been a costly affair, especially when buying newer, better-performing systems for their manufacturing processes, training their staff, and so forth.

These substantial investments have always almost come to nothing because, mostly, by the time the company breaks, better technology is invented. The latest of these is the emergence of better systems in robotics, the growth of Artificial Intelligence, and the use of vibrational detectors, among other technologies. Those manufacturers who’ve found the right balance between new industry workers and technologies and the old skilled employees seemingly have survived.

Regulating the Entire Industry

There’s a wave of increased regulation and compliance across the global manufacturing industry. The rules involve several factors, from health and safety, waste management or disposal, and quality assurance to countless other factors. But much as this challenge can be regarded as a good thing and essential for the betterment of the whole sector, it has also proved to be a considerable burden for manufacturers.

Today, more than ever, these manufacturers have to exhibit total visibility throughout their supply chain. Manufacturers who engage in medical device production must pass the UDI (Universal Device Identification) regulation just like manufacturers of chemical products that rightly have to pass REAC (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization Restrictions of Chemicals) laws.

It is a measure to ascertain their compliance with quality standards and industry norms. But the whole procedure is a hectic and financially draining challenge for the industry players, although it’s unavoidable in some countries.

Maintaining a Balance between Production and Maintenance

Machine maintenance is an essential tradition that ensures machines in any manufacturing facility keep their peak performance. It involves a whole list of procedures that include replacing worn-out cables and wires, oiling moving systems, and performing other types of maintenance work.

However, maintenance sometimes hinders the overall efficiency of the industry. It’ss normal for companies to delay or postpone preventive care or replace old, worn-out components when their machines seem to be doing fine.

Nowadays, this is another massive challenge in the industry because it usually creates unsafe working conditions and disasters. Whenn maintenance works aren’t performe, some of the problemsd are the risk of electrocution, unplanned or excessive downtime, and machine ineptitudes. If only the manufacturer would address these challenges!

Regulating the Global Market

If the global manufacturing world were to combat all the other problems it’s currently facing, one issue that will be nearly impossible to solve would regulate the market. This is because the internet has greatly helped the sector grow, and regulating the industry is a mirage.

Procuring goods from zones where there’s plenty of cheap labor and its products are relatively less expensive is a click away, thanks to the internet. But while there’s no problem with that, its impact on the competitor manufacturers at a disadvantage is immense, yet nothing can be done.

The global market unfairly leads to a tilt in how commodities are sold. The phenomenon has devastating effects, including bankruptcy, employee reductions, bailouts, and other untold problems. And as it continues, the real issue remains how the market will be regulated so that there’s fairness in how products are sold and shipped.

Patenting and Intellectual Theft

The harm attributed to the internet in the global manufacturing sector isn’t over without touching intellectual theft. With just about any new invention published on the web and lots of modern processes tied up to computers, nothing is as hard as protecting one’sstoryn today.

On one end, manufacturers have to keep their most effective techniques top-secret and ensure their competitors never get to discover them. They consequently have to store their intellectual property away from hackers and ill-behaved employees. They know that if any of these reaches into the wrong hands, their whole organization finishes.

But as it is a norm nowadays, somehow one of these two feared crimes happen. And when it happens, the losses incurred normally are in inappropriate amounts, often resulting in the manufacturing company’s death.

This has led to countless manufacturing companies going above and beyond to enhance their patents’ security and thwart information leaks. Some of the measures adopted involve having the details of every employee in the company’s database and ensuring they all sign non-disclosure agreements.

Automation vs. Human Workforce

In the wake of the technologies and inventions in the global manufacturing platform, the challenge is whether it would be wise to cut down on the human workforce at the expense of automation. It even gets worse for humans because, while the aging majority population will soon exit and create space for millennials, mechanization is also growing in demand.

The primary goal of every manufacturer today is to remain competitive, keep operating costs low and keep growing. This, of course, has led to many companies choosing to invest in machines and lay off the unskilled workforce. But not all tasks can be digitized, and the human input is done away with altogether.

Those tasks that involve maintaining data and handling all-things logistics, procurement, and fulfillment of orders are already machine-based. Many manufacturing procedures are still in the piloting stage and are expected to replace human workers.

Overall, any move in favor of machines can prove way too costly, even when some technologies haven’t proven to work beyond a reasonable doubt. And this is a massive challenge for companies wary of splurging millions or more investing in the same.

There’s more!

Apart from those above, the challenges in manufacturing environments are immense. Not only is it a challenge for the particular company, but it also affects uniformity on a global scale. There exists a growing concern amongst manufacturers about the rising healthcare costs for their employees, especially in countries where quality services are expensive.

Despite all these problems, however, there’s lots of optimism that the world’s manufacturing industry will keep growing. How it will handle the challenges remains a question for some other day!

John R. Wright
Social media ninja. Freelance web trailblazer. Extreme problem solver. Music fanatic. Spent several months marketing pubic lice in the financial sector. Spent 2002-2008 supervising the production of ice cream in Africa. Had some great experience developing robotic shrimp in the aftermarket. Spent several years getting my feet wet with puppets in Miami, FL. Was quite successful at supervising the production of corncob pipes worldwide. What gets me going now is working with electric trains in Mexico.