Labor Shortages? Technology Could Be The Solution.

Manufacturers are no strangers to the staffing shortages in today’s economy. Though the industry added 349,000 workers in 2021, the most since 1994, baby boomers are retiring, leaving many positions requiring experienced employees open. The need to attract new workers and train existing employees for career progression is more pressing than ever. As pressing as the issue has become for many manufacturers, labor shortages present a unique opportunity to venture into automation and other new technologies that may previously have seemed daunting or unnecessary. With the advent of a new year and no sign of staffing vacancies abating anytime soon, software advances and robotics are two ways employers can fill the void.

After evaluating which aspects of their businesses are most affected by labor shortages, manufacturers can start addressing the vacancies by identifying repetitive processes that could be candidates for automation. Materials handling and assembly are common tasks that robots can perform and free up time for existing employees to learn other skills. More recently, small to medium-sized manufacturers have also had success with “cobots,” robots that use sensors to work alongside employees in a collaborative setting. Cobots are more flexible than traditional robots when there are interruptions in work and programming, and thus are often more cost-effective.

For businesses where robotics are not applicable, software advances are another way to increase efficiency and free up time for employees. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions use software to customize and automate daily activities like projection management, bookkeeping, and human resources. Though implementation of such systems will never be without challenges, ERP solutions ultimately allow workers to advance more easily into supervisory roles. Furthermore, programs like Ohio’s TechCred can also provide support with funding for training employees on business technologies.

In addition to training reimbursement programs like TechCred, incorporating new technology into business processes provides opportunities for federal and state research and development (R&D) credits. Improving efficiency and safety through automation are key examples of qualifying activities and can offset R&D expenses by 20 percent or more.

For many employers struggling to fill open positions, 2023 could be the year to tackle these challenges with creative technological solutions.

For more information on manufacturing issues like R&D credits and implementing ERP systems, contact a member of the HBK Manufacturing Solutions team. Email us at, or call us at 330-758-8613.

About the Author(s)
Elizabeth is a Senior Associate with HBK Manufacturing Solutions in the Youngstown, Ohio office of HBK CPAs & Consultants. She assists manufacturers and distributors with assurance and tax-related matters.
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