Study finds manufacturers would benefit from lean, more skills

Study finds manufacturers would benefit from lean, more skills

The latest edition of Georgia Tech University's Georgia Manufacturing Survey showed state manufacturers must improve in four areas to remain competitive, which included the introduction of more lean practices to operations and improving the skills of the state's workforce, Plant Engineering reports.

According to the media outlet, manufacturers said they need much more help with implementing lean practices into their current operations, with 32 percent of manufacturing companies saying a lack of lean is a major problem for them. Another 24 percent stated that their operations would be improved through more technical workers, and 16 percent said they need workers that have even the most basic set of manufacturing skills.

A growing number of manufacturing facility managers are saying energy cost management is another crucial issue they are facing, with 21 percent saying they are focusing heavily on the issue – double the number who said the same in 1999.

The study also corroborated a number of other reports that point to an increase in reshoring in the country. Almost 16 percent of respondents said they had gained new jobs that came from outside Georgia.

"We have finally seen a crossing of the lines so that more companies are benefiting from in-sourcing than are losing to outsourcing," said Jan Youtie, director of policy research services in the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. "It’s not a huge difference at this point, but it is a positive and consistent trend for the manufacturing community."

With more people entering the workforce and a higher emphasis being placed on lean practices, ensuring there is a steady pipeline of lean-savvy industrial plant workers will be necessary. To this end, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina is offering a new program to teach lean practices.

According to the Salisbury Post, Franklin Merrell, program chair of industrial engineering technology, said lean has proven to be a successful improvement process for any company, whether they are a major corporation or a small, family-owned business.

"Lean is not about making people work faster or harder; people are not waste. It's about how you make those people more effective. It's about establishing a system so that products or information can flow through processes at the pace of customer demand," said Merrell.

Merrell has witnessed how effective lean manufacturing is at many facilities in the area, including General Electric's Salisbury plant. While planning the curriculum for the class, Merrell found that by simply switching the order of process could lower cycle time by 20 percent. It is these discoveries, he said, that will be uncovered by a workforce that is well versed in lean manufacturing

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