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Spring 2018 – Manufacturing Roundtable Takeaways


Our Horton team had the pleasure of hosting and facilitating over 30 manufacturers at our April Manufacturing Round Table held in Oak Brook, IL. It was an honor to spend the day with a fantastic group of leaders. We had a very successful day that included a free flow of ideas and conversations.

We went around the room to find out the best takeaways, which we have summarized below.

Retaining and Attracting Talent to Manufacturers

Manufacturers are in a state of constant change. As a result, the needed skills and technology are changing at a rapid rate. This continuous change bubbles to the surface in areas like human resources when they are tasked to find, develop, and retain talent. The role of the factory worker or line operator is not disappearing but evolving. Participants at the roundtable shared ideas that have worked for them.

  • Leverage referral networks – this includes employees and formal relationships with associations and local colleges.
  • Incentives still work whether or not they are monetary or are more creative options like PTO.
Hiring Temporary Employees vs. Permanent Employees
  • Seek out local and external recruiters who know the communities, schools, chambers, associations, and work programs.
  • Consider the purpose of each role. Are you finding a “filler” vs. an employee who can offer greater, long-time value?
  • Keep in mind the legal issues associated with temporary hires, especially with new and tightening regulations beginning  June 1st, 2018.
  • Retaining temporary hires is constantly a challenge. Some tactics developed by participants include focusing on the “optics.” Start these workers at the lower than average wage with a commitment to scale at 30, 60, 90 days, and beyond.
Retaining Talent
  • Invest in Training & Development – this is an investment to keep essential employees, improve culture, and improve employees’ perspectives.
  • Build a culture of happy employees that want to stay. Culture is an extension of your own consistently held and demonstrated beliefs, along with a clear mission that goes beyond words, dollars, and cents.  There are many ways to communicate company culture, including visually through your organization’s physical spaces.

There are several ways to interject this into your organization.

  • Health and well-being of employees
    • Healthier food options via an executive chef or a service such as LeanBox provide employees access to quality, affordable food.
    • Health Facilities such as a gym, standing or walking desks, walking the track, or pickleball, etc.
    • For faith-based or family-owned, there are personal and lifestyle options that can be offered, such as 24-hr chaplains and Bible lunch/break rooms.
    • Establish accountability and values within the company and hold all employees to the same standards.
  • Empower employees and build a culture of ownership
    • Establish accountability and values within the company and hold all employees to the same standards.
    • Organize employee-sponsored events such as charity events, sports teams, field trips/outings, team building.
    • Ensure effective communication through bilingual management and self-service HRIS.
    • Provide vehicles for two-way feedback. It’s not just about just telling the employees what they are doing right or wrong but also about hearing back from them on what is or is not working.

Challenges of Automation – Space, vendors, costs, and ROI

The group agreed automation is a necessary evil to stay competitive – improving quality, customer loyalty, reducing overhead, and filling the skill gap.  However, the cost of automation is an ongoing issue. From the physical space to capital investments and soft costs of people and talent, there are no easy solutions. 

While automation is intended to increase ROI, there are soft costs sometimes not accounted for and challenges for operations and human resources:

  • It may take only half the staff to operate; there is still a need for onsite staff trained to repair machinery and perform quality control.
  • This is also applicable in launching a new product, especially if this new product is not running the same product, and there are unique needs in specialization and automation limits.
  • How do you know if the automation is reducing the ROI?

There are no easy answers. The participants of this roundtable felt that there are two ways to ensure that automation is successful, both for the organization and the employees.

  1. Utilize lean automation and allow that methodology to guide your organization in what areas the automation can be best utilized.
  2. Involve and engage the employees; their feedback and buy-in are keys to the success of any project.

Safety in Manufacturing

Workplace safety is vital for manufacturers—taking safety seriously is imperative for the organization, employees, and the product(s) that you deliver to your clients. According to OSHA, the ongoing dedication to safety and training have resulted in nearly 50% lower rate of workdays lost. These are good practices for the organization and its employees.

This group believed that these steps were essential steps in maintaining a safe working environment.

  • Keep an eye on near-misses, document them, and review what went wrong and what went right.
  • The correct implementation of an accident review board is important so that employees feel engaged and involved.
  • Every shift should include a 15-minute meeting that is dedicated to safety concerns.

To learn more about how we’re helping our 600+ manufacturers attract and retain talent through wellness and safety, Horton’s Manufacturing team.


Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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