Manufacturing Outlook: How Will We Achieve Productivity Gains?

posted on: Friday May 3, 2013

On April 23, 2013, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar posted that manufacturing, which creates over 292,000 jobs in the state, is on the rise in Minnesota. This industry has been Express Singled  2considered the backbone of the state, and according to MPR news, “…has been one of the big engines of economic recovery after the recession.” However, at the beginning of 2013, manufacturing was reported to have slowed down. Surveys conducted before the fiscal cliff crisis was averted showed that growth in the industry had slowed, and manufacturers projected minimal increases in profits and employment. Growth rate, peaking at 3% in 2011, was down to .6%. While this is a significant change, manufacturers taking the survey were still optimistic.

MPR news business reporter Annie Baxter explained the outcomes of the survey. When it came to profits, 40% of manufacturers predicted theirs would stay the same and only about 25% predicted an increase in 2013. As for employment, 60% reported they were going to keep hiring flat and about 25% planned a boost in payrolls. One commonality amongst the survey respondents was that they expected productivity gains. If businesses are not planning on hiring more people, how will they see higher productivity?

Baxter explained that if they’re not hiring more people, productivity gains can be achieved through “…either increased automation or working your existing workforce more.” Respondents stated that they did not plan on increasing automation, so businesses will likely be trying to get more out of their existing workforce.

Another Obstacle

Does Klobuchar’s statement and the caveat that survey participants responded according to a looming fiscal cliff crisis mean that manufacturing will again take the lead in industry growth? We will have to wait and see. Even if it does, however, another concern in the industry is finding qualified people to fill new positions. Therefore, if more jobs open in manufacturing, it does not mean managers will find the talent to fill the positions. Basically, whether or not job availability increases, the existing workforce can still expect to work more.

Solutions to Consider

In cases where the jobs are manual material handling (MMH), some investments may be necessary to get more from the existing workforce. When it comes to physical labor, there are many factors affecting a person’s potential work output in both a shift and a career. Managers need to take this into consideration if they expect more productivity in the same amount of time from the same number of people. For some companies, this may indicate a switch to Lean manufacturing, forklift-free, or other models known to cut costs and accelerate productivity.

A piece of equipment used in these initiatives because it’s known to boost productivity is the power tugger. In a number of case studies, the tugger has been documented to successfully:

  • Increase amount of work accomplished by one person
  • Increase amount of work accomplished in a given time frame
  • Limit the number of people required for individual push/pull tasks
  • Increase length of time employees can work without becoming fatigued
  • Limit or eliminate musculoskeletal disorders and injuries from pushing and pulling
  • Expand the number of potential people who can accomplish certain jobs
  • Substitute forklifts
  • Save space

Ergonomic equipment like the power tugger will be crucial to manufacturers who expect to see productivity gains.  Without assistance like this, employees are prone to fatigue and work-related injuries. They will actually get less done by working more. Additionally, morale can suffer greatly when employees are asked to do more without any sort of support or tools to do so. For employers also seeking to cut costs, ergonomic equipment often drives insurance premiums down as safety improves. Overall, equipment like power tuggers cut costs and increase profits on many levels.

If your employees have to push and pull, a walk-behind power tugger can result in more efficient and productive work. Load Mover Inc. is known for its quality walk-behind tuggers and exceptional customer service. To discuss whether a powered tug can improve your business, visit, email, or call 952-767-1720.