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Workforce recruitment and retention is critical to the success of any business. The November-December 2017 edition of PalletCentral provided insights from our industry thought leaders on the topic. Let's continue the conversation...


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Top tags: labor  automation  workforce  immigration  training  retention  compensation  labor pool  millennials  personnel  recruitment  Canada  competition  competitive benefits  culture  demographics  employee  europe  machinery  market  robotics  shortages  skilled labor  trade schools 

Labor Challenges in Europe

Posted By Marc Perez, Thursday, February 22, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

As machinery suppliers, we face the same challenges as any other company regarding labor. It is always hard to find qualified labor, but it helps to have a core of motivated people and always try to make them feel part of our success or defeats. Anything that helps to improve their/our work will be good for the business in the end. Our overall age level is low (around 35 years of age), so while most of our staff have joined us after finishing their studies or degrees, we still provide them with a full apprenticeship or training from the start.

The next generation comes with more “digital” skills than “hard work” values. We need to prepare for these new workers. For example, if a teenager today can use a computer better than anyone from the 70’s, why couldn’t they program a collaborative Robot to load boards into a nailer in a few years’ time? Schools in many parts of the worlds are already teaching robotics, programming, coding and mechatronics. In a few years’ time, we'll perceive the hand-nailing or hand-feeding as we perceive the (fax) facsimile… (and faster than we think).

Automation in the European pallet industry has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, and possibly for different reasons: a higher quality product from newer and more advanced sawmills (automation processes), higher wages on labor (social care and taxes), higher and unpredictable costs and availability of the raw material, heavier and tougher restrictions on health and safety regulations. The need to reduce costs forced companies to look at other areas instead of just finding cheaper labor.

The U.S. market may not be that far away from Europe in the diagnosis but it may be in the pain. The lack of consistency in labor will provoke an inconsistency in daily volumes, and force companies to look elsewhere. Automation may be a solution but it will require some time to accommodate the mentality and the reality of the pallet-lumber business in the United States. Although the pallet lumber quality has not gone as far as it did in Europe (yet), the current technologies that allow lumber to be graded while going through the manufacturing lines comes at a cost. The cost for scanning technology is still too high for many small-medium size volume companies.

Tags:  automation  europe  labor  machinery 

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Aging Workforce? Skilled Laborers Needed

Posted By Katie Sutter, Thursday, February 15, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

In my business, we see an aging workforce. This will cause a need for skilled labor in the next 5-10 years, mainly for programmers, machinists and general laborers. It’s going to be even more competitive as more “Baby Boomers” retire.

Finding the right person takes time. In our area, we have a good public job agency, and the state of Ohio also offers training reimbursement. Entry-level is the toughest. We can’t “afford” or need college graduates for all job openings. At the same time, we need experience.

Our community recognizes the upcoming labor problem and has begun to address it with various solutions. One solution is to engage educators and employers in the conversation. Our public school system is creating Career Academies where grade schools and high schools introduce students to career paths. Some involve advanced education, some do not. This is in its early stages, but it’s a start!

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Define Your Company Culture

Posted By James Ruder, Thursday, February 15, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Without question, the first response from people when asked about their company’s workforce is usually negative. Regardless if asked today, or 5-10 years ago, employers find themselves always complaining about labor. I’m guilty too, but not anymore. I found it to be wasted energy and draining to say the least.

Things began to change when I started to recognize the value of the human capital surrounding me and realized that filling jobs wasn’t all about me needing workers to produce “my” widget. I recognized the opportunity to positively influence people that needed help in their lives. It is easy to think that entry level workers are the most challenging, but the fact is that every human being that walks through my front door has a ton of baggage, and junk in the trunk. If I expect them to deal with their problems outside of work, and yet show up with a smile on their face every day, then I am the fool.

The fact is that turnover is our enemy, not the available workforce alone. Pallet company business owners have gotten used to needing hundreds of applicants yearly when they only have a handful of jobs to fill. My plant manager Jay Doyle reminded me not worry about having a long line at the door. He encouraged me and said, “We just need 10 people today boss, not 100, if we can keep them from leaving.”

The magnitude of that statement is huge because it creates freedom from worrying about what is happening in the job market with so many other opportunities. It challenges us to be smart in a different way. Looking at what I’m doing internally to keep employees is a far better use of my time than trying to figure out where to advertise jobs to reach more people. 

It’s foolish to keep doing what I did 20 years ago and expect it to work. Demographics have changed for sure. But I don’t control those things, I only control how I respond to change. Expecting it to be enough to just give an employee a fair market wage, an average benefit package, and a dirty hard job, is foolish. We need to ask ourselves how to become the destination for people looking for work, and it’s going to look different for each of us based on our surroundings. 

Millennials are causal. In other words, missional. They want their life to count. They join in worthy causes. They don’t give to church, but they will contribute to a friend in need or a GoFundMe cause. We can work with that at L&R Pallet because we have started to hire people based upon being a cultural fit first, skills/ability second.

It has been my experience that all people need purpose. Applicants don’t come to us with a burning passion to make pallets, but they do come with a longing to be a part of something greater. So “what” do I do to staff my workforce? My job (my mission) is to lead and take care of the people standing in front of me. Their job (their mission) is their work station. Our job is building, serving and impacting everyone and everything through what we do. The vessel just happens to be a pallet, but it is not “why” we get up every day. I get up to make a difference to a captive audience that reports to work for 40 hours each week. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility. By doing that, serving the customer has become easy. 

The answer is actually simple; start loving people. I guarantee it’s the secret sauce in defining your company culture and figuring out where you will be in 5 to 10 years.

Tags:  immigration  labor  millennials  personnel  workforce 

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Tight Labor Market in Midwest

Posted By Brett Cole, Tuesday, February 6, 2018

2018 will continue to be a tight labor market in the Midwest. We have fewer people who actually want to do physical labor. Cole Pallet Services will continue to automate and hire higher level employees to offset the labor shortages. We’ve also increased our starting wage and use temp services to do our initial hiring. This puts some of the burden of drug screening, background checks, and e-verification on the staffing agency.

In the next 5-10 years we expect our industry to consolidate and to open room for growth by hiring people with experience in our industry. We also expect automation to continue causing the need for physical labor to decrease. Overall, physical labor will continue to be hard to find and skilled labor for automation will be required.

Regarding pay and benefits, we’re working on increasing wages and offering more benefits to employees. As we grow, we want our employees to grow with us.

In our small town, we have several big businesses, Nestle, Target, 3M (5+ plants), etc, therefore we compete against some top tier employers for our labor. Right now, the biggest competition is for labor.

We’ll continue to automate and train our key employees to use the new equipment. This will allow us to keep our most valuable staff while producing more pallets and cut-stock on a daily basis.

Tags:  automation  labor  market  personnel 

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