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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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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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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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