U.S. manufacturing hit at a three-year high in March with national factory activity expanding. However, production costs are running at a 12-year high watermark. Industry analysts say pandemic-related disruption to supply chains, along with and a critical labor shortage, are creating cost-pressures restricting further growth. With the economic recovery beginning to take flight, we examine the shift to online training, a primary method of sustainably boosting operational efficiency that manufacturers are adopting in record numbers.
Unrealized Cost-Savings: Worker Safety
For decades, the manufacturing industry has led all employment sectors with the highest rates of occupational injuries and illnesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing accounted for 15% of all private industry nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2019. The impact to manufacturers runs into the billions of dollars annually; total direct and indirect costs per serious injury are estimated at $118,769. Proportionately, the hardest hit and least equipped to weather those adverse economic events, are small manufacturers.
In the past, investments in workplace safety training have been held back by outdated notions of the value of workplace safety and health programs, and lack of affordable technology. Today, business leaders in the manufacturing sector now realize occupational safety as a business advantage. Research exploring the return on occupational safety investment makes clear the chief benefit: $1 invested in injury prevention returns $2 or more.
Training Technology Boom
One of the largest barriers to transcending the ‘old school’ approach to workforce training—PowerPoints, DVDs, classroom groups—was the absence of affordable alternatives. This was especially true for the small-to-medium size manufacturing class, with historically lower profit margins and, thus, ability to invest in emerging technology. This is hardly the case today, as the proliferation of compliance, safety, and training technology providers has exploded in recent years, driving down cost and increasing options. Today, there are online training providers, serving businesses large and small, with specialty focus covering nearly every industry.
The U.S. Learning Management System (LMS) software market has grown by over a billion dollars between 2019 to 2021, and the forecast is for a combined average growth rate of over 19% through 2027. The most common reasons for sustained growth are simple. Businesses need to track, report, document, and deliver training at scale, and online safety training offers standardization and automation, ensuring a baseline of compliance and risk mitigation.
The global pandemic only accelerated the shift to online training in the manufacturing sector. One recent survey of small-to-medium size manufacturers covered the impacts of COVID-19; workforce safety and flexibility were “top concerns”. The disruption of operational continuity and the displacement of workers back to home environments required nearly all companies to quickly identify and integrate online solutions for communication and workforce training. 63.9% of survey respondents had reevaluated what work could be done remotely; one in five respondents cited the need to accelerate automation in their operations.
With social distancing and a host of emerging safety protocols to navigate, employers turned to online training—for safety, compliance, and skill building—as the only viable option to advance those efforts. Forced to creatively engage workers facing uncertainty of operating schedules and return-to-work protocols, companies turned employees toward completion of training efforts.
Chronic Skilled Worker Shortage
Pent up manufacturing demand is fast arriving to meet the massive skilled-labor hiring gap long facing the industry. Finding enough qualified human capital remains the top concern of manufacturing employers. This was true prior to the pandemic—it’s truer still, now. Many have noted that record unemployment sidelining many skilled workers has done little to relieve the widening labor shortage manufacturing must confront. However, to attack the problem before it further escalates, manufacturers are seizing the opportunity to pivot quickly by increasing training investments.
Nearly 70% of manufacturers are addressing the workforce crisis by creating and expanding internal training programs for their workforce, among other tactics.
More than 79% of respondents said that they have increased their training activities.
Three-quarters of respondents said that upskilling workers helped to improve employee productivity, with promotion opportunities and morale also leading the list of reasons why companies might embrace training programs.
A sizable piece of the massive, industry-wide training investment has been dedicated to technology; online training systems and content are the most efficient, affordable, and modern way to address compliance, skills, and on-the-job training needs. Scaling training programs to meet the need, in the context of the moment, is indeed proving almost impossible through other, more traditional modes of workforce development.
ClickSafety is ready to help manufacturers navigate the transition to online training and expand current safety and compliance programs, with the right combination of expert-developed training content, technology, and affordable entry points. With decades of experience, thousands of customers, and millions of workers trained online, ClickSafety is your trusted training technology partner. Learn more about our values and our history of helping employers promote workforce safety: About ClickSafety