Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Better tech recruitment is critical for manufacturing

July 29, 2019
By Ian Clark

Photo: Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

July 29, 2019 – Manufacturing is an industry that has always relied on technology, but as digital advances have brought even greater potential for transformation to the sector, it has found itself embroiled in the battle for the best tech professionals.

The software used during the product design process is becoming more powerful and versatile, while advanced robotics are making production itself even better. This has made manufacturing an incredibly enticing sector for ambitious tech workers, but the demand for them is great and their availability not to be taken for granted.

Research from IDC suggests that three quarters of large manufacturers will have updated their operations and analytics by the end of this year, with Gartner predicting that half of all new businesses will be run using the Internet of Things by 2020. That means an investment in many different technologies and platforms and, subsequently, the staff to operate and maintain them.

The rise of ERP
It’s easy to see why there’s such an increase in the use of ERP in manufacturing. Companies using an ERP to its full potential will be able to pinpoint areas of the business that can benefit from improved efficiency, which in turn increases productivity and profitability. Investing in the best solution is no longer seen as a luxury, it’s a necessity for any business wanting to remain competitive.


We’ve noticed a sharp increase in the demand for qualified ERP professionals from the manufacturing industry over the last two years in particular. There are many solutions available, both custom-built and off the shelf, but there simply aren’t enough skilled ERP professionals around to operate them. Indeed, it’s just one facet that makes up the global skills shortage and is only getting more severe. Beating that skills gap will be critical to the success of your digital transformation.

A job seeker’s market
With the need to evolve your workforce and focus on a new generation of STEM-focused hires becoming more imperative, the spotlight will be shining directly on your recruitment team. The gear change from hiring more traditional roles to tech workers may feel like an intimidating one, but knowing the right approach to attract the best tech talent will be a key component when it comes to your company’s success.

Firstly, you’ll need to accept that you don’t have the upper hand when it comes to hiring. While the balance of power has always been in favour of the talented professionals, the demand for them across a wide range of sectors means it’s now truly a job seeker’s market. Trying to pay below market value is more likely to leave you empty-handed than with a great deal for your company, and is a key reason why using a recruiter can be a much more efficient approach.

Importance of benefits
You’ll also need to look at mirroring the benefits packages the technology industry traditionally offers its staff in order to stand out as a potential destination. To keep our finger on the pulse of the different fields we recruit in, we carry out industry-leading market research amongst the professionals involved in each ecosystem. 

Working from home is always one of the most popular benefits that an employer can offer, so be prepared to facilitate some form of flexible work arrangement when it comes to securing your next tech hire. More often than not, even one day per week spent away from the office is enough to be appealing, although it’s worth noting that some employers will allow tech workers to be based almost entirely remotely.

Retention is key
Doing proper research on market trends will also put you in the best position to retain those talented individuals. With so many employers competing for their attention, luring them to your business is difficult, but that doesn’t mean the battle is won. Instead, you’ll need to be constantly trying to keep them engaged to avoid them being poached not only by your rivals, but a myriad of companies across many different industries.

While renumeration will always be a driving factor in employee loyalty, it’s not the sole consideration when someone is looking at their future. The staff you wish to attract are highly ambitious and will be looking for a visible path of progression. Make sure the road to leadership positions is clear and that you support personal development via training to help people get there.

The manufacturing industry is going through an exciting series of changes as it prepares to adopt recent innovations, and Industry 4.0 helps usher in a new era. Businesses are benefitting from being able to streamline processes and make their entire operation as lean as possible.

It’s a great time to be involved in the industry, but the caveat is that the tech workers helping to drive this change are in much demand. Attracting them into the sector and keeping them is the next great challenge facing manufacturing.

Ian Clark is head of Americas at ERP staffing firm Washington Frank. He has over 15 years of experience in the recruitment industry.

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