CEO at Actify, Inc.enabling manufacturers to build some of the world’s most complex and advanced products.
The automotive industry, like many other manufacturing industries, suffers from a labor shortage. This shortage ranges from the shop floor to the management level to the engineering department.
As the CEO of a company that manages automotive solutions solutions, I believe that the way this shortage is being addressed and how the battle to retain talent is playing out has implications that could ripple throughout the automotive industry and also affect the automotive industry. consumer.
It’s been brewing for a while
The pandemic may have seriously sparked this workforce problem, but even after lockdowns were lifted and the Covid-19 threat mitigated by vaccines, were reluctant to return to their job.
It turns out that the big layoff isn’t just limited to lawyers and investment bankers — auto workers have rethought their jobs, their priorities and the importance of “quality of life,” making talent increasingly difficult to find and retain.
Any taker for maximum daily stress?
At Tier 1 car suppliers, I’ve noticed the struggle to retain talent is particularly strong among automotive program managers – the individuals responsible for overseeing the programs that develop and supply the various parts and components that automotive OEMs depend on to create their final product .
This is an incredibly high pressure, high stress position. Program managers spend large parts of their day calling and emailing people, trying to get status updates, and then reporting that status to someone else. Tasks that would be automated in other parts of the business. If any aspect of the program is off schedule or off budget, it’s the program managers who bear the brunt – it’s up to them to get things done.
This would be fine if they had advanced tools at their disposal to help them communicate with the various stakeholders, but most don’t. More often than not, they use homegrown systems to manually gather all the information they need to stay on top of things.
Meanwhile, the emergence of new electric vehicle (EV) programs coupled with existing combustion engine programs means program managers are managing significantly more programs than usual. Where once they were expected to provide about 20 programs, I have observed they are now trying to carry as many as 40 programs at once.
It turns out that when you double the workload without doing anything to relieve the pressure, people tend to walk out the door instead of continuing with the acute stress the role puts on them.
Not enough people doesn’t mean enough cars
Why should anyone be concerned about this human resources challenge? Because if not addressed, we will be heading for a crisis in the automotive supply chain.
Production capacity is an area where, while still challenging, suppliers often have several levers that they can pull: they can add production crews, they can add more machines, they can add more production lines, and so on. However, program capacity is a different story. For example, suppliers cannot add 25% additional capacity to their engineering teams, designers, tool specialists, quality officers, purchasers and program managers. The capacity is simply not there in terms of human resources.
Worse, suppliers can’t close the gap quickly if one of their program managers has had enough and decides to leave: newly hired managers must shadow an existing program manager for up to one year. There are no shortcuts here.
All of this means that car production could slow down for the simple reason that there aren’t enough program managers to oversee the programs and make sure the various car parts arrive on time.
As the microchip shortage of the past two years has amply demonstrated, all it takes to buy a single part is to suddenly rock the entire market. When the supply chain gets stuck, OEMs lose money and consumers can’t get their hands on the car they want. That is the lose-lose situation that awaits when there are not enough human resources to keep the wheels of the industry turning.
The smart thing to do
Can the auto industry avert this workforce crisis? It is true that technology can help in several ways, first by making existing automotive program managers more productive, and second by reducing the stress and burnout they face, thus aiding retention.
When choosing a technology to implement, suppliers should look for a solution that is intuitive and easy to use – after all, program managers have enough stress on their plate without being given the task of learning how to use a complicated business system. More importantly, this system should function as a centralized hub that can complement and interact with existing ERP, PLM and CAD systems. Program managers don’t operate in a technology vacuum, so it’s critical to be able to pull in and out of updates to these other systems as the situation around the program evolves — which it usually does on a day-to-day basis.
Without that connectivity, vendors are only adding to the stress of their program managers by giving them one more system to manage and more manual updates to implement. Without this kind of automation and streamlined task management, automotive program managers will continue to feel like they’re on a treadmill that’s only getting faster. Their job is to keep programs on track and anticipate and solve problems before they arise, but the sheer volume and pace of operations makes it difficult to keep up. While this is a long-standing problem, I think the HR tightness combined with other industry challenges, such as the proliferation of programs to be managed, indicates that it is on the brink of a crisis.
Rather than viewing the act of making life easier for automotive program managers as “a fun thing to do,” suppliers (and OEMs) would do well to see it as “the smart thing to do.” ‘. The health of the entire auto industry may simply depend on it.
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