Tackle Labor Shortages with Automation

Centralizing Automation for Marking and Labeling Plays a Key Role in Tackling Labor Shortages 

It’s no secret the US manufacturing industry is in an unprecedented bind. In addition to supply chain issues and rising tensions overseas, the manufacturing world is struggling with significant labor shortages, exacerbating existing problems even further. Recruiting and retaining skilled workers for line production is one of the biggest challenges companies currently face. In fact, according to a May 2021 study from Deloitte, “the manufacturing industry netted a loss of 578,000 jobs during the pandemic-challenged year 2020—a figure that represents nearly six years of job gains, and yet, at any given moment in the past six months, nearly 500,000 jobs have remained open in manufacturing.”  

Many of the most experienced manufacturing workers are retiring, leaving a gap in both skills and on-the-job mentorship opportunities. Deloitte anticipates that there will be upwards of 2 million open manufacturing positions by 2030. This is further challenged by skills gaps with both new and existing workers, especially as more and more manufacturers accelerate automation on production lines.  

Upskilling staff to meet the new demands around AI and automation is creating a pressure-cooker situation for employers who already struggle to find time for training. A January 2020 study from the Manufacturing Institute found that “the average number of hours of training, per employee, among their members is only 27.7 hours per year—and for new employees was 42.9 hours per year.”  

Incremental Automation Rollout Reduce Errors and Create Cost-Efficiencies 

To ease these burdens and minimize disruptions, it is critical that manufacturers look for ways to implement automation incrementally, and opt for user-friendly technologies that allow production lines to move faster and more efficiently with minimal training needed. In addition, centralizing production control as much as possible allows companies to transition between tasks seamlessly with fewer people and less room for error. This is a much better — and more cost effective — approach when moving to automated processes, as companies can build their automation toolbox one piece at a time and constantly evaluate what is and is not working in real time. 

Two areas that are ripe for the picking when it comes to automated process implementation are marking and labeling. Marking and labeling errors and issues with traceability can lead to product recalls, misplaced inventory, and other costly problems. This not only impacts a company’s bottom line but can also wreak havoc on the organization’s reputation. Implementing a centralized control system for these processes across all product lines can optimize efficiency, significantly reduce human error, and allow you to shift workers away from these tasks and into areas that need more attention. 

For example, Matthews Marking Systems’ MPERIA platform acts as an extensible line controller for coding, labeling and accessories. Seamlessly integrating with your enterprise system (PLC, ERP, WMS, WES, MES), MPERIA controls coding, labeling and code validation centrally while allowing staff to make adjustments on the fly as needed. Workers only need to be trained on one platform/technology to start jobs, manage changeovers, resolve issues, and/or adapt to changing customer or regulatory requirements.  

MPERIA synchronizes with any ERP/WMS system or database to automatically send data to the production floor, allowing operators and/or intelligent system to quickly verify or even grade barcodes and ensure that all messages are accurate from product to pallet. This integration is accomplished using a shared folder technology called netFolder that allows the exchange of data without introducing new cybersecurity risks. In a fully automated operation, marks and codes are updated and accurately placed in real-time and accuracy is confirmed using AI-based vision systems and integrated barcode scanners.  

The concepts of agility and lean gain new meaning with Industry 4.0 and “smart” manufacturing. To stay competitive in our ever-evolving world, manufacturers must embrace new technologies that don’t replace human workers, but rather streamline the work, create better efficiencies, and open the door to increased skill development and growth opportunities for employees. Making incremental investments into automation with the MPERIA platform will create both short- and long-term payoffs for your business. 

While we would happily write about MPERIA and the benefits of automation all day long, we’d much rather talk about it in person with you! Come visit us at Pack Expo in Chicago, October 23-26, 2022, to learn more about our MPERIA platform and how it can save your organization time and money and reduce the headaches that come with shipping hundreds of pallets to multiple retailers each day. We will be in the South building at booth S-2142 

And if you won’t be at Pack Expo simply give us a call at ​​800.775.7775 or email us at [email protected]. 


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