When we planned this article in August, 2008, we imagined it as a practical guide to dealing with a shortage of maintenance talent at your facility, right now, because of skilled worker retirements and the missing generation of replacements (we call it the Maintenance Crisis). Since then, the economy has continued to deteriorate, spilling thousands of experienced manufacturing professionals into unemployment at the same time that many older workers lucky enough to have the option are staying on the job.
Workers’ eagerness to work and willingness to continue has taken the edge off the Maintenance Crisis, but the economy has taken its place. Today, the need for industrial maintenance departments to work smarter and be more resourceful is driven by budget cuts, layoffs and hiring freezes. This won’t last forever.
“Many issues have changed since the downturn, but we continue to work on the shortage because it’s not going away,” says Jeff Owens, president and CEO, Advanced Technology Services (ATS, www.advancedtech.com). “Staffs are skinnier than before, and retirements are coming.”
The young people you’ll need might be laid off. Some of the older workers who are staying aren’t the most skilled, and as the economy comes back and 401(k) account balances recover, more will retire.
“It’s a difficult problem and it’s going to get worse,” says Don Rainey, director of field services, Azima DLI (www.azimadli.com). “A client told me that once a month he wakes up at 3 a.m., realizing that 22 of his 28 millwrights are 55 or older. Contractors have the same problems — a shortage of skilled folks. You can’t cram 20 years of experience into a 12-week course.”