With The Precast Show 2019 in the books, we've taken stock of our conversations with producers and distilled what we've learned into a list of top-of-mind issues for the precast industry. We will present them in two posts separated categorically into the broad topics of productivity and technology. Today we will start with productivity challenges we observed in our conversations.
We heard more concern about maintaining good workers than any other concern. Not surprising when business is so strong and the unemployment rate is so low. Yet, relatively few plants are addressing this proactively and formally. Many are so busy that training for new employees consists of no more than following a team for two weeks. In one of the workshops we attended, a participant asked how many in attendance pay more than the minimum wage to attract stronger talent. Only a few hands were raised. Its appears that most solutions are informal; i.e., employees are treated as extended family to encourage loyalty and commitment. Our observations are only anecdotal, but it appears that this is good but not enough. If skill deficits and employee churn still persist, more needs to be done.
2. Management Systems
Perhaps because of these challenges, it was good to observe that producers are seeking new solutions for managing in such a challenging environment. We heard great questions of other producers about management systems they have in place. These included discussions about systems for training new employees, proactive equipment maintenance and even Lean Manufacturing practices. This was great to see because an abundance of information is available for managing... actually thriving... in the challenges facing the precast industry today. To start, you can read our web report: 17 Ways Lean Manufacturing Increases Profits and Wins Bids for Concrete Manufacturers. Of course, the NPCA has a wealth of information and there are organizations dedicated to helping such as the Lean Construction Institute.
3. Working with Millennials
There was a lot of hand-wringing about "dealing with Millennials who would rather be at home playing on their X-Box than working hard in the plant". That said, we heard some great advice from one producer who reports that his company has done an excellent job in creating dedication among the Millennial employees. Management realized that Millennials want to see meaning in the work they do (after all, who doesn't?), so they organized a field trip to a job site where they observed a very intricate piece they manufactured being installed. He reported that it changed the culture almost instantly. They took great pride in seeing the results of their work in the greater construction project and their attention to detail was much better honed after seeing its importance on the final product. Great advice.
4. Legalized Marijuana
The legalization of marijuana in some states has caused concern about impairment on the job and how to manage zero-tolerance drug policies in an environment where marijuana is legal. For now, most companies are not changing anything. The consensus seemed to be that policies will evolve to focus on impairment while on the job and will follow police protocols for determining impairment.
Things are changing quickly... for everyone... and the precast industry is not immune. Who would have thought 5 years ago that one of the topics of conversation would be legalized marijuana? We heard a lot of nostalgia for 'old school' ways, a clear indication of the internal struggle that change is creating. Unfortunately, some will resist the inevitable and it will cost them. We will be happy to help you if you are one of those that decide to embrace the future.
Our mission at Idencia is to elevate the productivity of infrastructure product manufacturers. We offer RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity and offer value throughout the value chain. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time.