Labor shortages haven’t let up since the COVID-19 pandemic, but copying the characteristics of companies that are faring well amid today’s challenges might ease some pressure, according to PMMI Business Intelligence’s “2023 State of the Industry” report.
As of 2022, the number of machinery maintenance workers employed in the U.S. is still significantly below the level seen just before the pandemic, at around 18,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A drop in demand for service in 2020 has contributed to this dip in service technicians. Many machine builders scaled back their service technician force by laying off, furloughing, or electing not to renew contracts. By the time demand for service began picking up again, many of the qualified maintenance technicians had found work elsewhere or left the industry.
Remote work opportunities are also a contributing factor. As remote work has become a more viable option in the modern economy, the incentive to seek work that requires a high level of on-site visitation has diminished.
Filling service technician roles is not a hopeless task, though. PMMI Business Intelligence researchers found through interviews three key characteristics of companies that are faring well through labor challenges.
Re-purposing Service Technicians to Alleviate Labor Shortages
Suppliers who maintained a long-term view for their service team during the COVID-19 pandemic have fared better amid labor shortages.
Many of these companies began remote service teams or built out a predictive maintenance program while service business was slow. Those companies who elected to go down this route have continued investing into programs which ease the burden of work for service technicians.
Predictive maintenance is looked at by machinery manufacturers as one potential solution to ease the labor shortage problem over the long term.
Understanding the Lifestyle and Compensating Appropriately
It is likely that when a service technician leaves their company, they are not going to a competitor. Most often, they are exiting the field altogether.
The rationale is straightforward: the work demands are incredibly challenging. Service technicians are often on the go and in today’s post-pandemic era, where remote employment is possible, employers must provide premium incentives to attract and retain service technicians.
Companies that have revised their wage policies to account for this new reality have been more successful in retaining their service technician workforce.
Working Proactively with the Local Community
Many suppliers said in interviews that working with the local community colleges and trade schools to provide apprenticeship programs for young adults has been very successful at allowing for a steady stream of new employees for service-related roles.
These younger candidates can often be a good fit for such roles. While their experience may be lacking compared to industry veterans, younger candidates are often better suited for the travel lifestyle associated with service work.
Companies that successfully implement these programs further their success by emphasizing cross-department training to foster long-term career development. Burnout from service work is expected, but the knowledge gained through service work is extremely valuable and can be repositioned elsewhere in the company.
SOURCE: PMMI Business Intelligence: 2023 State of the Industry
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