The search for talent has never been tougher. Changing demographics and an aging workforce are widening an already existing skills gap in manufacturing and distribution. As the labor storm gathers momentum, the situation looks bleak.
And, introducing young people to the myriad of opportunities material handling has to offer is no easy task.
The Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) is working to bridge the gap between potential employees and talent-starved managers. Using the wide reach of the Internet, the organization is connecting companies with the people resources they need.
MHEDA first announced the launch of its new Gateway initiative in April at NA 2008 in Cleveland. Gateway is a Web site, accessed through MHEDA’s home page at www.mheda.org, that connects students looking for a career in material handling with industry professionals seeking students. However, it’s much more than an online job and recruiting tool.
The site is divided into three separate sections— one for students, another for academic advisors and the last one for industry professionals.
Students can post their resumes on the site as well as express interest in cooperative opportunities and internships. MHEDA expects hundreds of material handling companies to access the resume bank.
That’s just the beginning. Gateway also offers educational information to students who want to learn more about material handling. By visiting the site, students can access an educational video that provides an introduction to material handling as well as job descriptions and typical compensation data from MHEDA’s bi-annual survey. They can also search for companies that are offering internships and job opportunities.
For industr y professionals, Gateway can be a source of critical talent. Managers can search the resume bank to find students looking for employment, internships and cooperative opportunities as well as post job openings. The site also offers advice about how to structure internships and cooperatives. Industry gurus can also share their expertise by offering to present lectures at schools and universities or host customer site visits for students. MHEDA has even created a PowerPoint template that potential speakers can download and customize.
Academic advisors, too, can use Gateway as a teaching tool. The site provides a variety of instructional materials, including photos and videos of material handling equipment, systems and interfaces. Through the site, MHEDA also offers academicians access to its publications and case studies as well as various teaching materials and classroom tools.
As a community-based, online tool, the utility of Gateway will only improve as the number of visitors grows. According to MHEDA, the Gateway site “has been designed to open and strengthen lines of communication between students and employers.” The resource is available; it’s up to the industry to use it.
A Conversation Piece
Cook & Associates, an industrial engineering management consulting firm in New Brunswick, N.J., has created a forum on the Web where managers can discuss labor management systems with their industry peers.
Accessible at www.thepepblog. com, the forum is divided into 15 conversation topics, including labor management payback, working with IT, getting management and employee buy in and schedules versus budgets.
Visitors to the site can instantly comment on their experiences with labor management systems and review the strategies other managers are using to improve employee productivity.
Seven Ways to Fit the Task to the Worker
According to OSHA, cumulative trauma disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis account for more than 16 million lost work days in the U.S. each year, at a cost of more than $40 billion.
To help companies reign in some of these costs, the linear motion and assembly technologies group of the Bosch Rexroth Corp. (Buchanan, Mich.) has devised a checklist of ways manufacturers can design manual production systems and workstations that improve employee efficiency, safety, morale and productivity.
Here is a brief synopsis of the seven steps to ergonomic workstation design. The full checklist can be accessed by visiting Bosch Rexroth Corp.’s Web site at www.boschrexroth-us.com.
- Consider work height. The worktable surface height must accommodate the postures, movements and chair heights for a wide range of employee body sizes.
- Consider size of grab area. There are three grab areas for a worker: maximum, optimum and two-hand. All parts, supplies and tools should be placed within easy reach of the worker.
- Optimize parts container layout. Locate grab containers so grab distances are as short as possible.
- No work above the heart. When designing a workstation, avoid placing workers in positions that entail reaching above the heart. In addition, static holding during assembly reduces blood flow to the muscles, which increases muscle fatigue.
- Consider fields of vision. The surroundings taken in by a worker’s eyes, when the eyes and head don’t move, is defined as the field of vision. It is desirable to minimize movement of the eyes and head during assembly or inspection operations.
- Match light intensity to the work task. Proper lighting is extremely important. The correct lighting for a task reduces errors and increases worker performance.
- Properly adjust work equipment to the task. Table, chairs, grab-container tool shelves, material shuttles and parts-case lifters should be adjusted to fit the worker and the work task.
High-tech Human Resources
One of the latest advances in human capital management (HCM) systems is biometric identification. Biometrics is the identification and verification of an individual based on the recognition of unique physical characteristics. Examples of biometric systems include finger scans, voice recognition technologies, iris identification and even facial recognition.
Since a finger or iris scan can’t be faked, counterfeited or stolen, many organizations are using biometrics to reduce the risk of fraud or theft.
One of the newer devices on the market today is the intelligent back-end biometric system. These units are linked to individual employee information that can be accessed in real time. They function as self-service terminals at which employees can access information directly, ensuring a secure data trail and tight compliance.
Accu-Time Systems (ATS, Ellington, Conn.) has introduced Maximus, its own version of an intelligent back-end biometric system. According to the company, Maximus is an Internet appliance equipped with Java and Web services capabilities, fieldupgradeable card and biometric readers and memory modules and displays. The device helps reduce time spent responding to administrative requests from employees.
“Organizations with such devices in their workplaces have found that providing their entire workforce with self-service functionality improves efficiencies, ensures compliance, increases productivity and enhances employee satisfaction and retention,” according to ATS. “Estimates on the ROI for implementing an automated HCM system show payback in less than six months.”
Source: ATS, www.accu-time.com
Another Reason to Go Green
John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. (Chicago), an outplacement consulting company, says employers that publicly discuss their commitment to being green are likely to gain a significant recruiting advantage over the competition.
“High oil prices, instability in the Middle East and the threat of global warming have made the environment the cause célèbre of the new millennium, particularly among younger generations X and Y,” says Challenger. “These individuals are highly sought after by companies trying to strengthen their ranks in preparation for Baby Boomer retirements.”
Challenger cites a survey conducted by Harris Poll, which found that 33% of Americans are more inclined to work for a green company compared to an organization that does not make a conscious effort to promote socially and environmentally friendly practices.