Why The Manufacturing Industry Needs More Entrepreneurs

If you had taken a snapshot of the manufacturing industry and its prospects just a few short years ago, you may have gotten the impression that it was heading into irreparable decline:

“Recent press reports have highlighted the decline of US entrepreneurship. Using data on workers in 800+ occupations in over 1.2 million establishments, this column shows that there has been a decline not only in the number of new businesses in US manufacturing, but also in their size and quality.”

Now, heading into 2022, there’s a brighter potential future on the horizon, despite the setbacks and challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s potential in the manufacturing startup landscape, and leaders across the industry are calling for a new rise to manufacturing that will “provide more growth than we saw in the tech sector in the past 20 years.”

Achieving this predicted future, where the hurdles of today become the opportunities of tomorrow, will take the vision of dedicated entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and insights. First, consider what trends manufacturing must overcome in 2022 and beyond:

A Workforce Shortage: The manufacturing industry is looking at a record number of unfilled jobs. Some experts believe that the shortfall will leave 2.1 million skilled positions unfilled through 2030 (or more depending on retirement trends) which will put many businesses in a bind trying to figure out how to attract and retain talent without breaking the bank.

Supply Chain Instability: This is another crisis we’re watching unfold in real time. Global shortages and disruptions mean that manufacturers can’t rely on traditional methods to meet demands, and it’s going to force businesses to adapt in order to stay afloat in the face of rising material costs, slow deliveries, and demands outpacing available supply.

Cybersecurity Hazards: As technology marches forward, so too do the types of threats that lurk out in cyberspace. Manufacturing businesses will face increased risks from ransomware and other types of cyber attacks in the post-pandemic world.

Now, in the face of these challenges, there are significant opportunities. Take cracks in the supply chain, for instance. Though disruptions have made filling demand more difficult, some businesses, like Fictiv, have found a way to leverage digital manufacturing to supply on-demand, direct-to-customer service coupled with low labor costs. Capitalizing on this took the vision of Fictiv’s founders—Dave and Nathan Evans—and may not have been as successful without the opportunity provided by those aforementioned supply chain challenges.

In a similar vein, clever thinking can be applied to address the workforce shortage and cybersecurity threats as well. In part, surmounting that limited workforce hurdle will involve a rapid, short-term response to make available manufacturing jobs more desirable, engage with wide talent pools to attract appropriate talent, and offset mass retirements. 

In addition, though, the implementation of cutting-edge technologies—like AI, automation, and collaborative robotics—will help empower available workers to punch above their proverbial weight, essentially empowering a small number of employees to do more than ever before.

These and other amazing strategies will help manufacturing industries survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world, but will require the minds of keen entrepreneurs to envision and execute. Moving forward, it will be up to these figures to help take the challenges of the future head-on.