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manufacturing skills gap

Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap


Manufacturers face a growing skills gap due to a changing workforce and new tech. Better tools and strategies can help address the problem and cut costs.

1 July 2020

The problem becomes clear when you look at the numbers.

25% of the industrial workforce will retire this decade.

This means you’re at risk to lose crucial operational information to tribal knowledge.

The millennial generation taking their place will likely spend less than a year at your company. Not only does this mean high turnover and constant training, but manufacturers must also develop training solutions for a generation that learns differently.

The millennial workforce spends less than 1 year at your company.

69% of the skills already in use on your shop floor will be significantly impacted by Industry 4.0. All employees, young and old, seasoned and brand new, will face the challenge of reskilling to accommodate new processes and procedures.


In short - modern manufacturers will need to train more, and more often. But it’s not quite that simple. The modern shop floor is a complex and potentially chaotic environment, with hundreds or even thousands of individual tasks that need to be performed to meet daily production goals.

Better tools and comprehensive strategies help manufacturers understand, develop, and deploy shop floor workers and their skills. Below, we’ll outline some strategies to identify and close gaps while empowering operational excellence.



Skills Management.

Most companies use one of the following systems to track who is doing what on the shop floor.

Paper/Form-Based - Paper forms used to track the skills of employees. These are cumbersome and difficult to update.

Excel or Word documents - Excel sheets or something similar used to track and process skills management . These methods lack the ability to track gaps and development in real time.

HRS Systems - These are dedicated human resources systems and skills matrices that are capable of tracking an employee’s skills, but cannot intervene with proactive reskilling.

Integrated performance Improvement - Integrated solutions that use innovative tools to identify and close skills gaps by combining skills management with skills development.


skills management


Closing the Gap.

From here, it’s a matter of identifying the critical operations for a manufacturing organization, and figuring out how people match against these necessary skills.

Identifying gaps.

One of the most important and basic elements of improving work on the shop floor is developing efficient systems for locating and evaluating where employees might be struggling with their daily work.


Task analysis - Knowing which skills your employees need to improve begins with Task Analysis. This process involves identifying and cataloguing all the tasks - a unit of work with a clear beginning and end - throughout your manufacturing processes and procedures.

DACUM (developing a curriculum) is an efficient and effective way to approach task analysis on the shop floor and understanding which specific skills are needed to complete these tasks. Click here to learn more.

AG5 skills management

Platform images courtesy of AG5.


Skills matrices - After the initial task analysis is completed, you can begin to determine which people in your shop floor possess the skills to perform specific tasks. A skills matrix allows you to visualize this data by plotting personnel one axis, and skills on the other. More importantly, a skills matrix allows supervisors to understand where skill gaps lie.

Furthermore, a digital skills matrix allows this process to be updated and managed in real time and paired with solutions such as skills assessments and other development strategies.


Closing the gaps.

After you’ve identified the skills gaps on the shop floor, it’s necessary to close them.

Skills assessment - Where does the detailed information in a skills matrix come from? It’s important to perform a skill assessment to determine the level at which each employee is performing tasks.

Skills Assessment


Skills development - Once it becomes clear that a worker is lacking in a particular skill, it’s time to address this gap with strategic development. Delivering step by step digital work instructions is an intuitive way to re-teach by providing the opportunity for on-the-job learning. When available on a mobile device, this training can also be presented in a medium that makes sense to a digitally native Millennial workforce.



Anticipating future gaps. 

Ideally, we have the tools and systems in place to anticipate potential skills gaps and save valuable time and money by addressing them proactively. Staying one step ahead of the skills gap will save time and help protect your bottom line.

One of the key components of preventing skills gaps is to give each and every employee on the shop floor the tools and agency to be involved in their own learning and development. If deskless workers are responsible for the assessment and development of their skills, it makes both identifying and correcting gaps that much easier.


Individual employee portfolio.

Comprehensive systems like AG5 allow manufacturers to keep a dedicated skills portfolio on each employee. Updated in real time, this offers supervisors a holistic view on the training landscape within their organization, and where potential skills gaps might lie.


Succession planning.

Unplanned absences can cause enormous and problematic skills gaps on the shop floor. However, if your company has a detailed portfolio of each and every employee and their strengths and skills, it makes filling these gaps a more informed and more effective process.

Any manufacturing company operating today will have skills gaps - it's simply part of any human-centric industry.

The trick, however, lies in solving this problem with efficiency and proactive strategies. With the right combination of technologies and digital tools, today’s manufacturers can create detailed and highly adaptable maps of the processes and people that make up their shop floor.



Want to learn more about closing the manufacturing skills gap? Click here to check out our webinar from May 6th, 2020 "Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap", with learning expert and SwipeGuide cofounder Daan Assen.

SwipeGuide partners with a number of innovative platforms to help manufacturers empower better skills management on the shop floor.


Picture of Chris

Chris loves to share his expertise on future-proof work instruction software for frontline teams in manufacturing. Particularly, how digital, visual work instructions can make a lasting impact on motivation, productivity, and operational excellence culture.

1 July 2020