Collins The Trend Tracker
by Mike Collins
March 29th, 2018

Solving the Labor Shortage from Within

The labor shortage is no secret, and it affects the door and window industry along the entire spectrum. We saw firsthand on a recent company visit a possibly overlooked way to address it from inside a company.

The labor shortage is no secret and affects the door and window industry along the entire spectrum. Suppliers can’t hire enough labor to add a shift to bring down lead times on components.  Door and window manufacturers have difficulty luring workers away from coffee shops and similar jobs that pay less but are viewed as “good enough” because they are less difficult than factory work.  Dealers can’t hire enough sales professionals to win the business that’s available in this great market.  Builders have a hard time keeping their crews fully staffed.  To round out the picture, the shortage of qualified window installers has driven up the per-opening cost of installations around the country.

However, a recent plant tour presented a way to fix the shortage of talent, and the answer came from within the company.

Workers  at the factory I visited shared the ways in which lean methods had benefitted their area. At one of these stations, a worker beamed with pride over the reduction of clutter and the increased volume passing through the shipping area. A year earlier, this worker had no training whatsoever in lean methods and could easily have been viewed as “just a line guy.” However, he had been given a solid grounding in lean, and something about it lit a spark in him. He volunteered to be part of additional lean events and gravitated toward helping make it easier to get products out the door by leaning out the shipping department. That day, as he described the highly visible benefits of reduced clutter in the shipping area, he beamed with pride. The last thing he shared with us was, “When I joined this company a year ago, I was just looking for a job. Today, I’m happy to be building a career.” The “line guy” he may have been had grown into a candidate to be second in charge of shipping in a short period and to some day run the shipping department or more.

Walk around your facility today and look for those “whistle while you work” types that may be able to stretch beyond their current roles. The higher your current employees can be promoted in the organization, the lower the skill level of the employees you need to hire to fill in gaps. By promoting from within to fill needed roles, you can alleviate a great deal of the pressure you face to hire from outside.

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