Performing Preventive Maintenance on the Manufacturing Workforce

engineer on manufacturing front line

With a constant focus on driving efficiency, the manufacturing industry is always looking for the next best opportunity to operate leaner and avoid unnecessary costs. With the average cost of machine downtime estimated at a staggering $260,000 per hour and preventive maintenance promoting the ability to reduce downtime by 30% - 50%1, the concept has caught the attention of nearly every manufacturer. 

Preventive maintenance was designed to use statistical analysis to perform necessary maintenance on equipment before failures occur to extend the life cycles of high value machines and minimize equipment downtime. The result has saved manufacturers millions of dollars a year in excess costs, along with other benefits such as enhanced plant safety and improved product quality2. While the industry has been taking advantage of this concept for many years, thanks to Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IOT), vast amounts of data being collected from modern machines make preventive maintenance even more beneficial and widely adopted. 

Shifting focus from machines to people

As workers continue to leave their organizations at an alarming rate, currently being dubbed the Great Resignation, a slight wrench is thrown into the goal of preventive maintenance. Since February of 2020, manufacturing quit rates are up 78% making it one of the hardest hit sectors of employee separations3.Just as a broken machine leads to downtime, not having enough employees available to staff full shifts can have the same effect. Without a full workforce, organizations could have no one to maintain or even operate their machines, rendering the whole plan useless.

The great news is that you can apply the same philosophy of preventive maintenance that you do on equipment to your workforce! Think about it, people perform preventive maintenance on themselves all the time. For example, exercising to avoid health concerns down the road or stretching before you go on a run to minimize the chance of injury. The concept is quite simple, but for so long manufacturers have prioritized maintenance on their material assets over their people assets. With human actions creating 71% of the value4 in a typical manufacturing environment and a tidal wave of workers leaving their companies, priorities need to shift to ensure future success.

Just as preventive maintenance programs analyze data collected by manufacturing equipment to determine when action needs to be taken, modern human capital management solutions offer advanced analytics about your people. These analytics can detect the possibility of an employee being a flight risk, allowing managers to have proactive conversations with their employees and determine the best approach to improve their work experience before it’s too late.

Understanding what your hourly workers value

Having insight to when an employee is becoming unhappy and potentially a flight risk is a valuable tool in helping manufacturing organizations be proactive with retention issues. However, without knowing what factors make manufacturing employees stay with a company, the problem will persist. Many assume hourly employees just want higher pay and will leave a company if presented the opportunity to make more money somewhere else. Due to strong global price competition in the industry, it’s extremely difficult for manufacturers to continually raise their wages without increasing their prices concurrently. 

Fortunately for manufacturers, multiple studies have shown that pay is not the only reason employees choose to stay with a company. In fact, according to EmployBridge’s annual Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker study5, the most cited reason why hourly workers chose to stay with their company for more than 5 years was liking their work schedule, and a modest pay increase would not be enough to motivate them to change jobs. Other highly ranked criteria by the hourly workforce were growth and development opportunities and feeling like their company truly values them.
By leveraging advanced workforce management solutions, manufacturers can offer their employees the ability to select their schedule preferences and swap shifts with coworkers giving them more schedule flexibility, all while the system ensures proper coverage is always maintained. Not to mention, employees are able to accomplish all of this from their preferred smartphone or tablet for a seamless work-life experience.

In addition to a great work schedule, hourly workers want to be treated as a valued team member and know that their voices are heard. Manufacturers can anonymously gather feedback from their frontline workforce by using technology with natural language processing and machine learning capabilities to quickly sort through responses and identify themes and sentiments to gain perspective. The key here is to use this actionable information to make swift changes that benefit employees. The reward is a workforce that feels management truly cares about them and values their ideas, and in turn becomes more productive and engaged.



Let technology help you out

Just as you would meticulously maintain your machines, your people deserve the same preventative care. Fortunately, people require much less complex maintenance plans than equipment and with the help of the right tools, manufacturers can begin making changes immediately. By simply focusing on providing an exceptional work experience for frontline employees, manufacturers can ensure they are building an organization where people are happy, productive, and want to stay long-term. 


Discover how UKG solutions can help you put people first.

Sources: 1:Sung Moyle, Connie,"12 Manufacturing Maintenance Statistics to Consider When Planning for 2022." 2:Lauzier, Jacob,"A Guide To Preventive Maintenance in Manufacturing." 3:Leonhardt, Megan,"The Great Resignation is hitting these industries hardest." 4:Drishti,"The State of Human Factory Analytics." 5:EmployBridge,"Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker."