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Mind the Gap: Solving Labor Challenges in Woodworking with CNC Automation

In today’s woodworking industry, the hunt for skilled labor remains a real hurdle for companies already at production capacity or those looking to grow.

According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the skills gap in the U.S could result in 2.1 million unfulfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030.(ref) While the pandemic set the manufacturing labor force back by more than a decade, it’s not enough to explain why finding and retaining talent is such an urgent and long-term problem.

What does the Future Labor Market look like for U.S. Manufacturers?

This is a nationwide issue, with every American state being affected. The U.S Chamber of Commerce research shows that Florida is an area affected more than most, with 53 available workers for every 100 open jobs overall.

Despite a promising future for the industry, the reality is stark: unemployment has declined since 2018 and yet attracting the right talent into the industry remains difficult. Attracting and retaining employees, changing perceptions about woodworking and manufacturing careers, and overcoming barriers to entry are all issues on the table right now. But nothing is going to change overnight.

What can manufacturers do when the industry is growing, but labor shortages are making it difficult to adapt?

Can Woodworking Technology Help Alleviate the Skills Gap?

The skills gap and labor shortage are here to stay for the foreseeable future, but reducing the impact isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.

Automating processes, upgrading machinery, and streamlining production can increase efficiency, shorten production cycles, and build in space to increase capacity and accommodate variable orders – all at the same time as reducing reliance on labor. This way, your business builds in some protection against the things that you can’t control and introduces important wiggle room to adapt to market conditions.

The Skills Gap; What Sets Successful Woodworking Manufacturers Apart?

Improving production with CNC machines isn’t about replacing your workforce; it’s about creating a more efficient work environment. Reducing the workload, stress, and physical strain will go a long way in attracting and retaining skilled labor. By improving the overall work experience of your employees, CNC machinery can make woodworking careers more attractive, making it easier to attract and retain skilled labor.

No matter how committed your current workforce is, factors like holidays, sick leave, and even the quick coffee break will eat into available manufacturing time. Controlling idle labor time is very difficult but with a CNC machine center, you can reduce vulnerability, optimize production, and scale your business at the push of a button.

How Can Woodworking Businesses Grow when Facing Labour Shortages?

Despite the existing skilled labor shortages, The Business Research Company reports that the global Finished Wood products market is poised for significant growth, projected at a CAGR of 7.3% from 2023 to 2028. It’s a broad category that includes windows and door cabinets, kitchenware, furniture, flooring, and wooden buildings. Add to this, the rising demand for bespoke design, with premium and custom finishes in both residential and commercial real estate, is anticipated to further boost growth in the woodworking and manufacturing sector.

By tapping into the power of CNC panel processing machinery, manufacturers can introduce the flexibility needed to handle bespoke and batch orders with ease. Embracing technology and focusing on product developments are key factors in making manufacturing an appealing career option for the next generation and attracting and retaining employees with a higher skill set.

What are the Positive Impacts of Woodworking Machinery on Worker Experience?

It’s more than productivity that is boosted by the introduction of CNC machinery and automation. Effective streamlining creates a better work experience for your employees, improving morale and job satisfaction. With the right machinery, the output of your employees becomes a more valuable asset.

Manufacturing costs have rocketed in the last few years, and wage costs can make a real dent in the budget sheet. However, with the automated woodworking machinery, operation managers can strategically direct workers to areas where they can maximize productivity. Increased productivity leads to higher output and sustained growth, making it easier to provide an appealing package for employees.

What Role Does Investment in Woodworking Machinery Play in Employee Satisfaction?

While financial incentives are crucial for attracting and retaining skilled labor, investing in cutting-edge machinery plays an important role. Technologically advanced and automated machinery can boost staff morale, improve overall work experience, and offer greater workplace flexibility – all factors that go a long way toward addressing longer-term staffing issues. With a full audit of current production needs and future growth plans, striking the right balance between machinery and future staffing investment is immediately achievable.

Should Woodworking Manufacturers Invest in Labour or Machinery?

Finding the right staff is challenging, and an issue unlikely to go away in the foreseeable future. For the modern woodworking business, if, how, where, and when to invest in machinery or employees can be a difficult call.

Of course, it’s essential to weigh up the investment costs of new machinery against hiring additional staff, but these are not mutually exclusive issues. While recruiting and training new employees incur ongoing expenses, investing in advanced equipment offers long-term efficiency and operational gains. With the right machinery, training is targeted to skills that provide immediate and longer-term benefits for both individual and the business.

Investing in advanced panel processing machinery for cutting, edgebanding, routing, material handling, veneering, and finishing tasks will undoubtedly improve production, but it is also an important investment in your workforce.

Where Can Woodworking Manufacturers Get Advice on Streamlining Production?

No-one knows your market, product, and customers better than you do, but a reputable supplier will help you really define current needs and future goals. Expert advice is key here; so only work with a woodworking machinery supplier with a solid reputation, one that works with a good selection of leading machinery brands.

Expert advice will save costly mistakes. It’s easy to convince yourself that every level of automation is needed but it’s rarely the case. Only a thorough analysis will lead to the optimal machinery solutions.

Work with experts with extensive tooling knowledge, and they’ll know precisely what is needed to manufacture your products. By analyzing workflow and plant layout, you’ll benefit from automation and machinery recommendations that optimize workflow, streamline production, and maximize workforce capability and potential.

Can Used WoodWorking Machinery Help Solve Manufacturing and Labor Problems?

For woodworking businesses that need the most cost-effective solutions, opting for high-quality used machinery can be a viable option. With fully inspected used and refurbished panel processing machinery, you can improve operational capability without placing undue pressure on the budget. Used machinery can be an effective way to solve shortfalls in labor shortfalls immediately and build in flexibility for future growth.

Can the Woodworking Industry Turn Labor Challenges Into a Future Investment ?

In an already competitive industry, woodworking manufacturers and joinery firms face additional challenges in dealing with labor issues.

Solving the issues in attracting skilled employees and machine operators is going to take time. However, streamlining and optimizing production are immediate solutions that come with long term protection. By investing in advanced production machinery, businesses can simultaneously improve employee experience and productivity. That’s a win-win scenario.

Panel processing machinery and automation will always deliver the highest output, but the real investment is in machinery that creates a better working environment and allows your team to focus on using their skills. This is an approach that creates a more engaged, and motivated workforce, better equipped to tackle the demands and growing opportunities that the woodworking sector presents.

Machinery that makes the most out of your workforce by creating a better working experience, is the where real investment lies.

About Powerline Machinery Ltd,

With 30 years’ experience, we pride ourselves on providing expert and tailored machinery solutions for manufacturers across a diverse range of sectors.

From commercial, retail, and architectural to residential and interior design and consumer furniture to the construction, aerospace, defence, and marine sectors, we work closely with our clients to explore the individual goals and challenges faced.

Get in touch, find out how the most suitable and efficient machinery solutions can support your labor force in maintaining and creating sustainable growth.

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