The SMRP Conference Exposed Some Big Industry Challenges

The SMRP Conference Exposed Some Big Industry Challenges

By Joel Crawford, Vice President, Performance Consulting Associates (PCA)

At the recent SMRP Conference in Louisville, PCA’s booth was approached by attendees looking for inspiration. We engaged in several days of thoughtful discussions about the future of maintenance and reliability and saw a lot of interest in our new Pharmaceutical/Life Sciences Industry Playbook.

We also fielded attendee questions, but two primary themes kept emerging during our conversations:

  • The U.S. skills crisis and the insanely tight labor market for qualified personnel;
  • The continuing challenge of best practices inventory management, which impacts both reliability and safety.

Both of these problems are unrelenting for facility managers and supervisors — and they don’t see any relief in sight.

The Labor Outlook Is Grim

With the U.S. close to full employment from a practical perspective, organizations are struggling to fill any openings. For highly skilled positions, such as maintenance and reliability engineers and asset managers, the challenge is much greater. Yet, these workers are vital to keeping plants running at maximum efficiency with minimal downtime and waste.

To close this gap, business leaders are looking outside the organization to leverage third-party resources. PCA has been helping a wide array of facilities surmount their skills challenges recently, either to augment management staffs with our expert consultants or assist them with best-practices training programs to “coach up” less-skilled, existing talent.

(To learn more about the skills crisis and how firms can overcome it, read my recent article, here.)

Inventory Management Has Become More Complicated

To the outsider, having a neat, well-organized stockroom with sound inventory practices might seem like the pinnacle of achievement. That’s not the case anymore. As manufacturing facilities ramp up their production to meet greater demand — and attempt to do so with fewer people — inventory management has become a precision operation.

To keep production humming, the right part must be delivered to the right place at the exact right time. With margins shaved razor thin in the fight for competitive dominance, parts must also bear the right price tag. Meeting all those goals requires an advanced inventory management program that goes well beyond the storeroom to incorporate procurement and vendor management, shop floor planning and scheduling, and much more.

Every day we hear from plant managers and other facility leadership who want us to help them redesign their inventory management program from the ground up to address this challenge, and we already have consultants spread across the country working to do just that.

Here at our home office, management is keeping close watch on both issues and we will update you as they evolve. Stay tuned and hold on tight. It’s going to be an interesting ride, but with proper management, everyone will come through it better off.