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How Automation Can Combat High Turnover in Electronics Manufacturing

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Turnover is becoming a serious concern in electronics manufacturing. In major markets like China, week-over-week turnover rates are as high as 15 percent. U.S. manufacturers are also searching for a solution to the turnover problem.

Meanwhile, an electronics components shortage is further tightening budgets for manufacturers. Not only are manufacturers subject to a longer wait, but they also face higher prices for sought-after components.

Manufacturers searching for a way to lower turnover rates and keep pace with the rising demand for electronics are turning to automation. When implemented correctly and delivered by an experienced partner, automation has the potential to keep your workers around for the long haul.

Creating New Opportunities

Eighty-six percent of employees quit their jobs because of poor career development, according to the trade journal Human Resource Executive. And while 60 percent of human resource leaders believe they’re creating clear career paths, just 36 percent of employees agree. By eliminating many of the dull, repetitive tasks that lead to burnout and freeing up employees to solve more complex problems, automation promises to reverse turnover rates, increase efficiency and even increase productivity through improved morale.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on replacing workers every few months, electronics manufacturers that invest in automation keep existing employees safe, engaged and happy with new career opportunities. Assembly line workers who would previously leave for more money may feel compelled to take advantage of advancement opportunities that aren’t available at competing organizations. The result? Higher retention rates during a time when talent is increasingly tough to come by.

But automation is a source of anxiety for today’s workers. In fact, more than 70 percent of Americans express concern over a world in which machines take over tasks previously performed by humans, according to reports. So, it’s important to address the fear of automation by outlining how robots will impact your organization.

Without a clear concept of the role automation will play, employees may assume they’re being replaced and start looking for other jobs. That’s where clear communication can make a difference. To avoid inducing panic among valued employees, communicate why automation will be beneficial to the organization (cost reduction, improved cycle times, optimized logistics, etc.), when and where it will be implemented into existing processes, what training will be required of employees and, most importantly, how it will alter but not eliminate their responsibilities. Reassure them that they are valuable to the company, and that automation will make way for new opportunities.

From a company-wide memo to a question-and-answer session, getting ahead of potential concerns can go a long way toward ensuring employees realize the positive impact automation can make on the organization. Rather than jumping to conclusions, employees will feel better equipped to reap the rewards of automation.

Align with an Experienced Partner

Once the benefits of automation are relayed to employees, the next step is to partner with a provider that’s well-versed in delivering automation to the electronics industry. Assembly of electronics requires a special skill set, especially when it comes to small parts such as resistors and capacitors.

Consider tapping your network for recommended automation solutions providers. Start with a few highly respected partners to shorten the search process and ensure the benefits of automation are delivered sooner rather than later.

Past successes rank high among the list of considerations when evaluating potential automation solution providers. Plan to request case studies of the provider’s best work. Gaining a glimpse of the provider’s capabilities can help you visualize the possible impact of a partnership moving forward.

Given the negative effects turnover can have on an electronic manufacturer’s budget, now is the time to take steps toward retaining key contributors. One of the most effective ways to get started is the introduction of automation. By outlining the impact of automation and working with a provider to make it a reality, you can enjoy a number of benefits from automation — including lower turnover.

Corey Ryan is the manager of medical robotics at KUKA, a German manufacturer of industrial robots and solutions for factory automation.

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