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Addressing Packaging Industry Skills Shortages

Posted by Carla Colwell
30th November, 2022

Skills shortages have become a widespread challenge for the packaging industry over the past few years. Now, manufacturers are being forced to think outside the box and away from the traditional production line.

This is driving many US companies to look to automation and technology for answers. Let’s take a look at how some of the challenges of skills shortages can be addressed with automation.


The challenge of a skills shortage on the production line

Operating with a skills shortage, particularly when industry demand has never been so high, puts manufacturers in a difficult position. Add seasonal demand to the mix, and business goals and targets are in potential trouble.

Another big challenge to businesses has been the difficulty in retaining workers, leading to higher turnover of staff. When this happens, training gaps begin to appear and production can be affected as a result.

At a time when consistent output needs to be accelerated in order for businesses to fully realise the benefits of the opportunities, a skills shortage is the last thing they need.


What have companies done to attract workers?

The search for skilled workers is proving difficult for many US companies, despite going to lengths to attract and retain new staff. According to research earlier this year at the PACK EXPO International conference, the industry is ‘averaging more than 800,000 open jobs a month’. Other interesting responses highlighted:

  • 93% of the respondents at the conference had unfilled vacancies
  • Almost all (around 90%) increased incentives – for both recruitment and staff retention
  • Wages climbed by an average of 5.5% since last year ($24.78 per hour avg.)
  • Labor participation rate is below pre-pandemic levels (at 62%)
  • Better insurance and other benefits introduced
  • Flexible working hours introduced
  • A huge skills gap in operating complex machinery
  • Gap in digital technology skills

It isn’t just the vacancies for specifically skilled workers that are lying open. There is a general shortage of availability of sufficient workers to cover the bases in terms of production scheduling and rising demand.


How automation is easing the pressure

Some manufacturers have turned to technology for answers. During the conference research, many felt that some of the biggest challenges they face with recruitment, staff retention and training gaps could be addressed with automation.

Some of the main benefits:

  • Automating key processes on the packaging line can immediately reduce the pressure and reliance on manual resources  
  • Automating repetitive processes can reduce training and enable a lower skilled operator.
  • Simplify safety and compliance by reducing human intervention
  • Resource cost and demand for employees can be reduced
  • Streamline operations and increase efficiency overall
  • Accelerate distribution and output
  • Improve quality control and visibility

When it comes to automating production and the packaging line, the current industry skills shortages dictate that it needs a straightforward approach. This means that it is important to introduce the right machines that require minimal training and are easy to operate and maintain.


Can we help?

Jacob White packaging machines are developed to take the pressure off packaging lines of all sizes, whether customers are going for full or part-automation. We work closely with our clients so that they can be sure that the decisions they make are shaping the future of their operations.

Talk to us about the challenges you’re having with recruitment during the latest industry skills shortages and let us help future-proof your production.

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