The Top Challenges Manufacturing Managers Face and How to Overcome Them

What are some of the hallmarks of a successful manufacturing organization? Smooth processes, safe working conditions, high profit margins, and satisfied employees.

Yet manufacturing leaders face a number of challenges that work against achieving those goals, especially in today’s demanding market where customer expectations, supply chain disruptions, outdated technology, and labor shortages can stifle growth and progress.

We recently surveyed 400 C-level executives, owners or partners, and senior or middle managers from a variety of companies about the current state of manufacturing today. What follows are the daily challenges that are putting obstacles in the path of the good work they and their employees do — and ways to overcome those obstacles.

#1. Hitting production targets

The biggest challenge that manufacturing leaders say they face on a daily basis is hitting their production targets. This means generating enough product to meet demand, and not hitting that production target means losing sales and customers, and potentially disrupting the supply chain further downstream.

But the bigger question manufacturing leaders have to ask is why aren’t those targets being met? Is there often unexpected downtime on the production line? Are older machines breaking down? Are labor shortages creating gaps in manual processes? Is your data old, inaccurate, or missing, causing you to be unable to accurately plan your production cycles? Being unable to hit daily production targets signals that there’s a weak link somewhere that’s causing that failure.

Addressing the challenge

Once you find the problem area you can take steps to fix it, but you need to find the issue first. This will be dependent on the systems you keep and the data you track. If you’re gathering data from across your production process and analyzing it for inefficiencies, you’ll be better able to see the failure points quickly. Factories that leverage data and technology to improve processes and tracking see upwards of 50% reduction in downtime and 30% increase in throughput — which will help you more easily achieve your production targets.

#2. Managing diverse teams

The second greatest challenge that manufacturing leaders face on a daily basis is managing their teams. Those teams can be diverse and dynamic, from data analysts to factory floor workers, and they can work in a variety of environments as well. How can manufacturing leaders make sure that their people are motivated, engaged, and empowered to do their best work?

Addressing the challenge

Managing and motivating teams requires great leadership skills, but also requires creating great work environments for employees as well. Our research finds that frontline manufacturing workers say their management creates a great work environment by offering more paid time off and flexible schedules. 

#3. Ensuring safety and compliance

Another big challenge is ensuring safety and compliance throughout the organization. Safety, of course, is a top priority in manufacturing, as injury and even death is a possibility if issues are left unaddressed or safety procedures aren’t followed. Safety non-compliance can not only result in injury but lawsuit and financial impacts, especially considering that one OSHA violation can cost upwards of $15,625.

Addressing the challenge

Creating a safer and more compliant workplace requires a commitment to safety awareness, training, and tracking. First, make sure required safety procedures and practices are in place according to laws and regulations, and conduct audits and checks to make sure those practices are being upheld. However, safety practices can’t be followed unless every worker knows what they are. Implement safety training if it’s not already in place, offer updates and refresher courses as needed, and track that training through your system to ensure compliance. 

Overcoming Challenges to See Future Growth

Smooth processes, safe working conditions, and satisfied employees are some of the hallmarks of a well-led manufacturing organization. When faced with challenges that may stop your forward progress, look to the ways in which technology, digitization, and innovation can help you overcome those hurdles and prepare for the future of manufacturing.

About the author:

Kerrie Jordan, Vice President, Product Management, Data Platform, Epicor

Kerrie Jordan, Vice President, Product Management, Data Platform, Epicor.

Kerrie Jordan is Vice President, Product Management, Data Platform, at Epicor Software. In her role, Kerrie leads the strategic direction of Epicor’s cloud-enabled solutions to ensure they continue to deliver high-value innovation, security, and performance for Epicor customers. Based in Richmond, Virginia, she brings over a decade of experience in ERP, supply chain, eCommerce, cloud computing, and product development business solutions.