Staff shortages and automation
Staff shortage and automation in cut-to-size manufacturing
Cut-to-size manufacturers face a range of challenges in the post-COVID environment. The effect of staff shortages is being felt industry-wide and there is no quick-fix resolution. One solution is for cut-to-size manufacturers to onboard online quoting and ordering systems to relieve some pressure.
Staff shortages are being experienced in many sectors in the Australian economy and experienced tradespeople are becoming busier than ever. The Housing Industry Association (HIA) believes the skills shortage is likely to last for at least another two years. Not only are there many government-funded infrastructure projects running but tradies are also trying to deal with the backlog of work due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
This staff shortage has been caused primarily by the pause in international immigration. Now Australian states compete amongst themselves for the limited talent available. A catch 22 situation will soon be arising when skilled immigrants arrive and also need housing, which is already in high demand.
When talking to our top manufacturers, 5 out of 6 believe that the biggest challenge that the industry faces is a lack of skilled staff. “It’s just a lot of overtime for everybody” says Mick Hussin from Online Flatpacks, “and then you know, somebody gets covid and they’re off for a week. Staff for us is the biggest problem.” This results in businesses having to pay more overtime and thus reduce profits. Another likely outcome of this skills shortage is wage inflation which could cripple businesses already facing a myriad of challenges.
CNC Manufacturing with an automated ordering system
What can you as a CNC manufacturer do? Adopting an online ordering system is, as Retief Joubert from Provence Brothers puts it, “a no-brainer.” When asked how much time and effort the Cabinetry.Online online ordering system saves him, Ben Harding from Trade Cut2Size explains, “It’s hard to quantify. I would guesstimate that the programme basically acts like one or one and a half very qualified employees.”
This system increases productivity because cut-to-size manufacturers don’t need to engage in the tedious and time-consuming process of creating quotes. The quotes are created automatically. Customers can make as many adjustments they require and get the information they need instantly. And importantly, the manufacturer is in complete control of the pricing.
“The speed at which you can draw up a project and then quote it, is really good,” says Kevin Jacobs from Tassie Cabinets on the Cabinetry.Online ordering system. “So that’s what’s really helped me I think in my growth. I’ve often drawn up and quoted a house-lot of cabinetry in four hours.”
Along with streamlining the quoting and ordering process, an online ordering system provides a central hub for all orders. You’ll have a real-time overview of how many orders are in the pipeline, which have been dispatched and how many have been delivered already. This helps better manage production planning.
Another cost-saving feature is highlighted by Mick Hussin from Online Flatpacks, “We just love the ease of it. The fact that you know, we get 50% upfront 50% before we deliver. No one is chasing money.”
Industry at a turning point
It would seem that the cabinetry industry is at a turning point. The industry has seen this before in the 1930’s when a new product called Laminex revolutionised cabinet making. And then again in the 1980’s when CNC machines became widely used and, on average, replaced eight skilled workers.
Now in 2022, we are facing another turning point. Online quoting and ordering systems are revolutionising the industry. As Ben Fatchen from Cabinet Systems puts it, “The business is no longer bogged down or held back by what used to be the tedious and time-consuming process of creating quotes manually.” Kevin Jacobs sums it up, “It’s like hiring another person, but you’re not paying their wages.”
Many CNC manufacturers are seeing changes already. “We’ve got quite a few cabinet makers that shut their shops over the last 12 months, now they’re just buying everything from us and they find it so much easier,” explains Mick Hussin.”So we assemble for them and we deliver it straight to their sites. All they’ve got to do is turn up and install it.”
Taking the next step
When asked what he foresees in the future, Steve Fitzgerald from Flatpax Cut to Size says, “I think more flat pack suppliers will come into play. We’re also selling a lot to domestics (general public) and they are doing it (installing) themselves. You know, we rarely get any phone calls from them, so the system does work even with people who don’t have loads of experience.”