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Maintenance Technician Shortage: How Can Technology Help?

The transportation industry has been dealing with a shortage of maintenance technicians for a while now with several socio-economic, generational, and societal factors contributing. The 2021 Transportation Technician Supply and Demand Report by TechForce Foundation reveals the startling numbers behind this deepening crisis . The report suggests demand for 258,000 new entrant technicians in the automotive industry in the year 2021, while only 48,000 new entrants graduated in 2020. Additionally, there is a high demand for these same technicians in other industries. To make matters more troubling, a large number of graduate students from both accredited and non-accredited programs are moving to other industries. A recent Automotive Career Survey conducted by ASE Foundation revealed that 42% of graduates had left the automotive industry, taking jobs in hospitality, retail, and technical trades.

The above numbers suggest highly skewed demand versus supply of skills in the transportation industry. The industry thus needs to take a three pronged approach to tackle this problem:

  • attract new talent
  • retain existing talent
  • maximize the efficiency of their talent pool.

Technology can play a huge role in all three areas.

Attract New Talent

The maintenance industry is witnessing a natural attrition problem – while this is not unique to this industry (statistically speaking, the entire baby boom generation will retire by 2031), it certainly compounds the shortage issue. Therefore companies need to attract new talent from the Gen Z and the millennial generation – who are inherently tech-savvy and committed to technology use. They are used to having tech in every phase of their life, from waking up to mobile phone notifications to communicating with family with texts and even ordering and tracking their orders online. They are also highly environment conscious. Industries that are slow in tech adoption use lots of paper and they face an even greater challenge in attracting talent. Conversely, worries of “my team will never like these technologies” are not valid much more – mobile devices and applications are an integral part of everyone’s life today and, in fact, an expectation. iMarq, from Connixt, is a pre-built, cloud mobile suite that integrates seamlessly with backend systems to digitize work at the front end, to provide a digital-first experience.

Retain Talent

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As discussed earlier, many graduates working in the automotive industry left to seek jobs in other sectors. So, what can be done by employers to engage and encourage their employees to remain in the industry?

One way to retain talented employees is to invest in technology and training. Employees should regularly receive training so that they stay updated with technological advancements. Additionally, maintenance, reliability, and automotive certifications are available that help employees remain productive and competitive. Providing such certificates attracts talent to your business, providing an edge against competitors.

Further, employers should utilize modern technology to train their employees. Digital technologies can capture knowledge stored in the minds of experienced employees (so-called Institutional Intellectual Property (IP)), which should be made available to new hires. iMarq, for example, can provide direct reference material (videos, pdfs, photos, and other links) for each line of a work order or task list that can be further enhanced as more knowledge is captured electronically.  And allowing employees to enter explanatory comments through speech-to-text makes it easy to capture on-the-ground observations and opinions, which can be mined later for both better decision making and for training purposes.

Maximizing Efficiency

Finally, are you maximizing the value of the time of your crew in every shift? With all the upfront effort in attracting and retaining talent, it would be inexcusable to have them spend their time on activities that are not best use of their time.

Some activities that do not add value are the usual suspects that most shift managers, crew supervisors and mechanics already know: waiting on parts, walking back and forth between their work area and kiosks, waiting on assignments at the beginning of each shift, waiting on paper to print, writing on sheets of paper, reading someone else’s writing, data entry and correcting data.

And reporting – whether quarterly, monthly or the scramble to compile reports for audits and for mandatory filings.

Technology can help here readily. Adoption of mobile technologies in workshops and operations reduces paper use, automates data entry, enriches data with information from multiple sources, video content, and images, and addresses challenges like illegible handwriting with its speech-to-text capabilities. With digitization, managers no longer have to wait for parts, worry about parts mismatch, etc. These technologies automate reporting and exception management, allowing the manager to know in advance if a problem occurs. Such capabilities help save labor hours and time, thus, improving efficiency.

Does all this work? iMarq helped LA Metro achieve 20% labor efficiency gains and save 400 hours a day.

If you are struggling to hire/retain top talent, contact us today to start your digitization journey!

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