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Navigating Labour Shortages Issues in HVAC and Metal Fab

It’s no secret the manufacturing industry is facing a skilled labour shortage. It’s reported that Canada’s economy lost $13 billion in 2021 due to the nationwide skilled labour shortage. Since the pandemic, more than 80% of manufacturers report experiencing a shortage in skilled labour, a significant increase from 39% in 2016.

Labour Shortage in MetalFab and HVAC

Metal fabricators face heightened challenges in attracting and retaining workers due to the specialized nature of metal fabrication work. A lack of properly trained workers with sufficient experience makes it difficult for shop owners to hire enough skilled labour for their business to run efficiently.

In addition, the physically demanding nature of metal fabrication and the general perception of the work being hazardous create more strain for shop owners.

We know that skilled labour is essential for the continued operation of your shop. It’s impossible to fully replace a specially trained employee, but there are steps you can take to help adjust to a labour shortage and continue the optimal function and growth of your business:

  • Automation and robotics
  • Internal training and development
  • Involvement/partnerships in local community groups and colleges

Leveraging Automation and Robotics to Attract and Retain Skilled Workers

Automation in Metal Fabrication and HVAC

In addition to improving your workflow, improving precision and quality of your output, and increasing your return on investment, automation can play a significant role in attracting and retaining employees in a metal fabrication or HVAC shop.

  1. Improved Safety: By automating hazardous or dangerous tasks, employees can avoid dangerous working conditions, reducing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. This, in turn, can make the workplace more attractive to potential employees.
  2. Increased Productivity: Automation can help reduce the time and effort required to complete routine and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on more complex and fulfilling work. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and reduce employee turnover.
  3. Enhanced Skills: Automation often requires specialized training and knowledge, allowing employees to develop new skills and advance their careers. This can create a sense of fulfillment and job security, leading to greater employee retention.
  4. Cost Savings: Automation can help reduce production costs, allowing shops to offer competitive wages and benefits packages. This can help attract and retain skilled workers who are looking for stable, well-paying jobs.

Imagine investing $30,000 to $50,000 in an automated machine to complete a specific job for years to come. It will save you money in the long run, speed up your shop workflow, and free-up your valued employees to complete tasks they’re better suited for.

Robotics in Metal Fab and HVAC

Automation is a common feature that most shop owners are familiar with. Many machines are designed with automated features, and something as simple as a plasma table can be considered an automated machine.

For shop owners already leveraging basic automation and looking for something more advanced, collaborative robots (cobots) represent a new generation of automation technology that is designed to be safer, more flexible, and easier to use than traditional automation systems.

Cobots are no longer a novelty meant for simple applications. Today, cobots are performing semiskilled tasks and don’t require safety fencing. With regards to a skilled labour shortage, cobots offer mainly the same benefits to shop owners that automation can. However, cobots are significantly more advanced and offer a level of adaptability that simple automated machines cannot.

Cobots can be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, making them ideal for metal fabrication and HVAC shops that need to adapt quickly to changing customer demands or market conditions.

Embracing a new generation of technology can help shops remain competitive and meet customer needs, even in the face of a shortage in skilled labor.

Attracting and Retaining Skilled Workers without New Technology

Investing in new technology is a great option for metal fabrication and HVAC shops looking to adjust to a skilled labour shortage and enable their existing employees to improve their skills by working with something like a cobot.

However, investing in a cobot or even an advanced automated machine is not accessible for every shop. If this option isn’t available to you, focusing on attracting and retaining employees is essential to maintaining your workforce and the operation of your shop.

Attract Skilled Workers by Partnering with Local Colleges

Partnering with local colleges can be an effective way to attract skilled workers and recruit recent graduates. By working closely with college programs, shops can build relationships with instructors, students, and alumni, and develop a reputation as a desirable employer.

This can help shops tap into a pool of highly motivated and technically proficient candidates who are eager to apply their skills and knowledge in a real-world setting. Shops can also offer internships, co-op programs, or apprenticeships to provide students with hands-on experience and help them build valuable connections in the industry.

By partnering with local colleges, shops can establish themselves as a respected and supportive part of the community and build a strong pipeline of skilled workers for years to come.

Retain Existing Workers with Training and Development

On-the-job training can allow new hires to gain practical experience and enhance their abilities, while cross-functional rotations can enable current employees to acquire knowledge in different roles. By posting job vacancies internally and offering priority to current staff, companies can demonstrate their commitment to employee growth and development.

Mentoring is another effective way to help workers advance their skills, as pairing them with experienced mentors can provide guidance and support for achieving their career objectives.

More than just a vendor.

No matter the size of your current workforce, if you’re struggling with a shortage of skilled labour we can help evaluate which strategies are best suited for your business.

With over 30 years of experience guiding customers through their purchase decision, we can help you determine what type of automated machine would help keep your shop running and enable your business to grow.

When you pick up the phone post-sale, we’re always on the other end to provide service and support.

Contact us to discuss your machinery needs and learn more about attracting and retaining highly skilled workers for your business.


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