By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager
While many industries were able to successfully pivot to online operations during the pandemic, going completely virtual wasn’t an option for the manufacturing industry.“Manufacturers need to be at their machines, they need to be in the plant,” said Jason Tuma, CPA, partner at Sikich LLP in Akron. “And it was a really tough hurdle for them to think how we keep our people safe, but also get the goods manufactured and out the door.”
Tuma joined The State of Business podcast this week to discuss how the industry has handled the pandemic and share results from the latest “Sikich Industry Pulse: Manufacturing and Distribution” survey. He said some adjustments he saw clients making over the past year a half included staggering shifts, requiring masks, moving machinery around to increase the distance between staff and putting up Plexiglass barriers.
The quarter two results of the survey showed that most manufacturers have an optimistic outlook on the industry. But Tuma said that much like other industries now, finding talent is a significant pain point.
And while finding people has always been a top issue for manufacturers, Tuma said previously it was more about finding skilled laborers to work complex equipment. Now there are struggles to find unskilled labor. Companies are getting creative with their benefits packages or sign-on bonuses to entice more people.
“I was talking to a manufacturer here in Northeast Ohio that they’re starting to work a lot more closely with high schools,” Tuma said. “They’re identifying those kids that maybe aren't interested in going to college and bringing them in to a part-time setting to let them see what a career in manufacturing would be like.”
While some employers have required employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many are remaining quiet on the topic, Tuma said, because it has become so political.
“I think employers are hesitant to require it,” he said. “Just because they are hesitant to alienate a portion of their workforce or to offend them.”
One of the most helpful things CPAs can do for their manufacturing clients right now is to keep the lines of communication open as they continue to navigate pandemic restrictions and hurdles.
“These are tough times for manufacturers, and really, for everyone,” he said. “So, we've just been stressing to make sure you're staying in front of your clients and checking in and seeing what they're struggling with. Seeing if there's anything you can either help directly with or point them in the right direction on.”
You can view the Sikich Industry Pulse: Manufacturing & Distribution results here. And for more insights on the challenges and opportunities this sector is facing, tune in September 22 from 11 a.m. Noon for our Manufacturing Executives Roundtable.