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The latest Indiana Manufacturing Survey finds companies in the state are reporting a serious shortage of skilled and unskilled laborers as they implement advances in manufacturing.

As reported by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, the “Labor Shortages Hit Home” report was commissioned by Katz, Sapper & Miller and authored by faculty from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. 

Respondents to the annual survey indicated they expect their product markets to grow rapidly in the near future, the report said. But many businesses find it difficult to attract younger generations of skilled and unskilled workers who are able to replace the wave of retiring baby boomers.

Companies indicate that they are substituting capital investments in technology for labor to partially satisfy the demand for skilled workers and to remain competitive. Even with that investment, 48% of employers say the number of jobs continues to increase at their organizations, and nearly two-thirds expect the number of skilled jobs to increase as a result of implementing new technologies and automation. The advances are sometimes referred to as “smart manufacturing” or “Industry 4.0.”

Respondents say current shortage areas include skilled production (machinists, craft workers, operators, etc.), unskilled production and supporting roles (engineers and planners).

“The general sentiment for a solution may surprise some,” said Mark Frohlich, associate professor of operations management at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. “Manufacturers overwhelmingly feel that employers should be responsible for their own workforce development.”

The survey that led to the report was offered online through the Indiana Manufacturers Association and Katz, Sapper & Miller, Frohlich said. It opened in mid-June, with links sent multiple times, and closed in mid August; 157 responded.

Frohlich said typically closer to 200 respond to the survey, but may have had other concerns and surveys consuming time recently due to international trade and tariff issues.