Gear manufacturers experiencing labor shortage


By all accounts, the gear industry is booming! Orders are up, and many companies are running three shifts to meet demand. Unfortunately, this great news is increasingly overshadowed by a looming demographic crisis. Baby boomers (born 1945-1964) comprise 27 percent of today’s manufacturing workforce and are reaching retirement age at the rate of 10,000 per day.

A 2015 Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute study estimates that retirements will result in 2.7 million manufacturing job vacancies by 2025. During that same period, economic expansion will create an additional 700,000 new manufacturing jobs. Two million of these manufacturing positions are expected to remain vacant because young people are not interested in replacing retirees on the factory floor; 82 percent of manufacturers are already reporting that labor shortages make it difficult to fulfill orders and are slowing the implementation of new technology. Even manufacturers who pay employees above the market rate report significant hiring difficulties. Today, it takes an average of 70 days for a manufacturer to fill an operator level vacancy.

This crisis looms large for the gear industry. Gear manufacturing requires specialized, skilled work to produce a precise, high quality product. AGMA members already are seeing a significant shortage of people willing and able to work on their factory floors. An industry-wide survey, conducted by the AGMA Foundation in August 2017, found “Finding Qualified, Hourly Plant Staff” to be the No. 1 concern of gear manufacturers.

The second most reported concern was the closely related, “Aging Workforce, Including Knowledge Transfer Issues.”  Gear manufacturers’ labor pains are real and have the potential to seriously affect the industry’s ability to grow, thrive, and take advantage of new and emerging technology.

The AGMA Foundation, founded by AGMA members in 1994, is addressing this crisis. The Foundation staff and Board spent the last year working with an experienced outside consultant, the AGMA staff and Board, and others to develop a gear industry Employee Recruitment Toolkit. The “Get Into Gears” Toolkit has a variety of materials designed to help companies attract operator-level employees to the industry. The Toolkit appeals to young people with a powerful message:

“Gear manufacturers make all types and sizes of gears to serve the needs of people around the world. Our days are filled with teamwork, problem solving, and satisfaction from a job well done. We offer an exciting and important career with room for personal growth”

How to use the Toolkit

The “Get Into Gears” Toolkit has multiple components that are easy to customize with your company name and logo. Since young people get their information from social media, the Toolkit has graphics for use on your company’s email, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. There are also hard copy materials — a colorful brochure, print ad, post card, and poster templates that are easy to customize. The kit includes a PowerPoint on the industry that is perfect for presentations at schools, plant tours, and job fairs. Companies can add their own slides to the presentation. Finally, the Foundation has a new two-minute video on industry careers that includes factory footage and commentary from industry employees. A Toolkit user manual contains detailed instructions on how to customize the pieces and suggestions on where and how to use them.

The AGMA Foundation “Get Into Gears” Employee Recruitment Toolkit is an easy — and free — download from the Foundation’s website:  To support the Foundation with a tax deductible contribution, please visit

AGMA conducted a trade mission to China for 12 days in October.

AGMA Connects Members to Innovative Companies and Potential Suppliers via China Trade Mission

AGMA conducted a trade mission to China for 12 days in October. Eleven members participated in the trade mission and visited companies in Beijing, Tianjin, Xi’an, Changzhou, Wuxi, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Wenling City. Company tours, business meetings, and dialogue gave delegates new knowledge into the Chinese gear market, potential trading partners, and insight into how Chinese suppliers are operating in today’s business environment.

This is the second time AGMA has conducted a trade mission in China; the most recent tour was in 2004.  The Board determined that going back to China to see how the country has advanced would be valuable for participating companies.  The tours were at the following companies:

  • Tianjin Shinway Transmission, Co. Ltd
  • Fast Gear
  • Jiangsu Changyi Electro-Technique, Co. Ltd
  • Changzhou Gelisen Qianjin Gear, Co., Ltd.
  • The Timken Company
  • NIO
  • Ningbo Xiasha Gear, Co. Ltd
  • Zhejiang Zomax Transmission, Co., Ltd
  • Chinese Gear Manufacturers Association

“AGMA is a global association with 28 percent of its members being from outside of North America,” said AGMA Chairman and Doppler Gear President Jim Bregi. “The power of an association is to give its members opportunities to make connections and gather information about the technical state of the industry, regardless of where on the planet gears are being made. The China trade mission was highly successful in this regard.”

For any questions about how to get involved with AGMA’s global efforts, please contact Jill Johnson at

Exhibit at the Motion + Power Technology Expo!

Not only will you find solutions to your mechanical power needs but your electric and fluid power needs, as well. This three-day event is for all manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, and experts in the motion and power transmission industry.

Reserve your booth for the event that consistently shows significant returns and will be a critical component of your sales and marketing strategy.

Milad Azvar was an AGMA Foundation award scholarship recipient.

Foundation Awards 10 Scholarships

The AGMA Foundation awarded scholarships to 10 students for the 2018 scholarship awards in September. Each fall, the Foundation awards $5,000 scholarships at the undergraduate/graduate levels, and $2,500 scholarships at the associate/technical school levels. Applicants with work experience in the gear industry receive preference for scholarship awards.

The 2018 AGMA Foundation Scholarship Recipients are:


  • Kenneth Daniel-Hamberg, University of Cincinnati
  • Caleb Gurd, Western Michigan University
  • Aaron Ustes, University of Michigan, Dearborn
  • Michael Ustes, University of Michigan, Dearborn


  • Milad Azvar, University of Waterloo
  • Pierce McCloskey, University of Waterloo
  • Yue Peng, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Troy Robertson, Western Kentucky University
  • Bahadir Sarikaya, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Matthew Waller, The Pennsylvania State University

Upcoming Classes

The 2019 courses are all up for registration. Make sure to register today to reserve your spot! Make 2019 the year that you join one of the many students who have completed their Advanced Gear Engineering Certificate.

Gear Manufacturing & Inspection

January 29-31 | Fort Worth, Texas

Discover key factors in the inspection process that lead to better design of gears. Develop a broad understanding of the methods used to manufacture and inspect gears. Interpret how the resultant information can be applied and interpreted in the design process. This course also includes a tour of Integrated Machinery Solutions.

Gearbox CSI

February 20-22 | Alexandria, Virginia

Gain a better understanding of various types of gears and bearings. Learn about the limitation and capabilities of rolling element bearings and the gears they support. Grasp an understanding of how to properly apply the best gear-bearing combination to any gearbox from simple to complex.

Gear Materials, Selection, Metallurgy

March 19-21 | Las Vegas, Nevada

Learn what is required for the design of an optimum gear set and the importance of the coordinated effort of the gear design engineer, the gear metallurgist, and the bearing system engineer. Investigate gear-related problems, failures, and improved processing procedures.