Workforce issues are hurting all industries


Manufacturing, you are not alone. The question we ask to our members frequently is: What is keeping you up at night? One of the most repeated answers, year after year, is that we don’t have enough employees to get the job done – we need a larger workforce. “The manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030,” according to a new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “The cost of those missing jobs could potentially total $1 trillion in 2030 alone.”

This alarming statistic is not going unfelt. Gear manufacturers are noticing the room available in front of their machines not currently operating because there is no one there to do it. Job lead times are growing by the second from this enormous skills gap and resulting in loss of business. But, after a recent conference that I attended regarding resiliency in the military hosted by the Naval Institute, I can tell you everyone is feeling this pain, including the U.S. Armed Forces. That doesn’t necessarily make readers feel better, but it does demonstrate that perhaps it is something out of our complete control.

At the conference, 64 individuals from all backgrounds gathered to discuss how to make the sea services in the military more resilient — and the No. 1 answer was to find more talent and build up the current members they do have for retention. Does this sound familiar? The upcoming generation slotted to fill the outgoing leaders are looking for different things: work-life balance, work-from-home opportunities, better pay, a path for easier advancement, and they want to be heard by their leadership. If you thought manufacturing struggled with some of these, try being a centuries-old establishment that literally thrives on tradition and not change.

The good news is people in the room saw potential for innovation and encouraged each other to try new things. I, of course, coming from the manufacturing association sector (I was the only one), was able to share stories of how our members tried new programs and hiring practices to entice people to try working in the gear world. Some of this translated into results that might actually help the leaders there — better marketing, a 360-degree feedback loop, advancement paths that might be unconventional, and making sure those at the top understand what is actually happening on the front lines.

If you are looking to fill some positions, here are some of the key takeaways:

Recruit employees where they are easily found. This sounds obvious, but people don’t seem to be going the extra step to find future employees outside of putting an advertisement in a newspaper or online. It helps to physically go to trade schools and talk to students, send someone from your company to a classroom, and give a real presentation about manufacturing, go to job fairs, and start meeting people face to face.

People want to work somewhere that acknowledges work-life balance. At this conference, a big issue brought up was the military doesn’t accommodate spouses and children easily but asks a lot of them. In manufacturing, this can be true, too. The hours can be challenging; the work is hard, and, sometimes, machine operators and engineers have deadlines that keep them from getting home on time. Try involving the spouse or family in the hiring process. Have them take a tour of the facility, too. Encourage family days, where the company sponsors lunch and activities for employees and their support system. When the family is taken care of, the employee tends to be able to focus on work more.

Show future employees the track they can take to grow within the company. As a millennial myself, I can attest that this is one of the most important things a job can do for me. If people can see themselves in five years at your company, then they can see themselves in 20. Show them a career, not a job. This also means you need to create a culture where the growth opportunity is there. Ask them what they want to do and show how that translates into your business.

Give future employees and current ones the BIG picture. If you tell someone they make a part using a machine, it might sound interesting for about three seconds. Now, if you explain that your company plays a big role in the global economy to help create parts that go into emerging technologies such as robotics, life-saving medical tools, machinery sent into space, and literally is the only reason people don’t have to walk everywhere, you might get their attention for longer. Additionally, giving them the big picture will give them a sense of pride in what they do. Upcoming generations like to know they make a difference, and every member we have at AGMA does, so try to share that with your staff.

Manufacturing and the military might be two very different things, but both are extremely important to the infrastructure of not only the U.S., but to the world and the innovation of technology and the economy. It is obvious the workforce and skills gap challenges are far reaching and maybe there is not just one right answer, but instead a chance to learn from one another on how to keep both sectors successful in development.

As a gear manufacturer or supplier, if you are ever looking for more tools and resources to help your business, contact Membership Director Rebecca Brinkley at to find out how AGMA can help you.

Upcoming Education

Basic Training for Gear Manufacturing – Spring
April 4-8 | Chicago, Ilinois

Learn the fundamentals of gear manufacturing in this hands-on course. Gain an understanding of gearing and nomenclature, principles of inspection, gear-manufacturing methods, and hobbing and shaping. Using manual machines, develop a deeper breadth of perspective and understanding of the process and physics of making a gear as well as the ability to apply this knowledge in working with CNC equipment commonly in use.

Fundamentals of Gear Design and Analysis
April 19-21 | Clearwater Beach, Florida

Gain a solid and fundamental understanding of gear geometry, types and arrangements, and design principles. Starting with the basic definitions of gears, conjugate motion, and the Laws of Gearing, learn the tools needed to understand the inter-relation and coordinated motion operating within gear pairs and multi-gear trains. Basic gear system design process and gear measurement and inspection techniques also will be explained. In addition, the fundamentals of understanding the step-wise process of working through the iterative design process required to generate a gear pair will be reviewed. Learn the steps and issues involved in design refinement and some manufacturing considerations. An explanation of basic gear measurement techniques, how measurement equipment and test machines implement these techniques, and how to interpret the results from these basic measurements also will be covered.

How to Navigate Recent Tariff and Trade Law Changes to Protect Your Supply Chain, Lower Costs, and Grow Export Markets
April 20

While still young, this year has already seen the launch of important new U.S. trade and tariff initiatives that will have a significant impact on U.S.-based bearing and gear manufacturers and consumers.  In this webinar, our panel of trade experts will explain these developments, how they will affect your business, and how you can be prepared to take advantage. Topics covered will include:

  • How new agreements with the European Union (and possibly Japan and the U.K.) will shape steel and aluminum markets in 2022.
  • The status of U.S. and EU proposals for “carbon border measures” that may raise costs or open new market opportunities.
  • New tariffs on imports from China.
  • Prospects for obtaining tariff exemptions and reductions for key imports.

Design Basics for Spur and Helical Gears
May 12

There is a distinct difference between “designing” a gear and “optimizing” a gear design. In this course, we will address the optimization process via an understanding of those factors beyond basic bending and pitting ratings. Optimization may focus on load capacity, economy of production, or minimization of overall gear system envelope. In this course, we will learn how to improve gear designs via optimization and gain new insight into concepts presented through illustrations and demonstrations. Explore all factors that go into good gear design from life cycle, load, torque, tooth, optimization, and evaluating consequences.

Networking opportunities: Get excited for SRN

2022 AGMA Strategic Resources Network (SRN)
June 1-3 | Nashville, Tennessee

The AGMA Strategic Resources Network (SRN) is a group that brings together AGMA members who are at all stages in their gear-industry careers. The goal of the SRN is to provide a dynamic, educational, and collaborative forum to help participants grow, both within the industry and the association. The 2022 SRN meeting is the perfect place for members to gain knowledge on leadership, best business practices, AGMA resources, technology, and professional development. Come for the expert knowledge but stay for the endless networking and connections, all in the exciting city of Nashville, Tennessee.

Preparing for FTM

2022 FTM Call for Peer Reviewers
Peer reviews open: June 13 | Peer reviews close: July 15

All technical papers presented at AGMA’s Fall Technical Meeting undergo a thorough review process to ensure their quality and relevance to the AGMA audience. This process is coordinated by AGMA staff and the members of the Technical Division Executive Committee (TDEC), who solicit the assistance of three people to review every paper. Peer reviews for AGMA’s FTM papers are between mid-June and mid-July 2022. The 2022 Fall Technical Meeting will be October 17-19 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois.

Calendar of Events

April 14 — Gear Accuracy Committee Meeting — WebEx

April 19-21 — Fundamentals of Gear Design and Analysis — Clearwater Beach, Florida

May 12 — Design Basics for Spur and Helical Gears — WebEx

May 12 — Gear Nomenclature Meeting — WebEx

May 17-19 — Gear Manufacturing and Inspection — St. Augustine, Florida

May 24 — Metallurgy and Materials Committee Meeting — WebEx

May 26 — Bevel Gearing Committee Meeting — WebEx

June 1-3 — Strategic Resources Network (SRN) — Sheraton Grand Nashville, Nashville, Tennessee

June 2 — Gear Accuracy Technical Committee — WebEx

June 8 — Aerospace Committee — WebEx

June 21-23 — Gear Failure Analysis — St. Louis, Missouri

June 30 — Materials and Metallurgy — WebEx