Combatting the Labor Shortage in the Food & Beverage Industry

The labor shortage in the food and beverage industry has been a growing issue for over a decade, and the events of the past few years have only intensified the problem. Many of you are struggling to attract and retain the workforce you need to meet market demand and although the unemployment rate has dropped since the height of the pandemic, manufacturers we spoke with at our user conference last month are still struggling to fulfill open jobs.

The root of the problem seems to be a poor perception of manufacturing jobs among young workers, who see these jobs as boring and unfulfilling. This view contradicts the reality of modern manufacturing, which is embracing more current high-tech innovations and solutions and offers good salaries and opportunities for career advancement.

An article recently published in Food Industry Executive talked about several short-, medium-, and long-term solutions you can take to address this perception problem and attract the talent you need.

Potential Solutions to the Labor Problem

In the short term, companies can revise their job descriptions to highlight the company culture and career opportunities available. This might help make your job listings more appealing to potential candidates. Companies can also invest in training and development programs to help workers learn new skills and advance their careers. Offering flexible work arrangements can also help to attract and retain workers.

A medium-term suggestion is for companies to focus on building relationships with schools and community organizations to promote manufacturing careers and raise awareness of the opportunities available. Companies can also invest in marketing and advertising to promote your brand and the benefits of working in the industry. Social platforms like TikTok for example are a great place to do that.

A long-term suggestion that was provided is for companies to focus on building a positive company culture and work environment that will attract and retain workers. This can include offering competitive salaries and benefits, promoting a positive work-life balance, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity.

Technology Plays a Role

These are all great potential solutions to the labor problem, but what we’re also seeing from manufacturers is them embracing digital transformation technologies as way to help mitigate the impact. This includes everything from introducing robotics on production lines to employing ERP solutions that can consolidate what had previously been manual processes to using machine utilization monitoring that help them get the most out of their existing machines.

Our own Amanda Haley, Lead Product Consultant for Deacom, contributed to the article with a Q&A on how technology can assist companies in dealing with the labor shortage. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s your assessment of the industry’s current digital maturity? How do you see that changing in the next 3-5 years?

According to Fictiv’s 2022 State of Manufacturing Report, over 90% of industry leaders are using or implementing digital manufacturing technology. Per our most recent State of Manufacturing Digital Transformation report, 70% of manufacturers use an ERP solution to drive their day-to-day operations. This number will likely increase as the industry sees growing success.

Given the current economic climate, some manufacturers are hesitant to move forward with a digital transformation project, but refraining from supporting technological progression will only result in a company falling further behind. As the market evolves and confronts challenges, manufacturers must use the available technologies to become agile and adaptable. Engaging with emerging and evolving technology means manufacturers will not miss out on business opportunities due to an outdated tech stack. Now is the time to invest in technology to turn risks into advantages and capture growth in this market, as well as that of the future.

What role can software play in helping F&B companies minimize the impact of the labor shortage?

Manufacturers are increasingly using enterprise resource planning (ERP) to manage and maintain business operations. ERP solutions allow companies to do more with less and can help deliver competitive value in times of high disruption.

ERP solutions allow companies to maneuver complex operations regarding supply chains and inventory, helping them to track and automate routine tasks.  An integral component of this process is machine utilization monitoring, a trending technology that manufacturers are embracing. Leveraging this type of functionality ensures manufacturers are getting maximum productivity from their existing machines and employees.

The flexibility and agility of these systems also provides the ability to manage all aspects of the business with less overhead. And, in the event of a team member, or several, leaving, the ERP acts as a single source of truth and enables seamless transition of workflows. An ERP streamlines time-intensive tasks, such as inventory management, and improves visibility at every stage of the manufacturing process. When it is extremely difficult to find and retain skilled workers, ensuring they are being used for rewarding initiatives rather than tedious tasks improves the likelihood of their longevity with your organization.

What are the main things companies need to consider to succeed in their digital transformation?

It is important for companies to be able to self-reflect and answer questions that go straight to the core of their business. Understanding pain points, growth priorities, strengths, and weaknesses all allow for meaningful changes to be made. Without this understanding, technology may be leveraged in a way that does not accurately meet needs, or expectations.

Additionally, it is important that software does not come in a “one size fits all model,” as it will not cater to the essential specificities in manufacturing that make technological solutions most valuable. Centralized data access helps to avoid siloed information that prevents the business from operating cohesively. For example, ERP works to seamlessly align product supply with demand and help increase efficiency along every step of manufacturing.

By taking a holistic approach that combines initiatives to help attract and retain talent, as well as investing in technology, manufacturers might just be agile and adaptable enough to better manage their operations during this continued labor shortage.

About the author

Global Digital Marketing Director at

Domenick Naccarato has been a featured writer on the Deacom blog for the past 8 years sharing his insight into manufacturing best practice techniques, conversations with customers, and videos of Deacom ERP experts and users.