How the NFL's Secret Weapon Can Help Manufacturers Win the War for Talent

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Nov 2, 2023
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6 Min
Manufacturers are facing a talent crisis, but the NFL's use of video replay provides a model for how to develop and retain top talent.

The NFL Model: Transforming Manufacturing with Training and Technology

The manufacturing industry is facing a talent crisis. With an aging workforce, rising skills gaps, and fierce competition from other industries, manufacturers are struggling to find and retain the workers they need to succeed.

But there's one industry that's been cracking the code on developing and retaining top talent: the NFL.

The NFL is one of the most competitive leagues in the world, and its players are some of the most skilled athletes on the planet. But even the best players need feedback and training to improve their performance.

That's where video replay comes in. NFL coaches and players use video replay to analyze their performance, identify areas for improvement, and develop training programs to help them achieve their full potential.

Manufacturers can adopt a similar approach to video replay to protect, develop, and retain their workforce. By leveraging video technology to provide real-time feedback and insights, manufacturers can help workers identify their strengths and weaknesses, learn new skills, and ensure adherence to standardized processes.

Addressing Labor Engagement and Turnover

Shockingly, only a mere 25% of manufacturing workers report being engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup, and turnover rates in manufacturing facilities often range from 30-40%, with even higher rates for new employees.

The skills gap in manufacturing is growing, and manufacturers are competing with other industries for skilled workers. Construction, distribution, and transportation industries face similar hiring challenges and compete for the same labor pool. In this perpetual state of understaffing, employers need to get creative to retain their talent and help operators get more done with less.

The Persistence of Outdated Workforce Models

Many manufacturers have invested in programs to generate data and insights that can improve operations, but they often struggle to put this information into practice. This may be attributed to the persistence of outdated workforce models, particularly the enduring influence of Taylorism Theory from the 19th century. This theory prescribes that workers should be assigned narrow, manageable tasks, closely controlled, and perform them exactly as instructed.

While groundbreaking in its time, this approach is poorly suited to the realities of modern manufacturing, marked by diverse products, advanced technology, and heightened quality expectations.

Increased product variability, chronic understaffing, and the introduction of robots and cobots require operators to learn new skills and adapt quickly. New approaches to training and upskilling must be pursued to meet these challenges.

The NFL Model: A Case Study in the Transformative Power of Video

The NFL started on September 17, 1920, in Canton, Ohio. The game had to be simple because the players/workers had second jobs and didn't have time to prepare.

Today's NFL teams have hundreds of plays and variations. Players study those plays all year and get paid millions of dollars to execute them. With all that preparation and training, teams lose because players fail to accomplish their job. As fans, we think it was a fumble or a single play that caused the loss, but coaches watch the same game and see hundreds of little mistakes that contributed to the loss.

Most manufacturing workers get a week of training and are thrown into the game. Is it any wonder that there are labor challenges and high turnover?

In 1986, the first use of instant replay was in a game between the Browns and the Bears in week one. It was very controversial among players, fans, and coaches. Today, video has dramatically changed the game and fan experience. When players make a mistake, the first thing they do is look up at the video display. There are tablets available to all players on the sidelines to watch videos of every play to find weaknesses in opponents and fine-tune their skills. AI is widely used to predict success percentages of plays and catches.

The game has changed, the the parity can be seen on any given Sunday during football season. Once skeptical, players, coaches, and fans now embrace the technology, which is an integral part of the experience.

In this context, utilizing video replay to create "industrial athletes" emerges as a promising new approach for manufacturers. Much like how NFL players rely on video analysis to fine-tune their performance, manufacturing workers could benefit from a similar toolset. By leveraging AI-driven insights and video technology, manufacturers can streamline root-cause analysis, enhance operators' skills, and ultimately improve safety, quality, and throughput in their facilities.

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