Survey Finds Most Manufacturing Workers Embrace Tech-Driven Future

The second annual “Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker” survey by Epicor sheds light on workplace trends in a rapidly changing industry.

More than half of U.S. manufacturing workers say they would take a pay cut to go work for a more technology-driven factory, while slightly more than four in 10 (43%) plan to leave their job in the next year in pursuit of more paid time off, flexible work schedules, and employers who listen to staff. Results also show declining morale and a reduced commitment by employers to upskilling programs and technology investments.

That’s according to the findings of the 2024 “Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker” study, released by global industry-specific enterprise software leader Epicor. Based on a survey of 600 U.S. factory or plant workers, Epicor aims to increase understanding of frontline workers’ morale, challenges and opportunities as the industry wrestles with a profound transformation and a potential workforce shortage of more than two million unfilled jobs by 2030.

Compared to last year’s results, Epicor found that fewer respondents (52% to 64%) believe their job will be replaced by automation. At the same time, 83% who had the opportunity to use new tools or technologies said they worked more efficiently as a result — indicating that many workers may feel more comfortable with newer technologies given greater on-the-job exposure.

The survey results help illuminate manufacturing workers’ priorities and mindsets as companies grapple with how to attract and retain talent in a future where highly-skilled workers and advanced technologies will co-exist. Other key findings include:

  • Commitment to Upskilling Slips: While 70% of companies are actively pursuing training initiatives and making upskilling a priority, that’s a 10-point slip from last year’s findings.
  • Workplace Morale Declines: Only 45% of workers cite high morale, a decrease from 52% last year.
  • Technology Investments Stagnating: Companies investing in new technology ticked up slightly from 45% to 49%, while those eager to embrace technology dropped from 50% to 48%. Meanwhile, 39% of respondents say their workplace is “very modern,” while 43% say it’s “somewhat modern,” and 18% say it’s “not very modern at all.”
  • Sustainability Concerns: 55% of workers express a preference for more sustainable working conditions, though only 45% believe their companies prioritize this adequately.
  • Turnover: 43% of workers are considering leaving their jobs within a year.
  • Top Four Technologies: Respondents named four primary technologies that their factories or plants are using — Big Data (41%); 3d Printing (39%); Robotics or Artificial Intelligence (37%); Augmented Reality (36%).

“We continue to see manufacturing workers stating their clear preferences for technology-driven, sustainable work environments,” said Kerrie Jordan, Group Vice President, Product Management at Epicor. “These results can help manufacturing leadership better understand their teams, and harness technological change to spur growth and create the manufacturing workforce of the future.”

For more insights into key areas that impact manufacturing employee morale and job satisfaction, download the full report HERE. Visit www.epicor.com for more information.

Survey Methodology

To highlight the priorities of front-line manufacturing workers, Epicor worked with Frontlines Media to conduct a study of 600 individuals across eleven manufacturing sub-industries. Respondents held titles such as assembler, welder, and machinist. Surveyed individuals were based in the U.S.

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