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Three Ways Manufacturers Can Gracefully Transition Through the ‘Silver Tsunami’

Will Healy III
By Will Healy III Balluff Inc., SME Member Since 2017

Your best 40-year company veteran mechanic just left. You have nine open technician positions and few applicants. Young people stay for one day and leave.

Will Healy III of Balluff Inc.

The top reasons manufacturing jobs are going unfilled, according to the May 2021 “Creating Pathways for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today” report from Deloitte & NAM, are baby boomer retirements (34 percent), lack of interest in the industry (36 percent) and a mismatch of expectations of new entrants (38 percent). Many manufacturers I meet are unsure of what they can do to fix this, so they keep making parts and, consciously or unconsciously, ignore the problem, hoping it will fix itself. Then they are shaken up when workplace change is eventually forced on them. But it does not need to be this way. We can gracefully and successfully transition through the storm by implementing three simple actions: visualize the instinctual tribal knowledge of our company veterans, use automation to complement our workforce challenges and get involved in our local industry partnerships.

Turn Instinct into Visuals

The experienced worker can walk through your plant and hear or feel something out of specification by instinct. The new guy cannot hear anything beyond the cacophony of the plant. What the experienced guy can hear or feel, the new guy cannot, so we need to document this tribal knowledge and find technology to convert it into visual cues for Gen Z employees raised on gamification tactics. One basic but successful tool I have seen repeatedly used to do this is continuous condition monitoring with simple sensors. By monitoring vibration and temperature of a motor, pump or compressor, combining it with the insights of the veteran and adding simple visualization tools, new employees can quickly see when something is wrong and avoid painful downtime occurrences. Younger generations are looking to technology to assist them in their work and want to work for companies investing in technologies that improve effectiveness.

Embrace Automation

Some level of automation is coming to your facility. It’s unavoidable. And if you already have automation, you will be getting more of it. But automation investments do not need to be lights-out factory and robotic job destroyers; many manufacturers are using automation to bridge their workforce shortages and make the work of their current employees more rewarding. Cobots and AGVs assist with ergonomic and lifting applications. Vision systems help error-proof assemblies and assist operators in ensuring quality output. Sensors perform basic jobs like part position or color matching to help the operators move more quickly and with more purpose. Visualization lights, guidance systems and displays can reduce training hours and simplify complex processes. Industrial RFID systems assist with asset tracking, machine access, flexible manufacturing and data tracking applications. Automation tools should positively complement the factory workforce, adding flexibility, visibility and efficiency while helping operators be more productive and fulfilled.

Get Involved in Your Local Partnerships

Manufacturing industry sector partnerships are an important part of overcoming the low interest in today’s culture, applicants and new workers. There is a societal lack of awareness about how amazing manufacturing is! We make stuff, and it is COOL! But we need to get students and the community to see that. Local industry sector partnerships are doing amazing things all over the world, advocating for manufacturers and promoting our jobs. In communities like yours, local manufacturers, educators and partners bring together talent, resources and funding to help raise awareness of manufacturing careers and upskill the community to fill the jobs we have sitting empty. With the AMIP (Advanced Manufacturing Industry Partnership, Cincinnati), I partner with many amazing people, all working together to drive REAL CHANGE in the manufacturing talent pipeline through topics like the modern apprenticeship, technical certificates, technical degrees, returning citizens, legal immigrants, minority communities and women’s advocacy groups. Manufacturing is a powerful economic driver in any community; by getting involved in your local industry sector partnership, you will be investing in the long-term health of your local community and the quality of your own workforce pipeline.

With a few purposeful decisions and investments, we can make a graceful transition through the “silver tsunami” of baby boomer retirements and come out the other side as better organizations and a stronger industry.

Jacob Rahdarian Achieves VIP Status

Houston Chapter 29 Chair Jacob Rahdarian, CMfgE, was recently chosen as the newest SME Connect VIP for his overall engagement during the first quarter of 2021. He is only the fourth member to achieve VIP status on SME Connect.

Jacob Rahdarian of Navasota Industrial Supply.

Rahdarian, who joined SME in 2015, is an account manager for Navasota Industrial Supply, an industrial equipment supplier in Grimes County, Texas. He has been an active Houston chapter officer since 2020, and in that role has not only ensured that his Houston chapter’s site is up-to-date and best-practice-worthy, he has also posted numerous discussion threads on SME Connect to promote engagement for his chapter, helped other members by responding to discussions, made connections with other members and continues to be a very strong advocate for SME in his local community and on social media. Additionally, Rahdarian is an SME Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) and, at 29, received recognition as a 2018 SME 30 Under 30 awardee.

SME members who achieve this level of recognition receive the VIP badge in their SME Connect member profile, a $100 voucher to use in the SME store, a certificate of appreciation and a thank you letter from the chair of the SME Member Council. We encourage everyone to become a VIP!

To learn more about this recognition, visit .

SME Welcomes New Corporate Members

In recent months, SME was happy to welcome several new corporate members to its growing lineup, which includes Boeing, GM, NCDMM, Crown, Mastercam and many more. Working closely with each organization, this unique membership opportunity is available through a customizable package that is created specifically for each company based on its overall needs.

New SME Corporate Members:

  • Global Shop Solutions (The Woodlands, Texas)—A family-owned, family-run ERP software company for the manufacturing industry.
  • Background Partners (La Mesa, Calif.)—Provides complex background and drug-screening programs.
  • Magic Software Enterprises (Or Yehuda, Israel)—Magic Software is a recognized provider of cutting-edge software platforms for business integration and business app development.
  • AT&T Business (Dallas)—Part of the corporate division of AT&T Communications, AT&T Business offers fiber Internet, mobility, IoT and 5G solutions.
  • WestWind Corporate Partners (Albuquerque, N.M.)—WestWind is a dedicated provider of cutting-edge technology solutions tailored for government and enterprise business markets.

To take advantage of an SME Corporate Membership and/or to view all the current members, visit

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