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Supply Chain
Management Process

A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0

The full report A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0 contains 4 strategies, 20 actionable steps, supportive examples, global insights, and more to support businesses in the manufacturing industry to thrive in the new Manufacturing 4.0 era where transformation is the key to success.

STRATEGY #3: Build a talent supply chain

Just as you’d build supply-chain systems for parts, tools, and distribution, you can build a strategic, sustainable supply of critical and/or scarce skill sets.

Consider your existing supply chains. If you’re in a complex assembly environment (e.g., auto industry), you have quality and inventory control measures to reject substandard parts and ensure a reserve of replacement parts. So why not demand the same safeguards with respect to the people who operate your expensive technology?

Reactive talent recruitment can’t adequately staff operations in constant flux. As the single most important component of production, your talent cannot be treated as a low-cost commodity. Short-term sourcing and low-quality evaluation solutions will never suffice when a more robust strategy is required to ensure long-term competitiveness. Weak supply negates near-term hiring gains: Technological advances, increasing costs, and impaired future capacity make these gains obsolete. And, persisting with a just-in-time approach to leadership growth is the best way to lose the war for talent.

The pressure on the talent-supply pipeline is only intensifying as technology and digitization transform manufacturing and the skills required of workers. Other factors challenging the “health” of the workforce: aging of the workforce, cross-generational collaboration, and overreliance on new hires’ technical abilities.

One step to build your talent supply chain is to demand a radical shift in your hiring and promotion practices. 

You need better practices to head off the looming workforce obsolescence most manufacturers will face. Stop focusing disproportionately on candidates’ technical skills and past production experience, which will become hopelessly outdated at an accelerating pace. Instead, look to hire individuals demonstrating strength in agility, continuous learning, interpersonal communication, and proactive problem-solving skills. If this sounds like an about-face in terms of typical hiring practices, it is. And it’s a reflection of exactly how much and how rapidly skill sets required in the Manufacturing 4.0 era are changing. The key to changing workforce hiring successfully—whether for purposes of plant expansion, start-up, or retirement replacement—is to ensure your hiring plans are aligned with critical business and cultural strategies, and account for specific realities and challenges within each labor market.

A systematic approach to hiring based on quality rather than cost-of-hire will help you:

  • Identify and select high-potential workers who possess the innate personal attributes and motivations required to succeed in your unique organizational environment.
  • Accelerate time-to-productivity through the integration of staffing, onboarding, and early training actions.
  • Create an ongoing “talent supply chain”—much like that of a materials/parts supply chain—to ensure a sustainable pool of talent in dynamic and competitive labor economies.

Best-in-class hiring system

A Systematic Approach

A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0
A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0
Four talent strategies to transform your organization for the future.


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