“Quiet quitting,” a term meaning that employees won’t go above and beyond their regular scope of responsibilities, has plagued several industries of late, and the packaging industry isn’t immune. For decades, packaging professionals have been asked to do more with less and have often remained behind the times as other industries digitally transformed.
Now, the next generation of the workforce is pushing back and demanding the right technology to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. With some packaging companies falling short on delivering the right technology and tools for their workforce to best do their jobs, packaging professionals are quietly quitting, mentally checking out and doing the bare minimum to get by. Packaging leaders must take notice and understand the challenges impacting the industry and how this trend is only magnified by those challenges, so that they can take the appropriate steps to ensure a better workplace for all.
Here's the challenges impacting packaging and how leaders can take action.
A massive retirement of Baby Boomers means a loss of institutional knowledge
With an anticipated 75 million Baby Boomers predicted to retire by 2030 in what’s being dubbed “The Great Resignation,” this presents many challenges for the packaging and broader manufacturing industries.
When Baby Boomers retire, institutional knowledge or “Tribal Knowledge” leaves with them, creating gaps in information for workers that come after. For example, the engineer that knows a machine runs slower in the winter but faster in the spring or a packaging worker that’s aware of environmental factors that cause specific container designs not to function properly. This institutional knowledge is often lost because these best practices live in the minds of those experienced workers retiring instead of in a digital environment that can be passed on and shared with others.
This should be a red flag for many packaging leaders as the industry has failed to provide the newest generation with the tools and information needed to succeed. One thing that remains true across all generations in packaging and the wider manufacturing industry is that companies that don’t close the digital gap and take advantage of new technologies to enable knowledge sharing are putting their business at risk.
Recession talks, new regulations and supply chain disruptions challenge the status quo
While the packaging industry is no stranger to challenges, the last three years have taken a big toll and forced many companies to advance more quickly than expected. Packaging professionals in particular have more on their plate than ever with cost savings initiatives sprouting from talks of a recession, managing the rollout of packaging taxes and regulations around sustainability, and ongoing supply chain disruptions. All of these factors have made the “status quo” way of working nearly impossible.
According to a recent survey released by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 63% of manufacturing leaders believe the U.S. economy will slip into a recession by 2023. Given all of the issues impacting the industry now (labor shortages, supply chain issues, etc.), every company’s data footprint is getting bigger and bigger. With so much data to track, the way things have been done for the past decade aren’t how things should be done, and the sooner packaging leaders realize that the better. It’s crucial that leaders acknowledge this trend and implement the tools to not only empower their next generation workforce but to help them be prepared should new challenges arise.
Bait and switch for young workers entering the already struggling workforce
The next generation of packaging engineers are being taught how to use technology in the classroom only to enter workplaces that have not undergone digital transformation. Ask any entry-level packaging engineer how they spend their days at current jobs, and many will likely tell you it’s spent chasing data to perform their job duties. It’s searching for samples, emailing vendors, and analyzing hundreds if not thousands of spreadsheets a year.
These students, the ones studying at top universities across the world and currently learning how to manage packaging specifications, often go on to work for some of the world’s largest brands. If things stay the way they are, these students, the future leaders, will be wasting crucial time searching through samples and spreadsheets for data instead of spending their time designing sustainable packaging or finding ways to reduce costs.
Although a LinkedIn search shows thousands of entry-level packaging jobs available, the United States only produces about 500 graduates from packaging schools each year. There’s a mismatch between the capacity/demand in the industry with the number of graduates being produced each year from these programs. When facing a labor shortage, it’s even more important to have the right technology in place to help fill the gap and keep workers engaged and committed to their roles in the industry.
If packaging leaders fail to provide today’s workers with the technology required to do their jobs, it will create the perfect storm for quiet quitting. By giving workers the right tools and technology, workers can have an immediate impact at companies, and in turn, higher engagement in their careers, which is good for the employee, company, consumer and planet.