Just as the Auto Industry Revives Itself, Worker Shortages Impedes the Process

In today’s current climate, companies and employees alike have seen how the Coronavirus continues to affect the economy. This includes the auto industry; an industry that started to recover only to face the roadblock of worker shortage.

When the coronavirus pandemic began back in January, many companies were forced to stop production or implement very rigid protocols. For the auto industry or specifically auto plants, it meant the entire stop of vehicle production. Despite the altogether halt in production, consumers never stopped in their demand for cars and caused an insufficiency in inventory. Consequently, auto plants now have to play a game of catch-up.

So far there has been success in steadily restocking inventory. According to Wards Intelligence, an automotive research and analytics firm, vehicle production in North America has returned nearly to pre-virus levels. With such progress, it begs the question: Why are production levels not matching or exceeding pre-virus levels? The answer: worker shortage.

Auto plants are facing a staffing issue largely due to absenteeism or any reason an employee cannot go to work. The grounds for absenteeism cover a wide range, from reasons like not having childcare to being mandatorily quarantined after positively testing for the Coronavirus.

Furthermore, auto plants find it hard to convince people to join with such a large group of employees-approximately 2,000 people- in one enclosed space and when it lacks high-paying wages.

To combat issues of absenteeism and Coronavirus fears, auto plants have gone beyond hiring more team members and internally moved some of their ‘white-collar’ workers to the production line. This means these office-dwelling employees find themselves in the production line helping in the assembly of vehicles. Desperate times call for desperate measures as companies like Toyota, Honda and General Motors have all employed this tactic.

While it is unusual, it isn’t the first time auto plants have implemented this tactic. Emily Lauder, the vice president of administration at Toyota Mississippi, reflects on when she herself had to go from accounting and help build transmissions twenty years ago.

The automotive industry has had its’ fair share of challenges over the years. From emission woes to the demand to convert to electric powered vehicles, the Coronavirus is the newest challenge on the docket. Although there has been immense improvement, worker shortage has proven to slow-down progress. Hopefully, with the current methods being applied, the auto industry will be once again thriving in the economy.