Maslow theory of hierarchy for current manufacturing challenges


Manufacturing is the 2nd biggest contributor to India’s GDP (next to agriculture). It has unique characteristic of employing work force of all skill levels & age groups and thus has the capability to attract and accommodate talent of all types.

Even though service as a sector is growing faster than agriculture and manufacturing in last couple of decades, the value of manufacturing for country’s growth is unquestionable. Especially in post pandemic scenario when major part of global supply chain is disrupted, bulk of manufacturing is expected to translocate from China to India and other Asian economies. This would be once in a millennium opportunity for India to grab and make the best use of it.

This article tries to explain some of the unique challenges that manufacturing sector is facing specifically related to human work force.

Bird’s view of Manufacturing Operations…

Manufacturing Operations rely on 5 major resources, Man, Machine, Material, Method (Process and systems) and Milieu (Environment).

While all 5 are equally critical and there is no denial of the fact that imbalance in any one of the factors would have adverse impact on the entire supply chain. However, each of these factors (5M’s) are different in their characteristic and needs different treatment. Table below gives glimpse on each of them:

Manufacturing Operations rely on 5 major resources

Why Manpower Management is challenging, especially in current circumstances…

To understand the current challenges related to manpower management, a cursory glance on Maslow’s theory of hierarchy would help.

Reference- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs | Simply Psychology

Manpower Management

As per Maslow’s theory, only after a person’s Basic and Psychological needs are addressed, he would strive for higher needs. Of course, Maslow revised the theory and clarified if not in full, basic needs to be met in partial before one aspires for the next level. This tip of point varies from person to person and the available circumstances. The desire to fulfil the need would change as per the graphic below.

Maslow revised the theory

Current Manufacturing Scenario

Compounded growth in manufacturing has brought in its own set of challenges. Some of the top ones being faced by most of the MSME’s (Micro, Small and Medium enterprises) are:

Current Manufacturing Scenario

The above challenges are not exhaustive. They are only pointers to the struggle in hand.

Amid all these challenges, customer demand takes topmost priority. It would be followed by financial constraints. In the process, employee welfare and working conditions always takes a back seat.

Specific challenges related to employees in manufacturing sector

Author of this article has a privilege of working with both manufacturing and service clients (limited to IT & ITES) on different client engagements. Based on the 1st hand observations in both these sectors, striking difference between these 2 sectors as far as employee welfare is concerned is depicted in the graphic below:

Since MNC’s and large corporations have well defined systems, this comparison is limited to MSME’s. Further, this comparison is only for the lower management category (not for supervisory cadre).

Adverse Impact on Employee Motivation:
  • Involvement of the work force to meet organisation goals is very sparse. The mindset is mostly to somehow meet the daily task and resign for the day
  • Trust and confidence on senior management is negligeable. Senior management is always seen with contempt. There is always an underlying feeling of being victimised by senior management
  • Because of poor focus on basic needs like food and safety, the employee motivation is not consistent. Often, one can witness poor productivity levels closer to lunch time, by end of the shift. This also leads to high absenteeism and eventually attrition
  • Workforce on the ground are always on the look out for next greener pasture. So, commitment to the task in hand becomes tentative

To summarise in a nutshell, neglect for very vital link in the manufacturing operations which is manpower is bringing down the overall competency of Indian Manufacturing sector. A serious and timely review would salvage the situation and help us gain the global edge.

What needs to be done??

Any solution to address this challenge should be specific to the organisation culture and maturity of the organisation. There can be various ways and means to address this challenge. However, any solution that we devise should assess the challenge qualitatively, than just being a quantitative in nature.

Article by –
Adarsh Ramaswamy- Director, Sambuddha Management Consulting Pvt Ltd

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