No matter your industry, it can be hard to plan for the future. Trends in job growth and product demand waver based on factors outside your control, often causing an unsteady grasp on your own business. And yes, that’s essentially the game an entrepreneur is signing up for — but wouldn’t a little more clarity be nice?

Well, the right statistics can at least help light the way forward, illuminating potential problems and possible solutions. Here, we’ve pulled five stats we think every modern manufacturer should know. Know what’s coming, know how to react — and set yourself up for success.

#1: In the next decade, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed — and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to a skills gap.

This one contains both good news and bad news. Such a high demand for manufacturing jobs means the industry is going to continue to grow (and that’s saying something, considering American manufacturing is already equivalent to the 9th-largest economy in the world). But then there’s that troubling second part: the gap. Growth is wonderful, but if necessary jobs go unfilled, that growth will taper off. In the coming years, manufacturers seeking success will need to find a way to overcome this challenge.

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#2: Since 2000, manufacturing jobs for those with graduate degrees have grown by 32%.

While old stereotypes might hold that workers in the manufacturing industry don’t need an advanced education, it’s not necessarily true. Since the Millennium, manufacturing jobs for those with graduate degrees have grown, while “manufacturing jobs for people with less than a high-school education fell 44 percent between 2000 and 2013.” The flip side of this statistic is that members of the workforce with advanced degrees actively want jobs in the manufacturing industry. Companies looking to defeat the problem of the skills gap, then, should try devoting resources to recruiting recent graduates (if they aren’t already).

#3: 7 of the top 10 regions for manufacturing job growth are in the South or Midwest.

The skills gap number is a nationwide statistic, a blanket number, but its effects won’t be felt equally in every part of the country. Just as greater opportunities bring top tech talent to certain cities (San Francisco, Seattle), available jobs in particular regions do the same for employment-seekers in the manufacturing industry — and those regions tend to be the South and the Midwest. If your company doesn’t have a presence in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Missouri and Florida, you should ask yourself: Would a relocation be worth it? If you’re worried about available talent in your area, the answer could be yes.

#4: 45% of manufacturers aren’t focused on reducing new product development cycle times.

Another great way to attract great employees — and to help your business succeed in general — is to innovate. Many people want to work for companies focused on making something new, or else doing something in a new way. And consumers want to buy these new things, so it’s a win-win. Unfortunately, innovation isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially in crowded markets where everybody else is looking to innovate in the same way (kind of an oxymoron, I know). That’s why it helps to identify areas where, for whatever reason, a large percentage of companies don’t seem to be trying to make things better. That’s where this stat comes in. Companies that do invest resources in reducing new product development cycle times could quickly find themselves leapfrogging competitors.

#5: 52% of manufacturing executives say their company has an increasingly difficult time competing based on product differentiation.

As mentioned above, innovation isn’t always about making something new — it can be about doing something in a new way. And I’m not only talking about manufacturing processes; I’m also talking about customer service. Because if your company can’t differentiate itself based on product or production method, why not aim to set it apart based on great customer service? After all, 59% of Americans would try a new brand for a better customer experience.

But how are you supposed to create a better customer service experience? A tool like Salesforce Service Cloud could be the right move. Service Cloud powers personalization at scale, allowing you to treat thousands of customers with the same care as a 5-star restaurant would.

If you’re interested in learning more about Service Cloud — or just want to chat about the business challenges facing today’s manufacturers — drop us a line. We’d love to know how we could help.

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