We Asked Plant Managers About Their Biggest Pain Points. Their Answers Surprised Us.


HappyValleyIndustry.com wants to fix what hurts you. Sure, it’s a lofty goal, but interesting times like these call for big ideas. 

Our company has been in the marketplace for decades, working with entrepreneurs as they start companies in ‘a rented closet at Penn State,’ borrowing money from relatives and mortgaging their homes to build their businesses. 

As companies grow, they inevitably hit roadblocks that keep them from going from good to great. Factory downtime, trouble keeping good talent, supply chain nightmares. Then what? 

We realized we could help match businesses with solutions, and HappyValley Industry was born so we could help connect companies with solutions to solve their biggest pain points. 

The first step in solving any pain is diagnostics. We recently reached out to plant managers from national paper mills regarding their biggest problems and how we could help them find solutions. Here’s what we found. 

Downtime has decreased. 

Today’s plant manager is under tremendous pressure to increase productivity and eliminate downtime, at risk of losing business to overseas producers. Our survey reflects those heroic measures, with 7 out of 10 saying that overall downtime has decreased over the past 10 years. In fact, a vast majority gave their plant a high rating for critical performance. 

But when they do have downtime? 

Considering the tremendous effort to keep today’s plant up-to-date and competitive in terms of machinery and automation, the answer to the next question was surprising. Several managers offered factory-specific issues like lubrication seals or water treatment challenges, but the number one issue these plants faced was downtime due to a poorly trained workforce. 

What’s the number one challenge these plants face? 

In fact, these plant managers said that not only was a poorly trained workforce to blame for most of their downtime, 90% of our respondents said the main obstacle to keeping their plant thriving was finding and training the right people. 

Can digital solutions really solve pain?

We asked plant managers how some of their pain could be solved by optimizing their plants through technology. The two top problems the managers said that digitalization would help solve were issues with process analytics and workforce scheduling. 

We also asked them how much pressure they felt to "digitize" their mills with sensors, data analytics and automation, and 70% said they were feeling moderate to high pressure to digitize their workplace. 

Interestingly, the managers who said they felt the most encouraged to add sensors and other automation went on to add them to their plants. And you know what? Every single one of them said that the digital solution they’ve added has achieved the promised outcome. 

Here’s what we learned. 

First, our quick study renewed our love for surveys. We highly recommend reaching out to your customers or prospective customers and asking good questions. The feedback that you’ll get is gold. It creates discovery and informs smart decisions. 

Second, finding and keeping good talent is extremely critical to the health of your company. HappyValley Industry can help you find—and retain—workers who will help you climb the mountain of today’s challenges and fuel new wins. Click here to learn more about our talent matchmaking

Lastly, there’s a reason that HappyValley Industry is sensor-crazy. Our weekly eletters sing the praises of sensors that help maximize industries from brewing to gas treatment to antibiotic testing. They can help old school factories learn new tricks and save millions, like ECore did with a recent $20M save

This survey was a fact-finding mission and the facts it uncovered were pretty eye-opening: your plant will benefit from digitalization, and finding and training the right people will save you from significant downtime. 

What about your company? What’s next to solve the pain and find the next win? How would sensors change your bottom line? Not sure where to go for the next step? You can find solution partners in our directory, or you can send an email for a quick, personal consultation. 

How much money are you at risk of losing if you don’t automate? It’s food for thought.


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