The question of when to contract labour and when to hire new employees is an important issue across a range of different economic sectors, but it is particularly pressing in the manufacturing world. Because manufacturing companies already have a lot of overhead, and (in the developed world, at least) face extremely high labour costs, hiring contract workers and outsourcing tasks can have a significant impact on the bottom line. This is especially true when it comes to highly specialized labour that requires skilled workers, like programming. So when is it worth hiring new programmers, and when does it make more sense to use a contractor?
No industry expert would deny that most manufacturing businesses will need to have a small staff of programmers who can handle the regular, day-to-day issues associated with running a production line. Having programmers who understand intimately the ins and outs of your particular model and process is invaluable, and full-time staff programmers carry a body of knowledge about your assembly process that it could take months for a contractor to develop.
But there are many processes that require specialized knowledge, and in those cases it is important to consider how frequently that knowledge will be required. If you are adding a new set of machines running new software to your production line, you will probably want to hire someone who knows how to work with them. If, on the other hand, you only need to set up a new program that your in-house team will oversee, then a contract programmer might be more economical.
A perfect example of this is metrology. Many manufacturing businesses rely on coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) to provide quality control and to ensure that the parts being produced match blueprint specifications. Due to the detailed nature of metrology programming, it is important to have a metrology expert oversee software installation and write the part programs your CMM will run. In such cases, contract CMM programming services are ideal, as they provide you with expert programmers who understand the complications of metrology programming and know how to get the most out of the latest versions of CMM software. In many cases, contract programmers can even be hired on to help train your own team, so once the new software is up and running, your programmers can attend to any adjustments that might be needed.
Few businesses require as much investment in equipment, space, and labour as manufacturing, and success in manufacturing is usually the result of a careful balancing act between pursuing innovation and finding efficiencies. New technology and software can help increase productivity and reduce waste, but it also requires specialists who understand how it works, which in turn leads to higher labour costs. There is no golden formula for full-time staff vs. contract workers, and every manufacturer will need to consider the question on a case-by-case basis. But by using skilled labour strategically and prioritizing contract hires whenever possible, it is possible to save significant amounts of time and money in the long run.