Thermoforming Report

Manufacturing: Remote vs Hybrid vs Onsite Roles

August 2022. This month’s Thermoforming Report topic is all about the world of remote work. In spite of what I believe is the obvious answer, the question of remote vs hybrid vs onsite still comes up quite often. As I’ve mentioned more than once in the past, manufacturing, by its very nature, is not done remotely! However, there are challenges that come with being onsite, namely relocating great people to where they are needed. Hopefully, the article below provides a bit more insight.

As usual, we have a few talented people for you to review in our All Star section below (and on our site too). We are here to partner with your organization to help in any way we can. We hope to generate videos to highlight each in more detail on the website. In our opinion, quick access to amazing talent is what makes all the difference!

Have a great weekend!

Keith G. Brown
President & Owner, Siena Group
Singular Focus on all things Thermoforming

Manufacturing Jobs: Remote vs Hybrid vs. Onsite

It is one of the first questions that everyone asks, “Is this job remote?”  The answer isn’t what we constantly hear in the media.    

Hybrid: Regional Roles; Onsite: Plant-Focused

I’ve been asked quite a bit about what I’m seeing relative to remote vs hybrid vs fully onsite roles as I work with multiple clients and companies. The short answer is that the bulk of them are fully onsite positions. Yes, those are plant-focused, and yes, those that are corporate-focused have some level of hybrid that works well.

In general, leadership roles with a multi-site focus are hybrid. Manufacturing Directors with oversite of multiple plants; HR Business Partners that oversee a region and provide critical HR needs to many sites; Reliability Engineers that are working with several different maintenance and engineering teams to provide high-level expertise on driving from reactive to proactive to preventive to reliability centered maintenance – everyone tends to be on the road supporting their teams and spending time in a home office catching up on email, completing plans, and more.

Leading from the … Home Office?

How can you lead a plant-focused team from your home? Yes, there are exceptions, but leading by example, being present, having 1-on-1’s, and getting together for team-building all happen when you are physically there! I would argue that leadership effectiveness is directly connected and related to face-to-face interactions. Again, there are exceptions, and most senior leaders do this very well. But, I bet the majority of senior executives will readily share that meeting with their direct reports in person is imperative and is a key part of the success of the organization. 

We are people, and the fact is that we need each other, in person. The personal touch is critical. We work together. Some roles and functions are done independently, but the personal side is what makes synergy truly shine – when the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

Overcoming Relocations

A great article published by Deloitte highlights manufacturing trends that we are all experiencing, one of which is the talent shortage.

“Manufacturing executives may also need to balance goals for retention, culture, and innovation. As flexible work is taking root in offices, manufacturers should explore ways to add flexibility across their organization in order to attract and retain workers. Organizations that can manage through workforce shortages and a rapid pace of change today can come out ahead.”


I believe this manifests in multiple ways, but one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when recruiting talent is relocation … which happens to directly correlate to the remote vs hybrid vs onsite question.  Key recommendations are:

  • Organizations must shift their views on the needed skill set for a particular role and compromise in order to bring on someone that is local. The time it takes to find a 95% fit is significantly longer than finding an 80% fit locally. Absolutely ensure that the culture, style, and fit align but give a little on the technical side. People just don’t want to relocate if they don’t have to.
  • For more senior-level roles or those that will end up on the road supporting multiple sites, companies need to be flexible with the need to relocate the person to corporate. Yes, that would be ideal… but this isn’t an ‘ideal’ market. A hybrid approach works well for these type of positions.
You Need to Be There

Remote work – is it the way of the future? Nope. Not in manufacturing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said, “You pretty much need to be there to make a product!” Just ask every Plant Manager, Site Director, and Plant HR Leader out there that had to navigate through the pandemic! How do you manage social distancing when you are working side by side on a manufacturing line?!?

I will agree that there are support functions that can be quite effective in a remote role. However, I submit that those are few and far between, especially at the plant level. It is more manageable for corporate roles to be sure, but you just can’t dismiss the power of working together, in person, to solve a problem, brainstorm a new idea, or plan for the future.

The main takeaway, and my normal answer to this oft-asked question, is that the role is onsite. Yes, hybrid work is an option but it will be fairly limited as the expectation is to be present, with your team, leading and participating in ways that will lead to success… because you kinda gotta be there to make the stuff you make!

“The personal touch is critical. We work together. Some roles and functions are done independently, but the personal side is what makes synergy truly shine – when the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.”
Keith Brown, President, Siena Group

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  • Biomerics Acquires Dependable Plastics, Launches Interventional Medical Plastics Division. via Biomerics Press Release.
  • Resin Report: New Resin Capacity Poised to Hit North America. via Plastics News.
  • BLS Employment Report – July 2022. via MRINetwork.
  • Six Components of Authentic Leadership
    Authentic leaders know their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and they’re happy to display these traits – warts and all. CEO Magazine contributor unpacks the top traits of authentic leadership. Via CEO Magazine.
  • Investing in Creative Potential
    Researchers at Deloitte are exploring how organizations invest in the 5 P’s as leverage for their creative potential by embedding creative teams within a supportive social and physical context. via Deloitte.

Operations & Technical Leader: Gifted nearly 30-year leader, bringing over 20 years of experience in thin gauge forming and extrusion, from tooling, through product design, project oversight, technical leadership, and full operations P&L accountability

Director/VP of Operations: 30+ years of experience in operations leadership; multi-site accountability; technical strengths in heavy gauge thermoforming, injection molding, and more; delivered significant results through operational excellence tools (LSS/CI)

Senior Technical Leader: 25-year engineering and maintenance leader; TPM and reliability focused with proven ability to fundamentally shift the culture – and results – of the technical teams; multi-site accountability

VP of Supply Chain: transformative leader with an intense focus on improving structure, systems & processes; very strong manufacturing planning background; tenacious problem-solver with strong financial and analytical acumen.

Click for more All Stars.

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