Mercer Mass Timber’s Production Team – Recovering from the Employee Shortage Crisis

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and employers have felt the sting of the employee shortage. This has been particularly hard for industrial businesses and workplaces that rely on people to help run their production lines. Here at Mercer Mass Timber (MMT), we are now recovering from the staffing crisis, celebrated by our recent addition of a second shift to our production schedule.

Depending on the product we are running, the production line here at MMT starts at our sortline and ends at the press, with multiple machine centers and operators working in between. To keep the line in operation from start to finish, we require a minimum of 21 employees on our production team. This includes forklift operators, staple pullers to remove possible metal from the wood, machine center operators, graders, and product wrappers.

Because industrial settings have a higher risk potential, employees must be alert and keep their heads on a swivel throughout the shift. Though we can’t consistently recruit employees with a history of working in industrial settings, we can give these recruits strong, hands-on training to be able to conduct their work as safely as any of our experienced employees.

With so many new staff members, our production onboarding process is unique in its approach. When a new production employee is introduced to the factory on their first day, they start with a straightforward job, like pulling paper off of the wrapped units of wood. This takes away the requirement of multi-tasking while still exposing them to the machines, rolling stock, and various distractions without putting them directly on the production line. Once an employee feels comfortable in their new environment and gains confidence, their supervisor will transfer them to a machine center to begin shadowing and training under an experienced employee.

Here, a new employee is training with an experienced employee. The green hard hat indicates they are new to the MMT setting, allowing others to keep a watchful, safe eye on them.


In starting our night shift, there was a certain lack of experienced employees, creating a challenging environment. To close this knowledge gap, our night shift start-up followed a careful process. Overlap of the day and night shifts was created to ensure newer employees still felt comfortable operating the machine centers before becoming completely independent. This overlap resulted in an even stronger sense of teamwork throughout the factory, as the new shift employees learned the processes together and were there to encourage each other along the way. In addition to the 21 employees needed for the day shift, 13 are required for the night shift – of these 13, over three-quarters are new employees to MMT.

Building two full production teams has been a challenge we have faced for months now and we are proud of how our teams have worked together to overcome it. Collaboration aids greatly in industrial settings like MMT to create opportunities for “boots on the ground” jobs. After keeping our shift overlap for a month, we look forward to transitioning to independent shifts, with confidence that our new team and new employees will be 100% capable of safely operating on their own.