Friday Focus: Getting Ready for Manufacturing Day

September 6, 2013

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With just under a month until National Manufacturing Day (MFG Day), companies across the country are preparing to open their doors to the next generation of workers, business connections, and politicians to raise awareness about the industry through hands-on demonstrations and facility tours. Here’s a glimpse of what some are planning for the Oct. 4 event.

National Manufacturing Day launched in 2012 with the support of several co-producing organizations, including the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The initiative, which has since expanded to Canada, provides a forum for manufacturers to educate and voice their challenges at a time when industry experts contend that manufacturing is in dire need of a branding makeover.

Recent global surveys reflect the widespread industry challenge. A 2012 McKinsey & Company report revealed that while most of the young people surveyed (70 percent), admitted that they believe vocational schools are more helpful in getting a job than an academic track, two-thirds also said that vocational education is “less valued” in society than other academic paths. And, as previously reported, only 30 percent of parents encourage their children to consider manufacturing careers.

Manufacturing Day 2013, which has 370 events in store at publication time, is a channel to educate the major influencers of the future talent pipeline that is vital to the industry’s strength, in the face of a rampant skills shortage, organizers said.

“Certainly, in addition to the students, we really have to pay attention to the counselors and the teachers that come with them,” Patricia Lee, marketing director at FMA told IMT Career Journal. “They are the people who have a great amount of influence on students. When they say ‘Yes, [manufacturing] is a good career path,’ both parents and students listen, and the truth is, in most places, counselors and teachers don’t know a lot about manufacturing, so we think that this event is really important for their knowledge expansion.”

MFG DAY to Showcase ‘New’ Manufacturing

The event helps showcase innovative advancements in industry.

“Manufacturing is very much alive and well, and while a lot of old manufacturing jobs are gone and not coming back, there’s the new manufacturing, such as additive manufacturing or 3D printing, and we need to increase the public’s awareness of that,” said James E. Casto, associate director of public information for The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (RCBI) in West Virginia.

The institute first opened its multiple statewide facilities to the public in Manufacturing Day in 2012, and its participation stemmed from a long-term relationship with NAM. This year, RCBI will offer tours of its four facilities and technology demonstrations focusing on additive manufacturing. The institute expects the 3D printing demonstrations will be particularly popular with touring high school students.

“It’s innovative, it’s revolutionary, it’s leading edge, and because of productivity gains and innovative new processes and procedures, the country is manufacturing as much or more than it ever has been before,” said Martin Spears, RCBI's associate director of public information. “We just want to make sure that that they’re aware of rewarding career opportunities.”

“People don’t really see what goes into making a product now, with new processes and procedures that we have available,” he said. “The idea is that we want to reinforce to students, as well as their parents and even plant managers who are out there that there is a whole new workforce coming and we want them to be able to get together and see the workforce of tomorrow, and the jobs that are available today.”

A Better Understanding of In-Demand Jobs

Skilled machinists are among the jobs that are available but difficult to fill, especially for manufacturers like Stacy Machine & Tooling in Broomfield, Colo., which will be part of MFG Day this year. Stacey Bibik, in charge of the company's government sales, told IMT Career Journal that while the state is not as active in the campaign as the east and west coasts, participation is crucial to better educate the public.

She explained that the facility will be set up in a way that will allow visitors to see examples of the work in progress, and stressed the need for more of the skilled talent that keeps the company in operation.

“If I had a skilled CNC lathe guy, I could pay him $30 an hour, but he doesn't exist,” Bibik said. “It takes years to become a journeyman or to become an expert, and it has nothing to do with college. It has to do with the job, mentoring and apprenticeship, and the kinds of things we haven’t been doing in this country for a long time.”

How to have a Successful Showcase

One of the most beneficial steps that manufacturers can take during MFG Day is adding an interactive element to engage students, said Jack Pennuto, director of sales and marketing at Formtek Group Inc. in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. The company first got involved with MFG Day in 2012, after its senior application engineer, on the board of FMA, heard about the initiative.

“We probably get used to the machines that we have on our floor and that we utilize all the time, and for the students, typically if they’re in a technical school or in a vocational center, they have older and pretty basic machine tools that they’re learning,” he told IMT Career Journal. “There’s that cool factor, when they see the newer higher capability machines here, and if there was some way that manufacturers could provide them a hands-on or interactive experience, that would probably go a long way, as far as leaving an impression.”

Formtek is setting up a mobile virtual welding demonstration unit at the facility for MFG Day with help from Arzel Zoning Technology, American Spring Wire, Satellite Gear, and Lincoln Electric.

“They sell these virtual welders to schools and vocational centers as a training tool, because it enables the students to learn without having to use the welding consumables such as the gas the wire, and venting out the fumes and all those different things,” said Pennuto, who chairs FMA’s young professionals council. “It’s a pretty neat learning tool.”

Another effective strategy for MFG Day success is opening the door to the broader community.

“I took one tour, where seven companies in a small industrial park area worked together collaboratively, so that when people got to that industrial park, it wasn’t just for one location and out,” said FMA’s marketing director Lee. She added that tour sponsors invite a wide range of people, from students and their families to mayors and senators.

“They reached out to really make sure that all of these people who have an impact on what happens in manufacturing could actually experience manufacturing, and could see for themselves what some of the challenges some of the companies have,” Lee said.

“It was fascinating, and I think the people who came along for that day and had the opportunity to tour all seven kinds of companies really got very different picture of what manufacturing means, because it doesn’t mean any one thing,” she said. “It’s not just auto making, and it’s not just machinery. It’s so many different kinds of products that touch people’s lives in so many different ways.”

For more information or to get a host tool kit, check out the MFG Day site here. Check back on IMT Career Journal for MFG Day coverage.


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