August 28, 2013
Actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to changing the public perception. Thanks to Manufacturing Day, more and more people are becoming more positive about manufacturing and manufacturing careers.
Manufacturing long has suffered from an image problem. Those unfamiliar with modern, high-tech factories and shops think smokestacks, assembly lines, backbreaking work, and grime when they hear the word manufacturing. Combine this perception with the fact that few parents and educators encourage young people to pursue manufacturing careers, and it’s no wonder that employers in this sector struggle to find the highly skilled workers they need.
Bemoaning an image problem is one thing. Actually doing something to combat it is another. Enter Manufacturing Day.
Launched in 2012, the inaugural event, co-produced by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl. (FMA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and The Manufacturing Institute, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), was an unqualified success. More than 240 events were held in manufacturing facilities in 37 states, and more than 7,000 people participated.
Among the events were open houses, public tours, and career workshops.
Superior Joining Technologies Inc., Machesney Park, Ill., observed the day in a big way. The company, which provides precision welding, nondestructive testing, and multiaxis laser processing for the aerospace industry, conducted tours for students from the local school district (Figure 1) and held an open house for all customers, vendors, and friends of the company and manufacturing community. The League of Women Voters was on-site during the open house to help register attendees to vote.
SJTI Owner and President Teresa Beach-Shelow said the company’s Manufacturing Day goal was “to inspire students to know that manufacturing took education and was fun. We were successful!” The day also gave those customers, vendors, and friends who had not seen the facility an opportunity to do so.
And those who came and saw “loved it! The multiaxis laser gets lots of people excited. Plu,s others were impressed to see our operation,” Beach-Shelow said.
The open house also led to an unexpected collaboration. “A competitor came, and as a result, we have partnered together to do work that one or the other is unable to do.”
IRMCO, a family-owned, fourth-generation lubricant manufacturer based in Evanston, Ill., joined with six other neighborhood manufacturers and invited high school students, legislators, educators, media, and members of the community to their event. They all met at IRMCO at 10 a.m. on Manufacturing Day for refreshments and remarks about manufacturing by local leaders. They then walked around the neighborhood to tour each facility.
IRMCO President Jennifer Kalas said she didn’t know what to expect from the event, but “the plan was to introduce manufacturing to the students and the community. I thought the turnout was far better than we hoped. Many people didn’t realize there was so much manufacturing going on in Evanston’s WestEnd.”
For this year’s event, nine manufacturers are participating. “We are going to have a reception/networking at IRMCO at 7:30 a.m., and the plan is to have 90 eighth-graders bused in at 9 a.m. A short inspirational video on manufacturing will be presented, and role models from high school will speak for a few minutes. We then will break into six groups and tour facilities, meeting back at IRMCO for lunch,” Kalas said.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Metcam, a fabricator of precision sheet metal components and assemblies, hosted an open house for last year’s Manufacturing Day. According to Metcam Environmental Health and Safety Manager Sue Max, attendees were “very positive—impressed with the technology we demonstrated and interested in learning more about our organization and future job opportunities. One school administrator followed up by setting up a class tour for the local high school engineering students.”
Among the attendees were students from nearby Lanier Technical College. Max said these students “were especially impressed with the equipment in the new robotic manufacturing cell.” (Figure 2)
Max, Beach-Shelow, and Kalas all were asked what they would like to see the Manufacturing Day initiative accomplish.
Beach-Shelow said, “Open houses in every shop, in every state … improve our image and conversation with parents, educators, and elected officials.”
Kalas said, “We would like to see more awareness for manufacturing, more support from the government, more young people looking for careers in manufacturing, and have more products made in the USA rather than overseas.”
Max said, “We hope to improve the community’s understanding of how manufacturing is conducted today, from the technology now available to the sustainability of our operations, and benefits to the community.
Technology, sustainability, benefits … a far cry from smokestacks, assembly lines, and grime.
SJTI, IRMCO, and Metcam all are participating again in this year’s Manufacturing Day, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. As of this writing, it’s not too late for your company to join them and help change the image of manufacturing.
You can begin by visiting the Manufacturing Day website, which features a wealth of information to help you plan your event. The article “3 Types of Manufacturing Day Events” found under the resources tab can guide you in the right direction. As the article states, “The only real requirement is that a Manufacturing Day event should be designed to expose more people to present-day manufacturing while showcasing manufacturing in a positive light.”