‘Makeover’ for manufacturing

No matter what your company produces, product innovation and process efficiency keep you one step ahead of the competition. An increasingly scarce supply of new engineering talent joining the ranks, however, could place that competitive advantage at risk. The good news is that an incredible amount of energy and creativity is being invested in reaching out to young people to engage and inspire.
By Marc Moschetto, editorial director January 1, 2008

No matter what your company produces, product innovation and process efficiency keep you one step ahead of the competition. An increasingly scarce supply of new engineering talent joining the ranks, however, could place that competitive advantage at risk.

The good news is that an incredible amount of energy and creativity is being invested in reaching out to young people to engage and inspire. For evidence of this, look no further than some of the organizations featured in this month’s cover story. Motivating students is critical to the long-term health and success of our industry, but the need to give manufacturing a public “facelift” is of equal importance.

If you’re reading this magazine, website, or newsfeed, you already know that manufacturing is alive and kicking and that the plant floor is becoming a playground for new technologies. From the emergence of wireless solutions to the free flow of information through the enterprise, today’s production environments are technologically advanced and highly-sophisticated. The average person on the street, however, isn’t likely to share the same view.

A large part of the problem is that mainstream media outlets seem to have an affinity for negative stories from the manufacturing sector. If 24/7 cable news networks were your only source of information, you would be led to believe that all manufacturing jobs will be outsourced, all products made offshore are of questionable safety, and that the future of U.S. manufacturing is bleak.

The industry has its challenges to be sure, but what is conspicuously absent from the public consciousness is a more accurate, less sensational view of the market. We operate within a global economy, and in many ways the world is getting smaller, but the flow of product and production can be bi-directional. Of course some manufacturing operations have moved offshore, but some global manufacturers open and operate massive facilities in North America with great success. (Can you still call a Honda CRV an “import” if it was made in Ohio?)

To help turn the tide, there is no substitute for providing people with first-hand experience. Bring your kids to work, host a plant tour for a local school, start a blog… anything to get the word out about manufacturing in a positive light. Simply sharing enthusiasm for your vocation can have a dramatic effect on those around you and provide some much needed perspective on the state of our industry.

marc.moschetto@reedbusiness.com