Manufacturing Day: Enhancing the Industry’s Image

by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Plastics Business
At Brenner-Fielder, more than 300 students and community members toured the facility, with demonstrations in its engineering and production departments. Photo courtesy of Brenner-Fielder.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are currently 12.3 million manufacturing workers in the US, accounting for nine percent of the workforce. Over the next decade, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (MI) estimate that – of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs that will likely be needed – 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap and a potential lack of students seeking an education in STEM and a career in manufacturing. To combat these industry-damaging statistics, Founding Partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International, created Manufacturing Day, or MFG DAY, in 2012.

MFG DAY has since become an annual event produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), with key contribution and support from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and MI. Companies all over the country host MFG DAY events on the first Friday in October to help shape and improve public perception. It provides manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and demonstrate what modern manufacturing is – and certainly what it isn’t. When manufacturers join forces for this coordinated event, they begin to address the expected shortage in skilled labor by connecting with youth, parents and educators, actively influencing the future of manufacturing and strengthening the continuous success of the industry.

To make this grassroots effort a success, sponsors provide resources to support the US manufacturers participating in the program. A variety of awareness-raising activities take place, including plant tours, community events and expos, job or educational fairs, and other celebrations of the manufacturing community. Below is a sample of what some of the more than 2,800 participating manufacturing companies across a variety of industries – including plastics – did to celebrate MFG DAY 2017.

At Seneca Foundry, students received hands-on experience in manufacturing a casting. Photo courtesy of Seneca Foundry.

Seneca Foundry, located in Webster City, Iowa, held a tour that consisted of educational stations and presentations in each department. “Not only did this tour showcase our own processes, but it explained some advancements in general manufacturing,” explained COO Lori Mason. The company had a computer simulation set up to highlight how it uses FlowCast software with SolidWorks. “And, just for fun, we set up a photo booth where guests could wear different PPE (various styles of gloves, aprons, spats, etc.) and take a silly photo,” she continued. Following the facility tour, 15 local high school students participated in a “Foundry in a Bod” hands-on activity. This opportunity allows students to play in sand to gain further understanding of how to manufacture a casting. While hand-packing their molds and melting the tin, the students were exposed to the company’s processes and gained an understanding of what it takes to create a quality casting.

At Plastics Molding Technology, students toured the company’s Innovation Lab to see how robotics work with the injection molding process. Photo courtesy of Plastics Molding Technology.

Plastics Molding Technology, Inc. (PMT), in El Paso, Texas, participated in MFG DAY by hosting an event for the fourth year in a row; however, this was the first year PMT collaborated with two other El Paso manufacturing businesses, participating in a three-stop MFG DAY tour event. The company welcomed students at its facility and showcased the innovative and modern plastics manufacturing industry by providing hands-on learning opportunities for a class of 25 Career & Technical Education students. They were invited to PMT’s new Innovation Lab to learn about the plastic injection molding process, work with robots and see how 3D printing complements manufacturing today. “Representatives from each PMT department talked with students, helping them engage with our industry and consider a career in plastics,” said CEO Charles A. Sholtis. A career path in plastics and PMT’s internships and apprenticeship programs also were highlighted.

Hosting its third annual Manufacturing Day event, Florence, Kentucky-based Balluff welcomed more than 120 students and local community members to learn about modern manufacturing and automation. Visitors took part in hands-on activities and games involving Balluff sensors to learn how they work and to experience how automation aims to improve manufacturing outcomes. Guests also toured Baluff’s facility to witness how lean process improvements and automation are key components to driving manufacturing growth in the US. Students then had the opportunity to meet with local schools and universities to learn about STEM programs and manufacturing apprenticeships in the area. “There are incredible job opportunities in manufacturing right now for both young people entering the workforce, as well as people looking for that exciting next career,” stated Marketing Management Director Will Healy III. “Manufacturing Day is one way we connect with our local community to build interest in STEM and vocational opportunities that exist in Kentucky and in manufacturing as a whole,” he added.

Some 70 students from Northwest High School in Jackson, Michigan, were invited to join Team 1 Plastics at its facility in Albion, Michigan. The students spent the afternoon touring the company’s plant and asking questions. “Many of the students had never seen a manufacturing facility in real life, and our goal was to let them experience first-hand some of our cool processes and equipment,” HR Manager Robert Clothier commented. Participating in the nationwide event for the first time, Team 1 Plastics wanted to showcase some of the opportunities that are available to students in the manufacturing industry. “Companies like Team 1 can offer high-paying jobs and opportunities for development through on-the-job learning and outside education at no cost to the students,” he said. Impressed by the interest of the students, Team 1 Plastics will continue to hold MFG DAY events in the future.

Brenner-Fiedler, a premier automation and pneumatic provider for original manufacturers (OEMs) and end users, held its second MFG DAY event. With a turnout of nearly 300 students and community members, Benner-Fiedler led visitors on an engaging tour through its facility, stopping for 30 minutes in both engineering and production departments for a demonstration and Q&A. “Our engineering department gave the students robotics demonstrations and touched on the importance of quality, and our production department led a hands-on demonstration on Lean 5S and teamwork in building anything from panels to liposuction machines,” explained Marketing and Web Manager Mallayana Bradley. The most impactful experience Bradley witnessed that day was a conversation between two young girls. “One brought up the fact that there are girl engineers, to which the other replied, ‘She (our engineering manager) is my role model.'””

As a tech company streamlining the procurement of CNC-machined parts, MakeTime, Lexington, Kentucky, hosted students and faculty from local universities and technical colleges to dispel the outdated image of manufacturing and replace it with one that is more attractive to millennials and more representative of the future of manufacturing careers as tech-heavy and computer-savvy jobs. With motivation to change the perception of manufacturing from dirty and repetitive work to a more modern view of the field, the company opened its doors to show off MakeTime. Lee Lingo, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, as well as Terry Gill, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, were in attendance at the company’s event to help promote the advancement of technology and manufacturing.

At Bishop-Wisecarver, President Pamela Kan addressed the growing number of women in the manufacturing industry. Photo courtesy of Bishop-Wisecarver.

This year, Bishop-Wisecarver, Pittsburgh, California, hosted a two-and-a-half-hour event at its facility, with more than 80 people in attendance. Students and educators from four local high schools, as well as community leaders, heard an opening keynote discussion from president of the company Pamela Kan. She focused on busting manufacturing myths and highlighted areas that are most meaningful to students – salaries, job opportunities, use of advanced technology and the growing number of women in the industry. Following the keynote address, participants were divided into smaller groups and rotated through a career panel, plant tour, hands-on demo of a robotic arm and a hands-on assembly project. The career panel consisted of four BWC employees – from both technical and nontechnical roles – giving details about their jobs, educational backgrounds and exciting projects. The participants were then able to speak with one BWC engineer who has been programing a robotic arm. For the assembly project, students built a mini-representation of a linear actuator that included a carriage with four wheels that ran along a pair of BWC DualVee® tracks. “They had to assemble the studs/wheels to the carriage and then adjust the wheels so the carriage would travel smoothly down the tracks,” Winchester said.

Though it’s too early to assess the full impact of Manufacturing Day, results from a survey conducted by NAM’s Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte showed that in 2016 the event had a positive effect on the public’s view of the industry. Overall, students and educators felt more aware of manufacturing jobs in their communities and were more convinced that manufacturing jobs are interesting and rewarding. Additionally, 89 percent of Manufacturing Day event hosts saw value in participating, and 86 percent were likely to host an event again in the future. Helping to shape the public’s opinion of manufacturing and shift it to a more modern outlook will ensure its continuity and provide future generations the opportunity to work in the field.

For the second year, an award was given to manufacturers that worked throughout the year to raise the profile of the industry. Read more here.