If you didn't think Northeast Ohio's manufacturing roots continue to run deep, you would have after attending [M]Power Manufacturing Assembly, an event that both celebrated National Manufacturing Day and highlighted the vital role manufacturing plays in this region of the United States.
A capacity crowd attended Friday's [M]POWER, which was sponsored by MAGNET, the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (the local Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate), and Crain's Cleveland Business. Keynote speakers included Lincoln Electric (IW 500/301) President and CEO Christopher Mapes and Wal-Mart's Joe Quinn, senior director of issue management and strategic outreach.
I'll be writing about Lincoln Electric's Mapes in greater detail in an upcoming article, so for the most part I'm sharing some other highlights of the day. That said, the Lincoln Electric CEO reminded attendees that while manufacturers are facing many challenges today, "there's always going to be challenges for manufacturers."
However, Mapes added, "We can't let [challenges] be our crutch for our lack of success."
The Talent Challenge
Finding and hiring the right talent is among the current challenges for many manufacturers, and the same holds true in Northeast Ohio. Several local manufacturing companies shared their stories, including SGS Tool Co., where the average associate age is 42. Gary Miller, training and occupational development manager at the small manufacturer, shared several of his company's efforts.
Don't overlook college interns, he said, and don't assume that you can't afford to bring them aboard. There's grant money to be had to help offset costs, he said. High-school interns are another opportunity, he noted. SGS Tool has employeed several on a part-time basis, paying $13 per hour, and several have transitioned into "excellent" employees, he said.
Moreover, if you can engage the youth earlier, "You're able to mold them into the kind of employee you want on the floor," he said. "There are kids out there who really want to work, and they are interested in starting a career."
There are kids out there who really want to work, and they are interested in starting a career.
Gary Miller, SGS Tool Co.
It was particularly interesting to hear Swagelok's Troy Dunlap discuss his manufacturing company's support of Right Skills Now, an accelerated program to grow machining talent, as I had written about program in a workforce training article.
The Wal-Mart Effect
Remember the commitment Wal-Mart made in January 2013 to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products in 10 years to both support U.S. manufacturing and grow jobs? Indeed, Quinn assured the crowd that more and more product in Wal-Mart stores would be "made or assembled" in the United States.
He illustrated with an example of a Wal-Mart RFP for patio furniture that includes a plan to make it in the United States. Why? To shrink lead times, Quinn said.
He also spoke of Kent International opening a bicycle assembly facility in South Carolina in response to the Wal-mart initiative to grow its U.S. purchasing.
Quinn acknowledged that it would be challenging for many Wal-Mart suppliers to reshore operations.
In Ohio, It's Manufacturing Month
Friday's event was the first [M]Power Manufacturing Assembly, but signs suggest it won't be the last. There were several other sessions I couldn't attend but that touched on such topics as ideation and marketing, as well as financing.
And in Ohio, where manufacturing roots run deep, it's not simply Manufacturing Day, but it's the start of Manufacturing Month.