When you think about Manufacturing Day, you may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have the time to host an event. What I manufacture isn’t that interesting. Is it really that big of a deal?” Well, actually, it is a big deal. Manufacturing Day is a national celebration, which occurs every year on the first Friday in October (this year it's October 6, 2017).
It was started as a way to help change common misperceptions about manufacturing; to get the word out about manufacturing and how 21st Century manufacturing is not manufacturing as your parents or grandparents knew it. Not to imply that manufacturing wasn’t important during those years. It was huge.
Manufacturing Has Changed But Have People's Perceptions?
During WWII and afterward, manufacturing was definitely a big deal. Planes and ships were being built to win the war and everybody understood the important role that manufacturing played in helping the country in our efforts here and abroad. When the war ended, it was time to get the factories humming again producing products that would allow America to grow and prosper. But, as the years went by, people just didn’t seem to think too much about the role manufacturing plays in our economy and our lives in general. It was sort of one of those forgotten industries – not to those involved of course – but to those, especially in urban areas, who didn’t really know anyone in the manufacturing industry. For the most part, people continued to think of manufacturing as old, dirty factories employing low paying workers in dead-end jobs. A nowhere job in some nowhere town where people worked because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else. (Gulp…I have to admit, that’s pretty much what I thought.) Even with the advent of all of the new technologies, a lot of people just didn’t correlate the notion that if a technology was helping other industries to make huge advances, that it just might also be helping the manufacturing industry to make huge advances too. And, believe me, it has!
With all of the technological advances taking place, not only has what we manufacture changed, but how we manufacture it has changed. Along with that have come major changes in terms of modern manufacturing facilities, better working conditions, an array of new career options -- which include higher wages and the opportunity to use STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) skills in the workplace. And let’s not forget the myriad of products that we buy. How many thousands of products are available now at Costco, Walmart, your local shopping malls, your local car dealers, or on Amazon!
All of those products have to be designed, developed and manufactured. You now have
manufacturers using Smart Manufacturing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and teams of robots and people working side-by-side, to manufacture many of the products that we purchase. The advances have been amazing. But, let’s not leave out the small, entrepreneurial manufacturers who are also contributing dramatically to the growth and advancement of manufacturing.
Maybe they’re using CAD design, maybe they’re dipping their toes in the water with respect to 3D printing, or maybe they’re still using hands-on niche skills that are only passed on from generation-to-generation to make a product that you might purchase and cherish for years to come.
There’s no doubt about it. Manufacturing plays a huge role in our lives. But, how many of us think about this? And how many of us truly respect manufacturing as a profession or as a career option for our children?
My Own Perception of Manufacturing Has Changed
I grew up in a small mid-western town that was dominated by factories and, beyond that, farm land. However, my parents didn’t work in manufacturing and so I was never exposed to it … other than occasionally walking or driving by a manufacturing plant and thinking that it didn’t seem like it would be much fun working there. I’d seen the old movies showing workers on assembly lines and men carrying their lunch pails filled with sandwiches and chips, and I was one of those people who thought working in a factory would be monotonous and boring. Remember, this was me as a teenager. I had a lot to learn!
A few years later, my sister got married to someone who worked in manufacturing. At the time, I didn’t think much about it as my mind was on my own career objectives and I was now enjoying life in beautiful San Francisco. As the years went by though, and my sister went to work for companies in downtown Chicago while pursuing her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, I started thinking, "How can she be satisfied with someone who just wants to work in a factory for the rest of his life. Doesn’t he have any ambition? Doesn’t he want to work somewhere other than a boring factory?" I was in my early 20’s at that point. I obviously still had much more to learn!
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong about how I perceived manufacturing -- and my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law LOVED his job! He loved working with his hands and with machines. And, as it turned out, he was very highly skilled at what he did. Over the years, he became the factory expert on how to make a certain kind of wire. He was the person that trained everyone else and he was the one that management turned to when they needed ideas for making improvements and advancements. He took a lot of pride in what he did, he loved the comradery he had with his fellow workers (some of whom became life-long friends), and he was a happier person in general because he was doing what he enjoyed. He worked in that one plant for over 30 years.
As for me, I now work for CMTC and my perception of manufacturing has continued to dramatically
change. I now know so much more about manufacturing in general – about the changes that have occurred over the years and about all of the new technological advancements. From time to time I’m able to get out of the office and actually go visit various small and medium-sized manufacturers and it has been a real eye-opener.
I’ve seen how coffee is manufactured in an automated plant, how handmade specialty papers are made that have been used by two different U.S. Presidents, how guitars are made that have been used on the television show "The Voice," how raw pet food is made that is used to help dogs and other animals that are allergic to the commercial store brands, how gourmet candy is made and packaged for shipping, and how fluid system components are made for use worldwide.
I’ve come to have such an appreciation for manufacturers --- for their entrepreneurial spirit, their dedication and hard work, their individual passions, and for their immense knowledge and expertise. I’ve also seen how each manufacturing facility is completely different -- big or small, automated or all hands-on, high-tech or centuries-old craftsmanship -- it’s all really fascinating to me. My perception of manufacturing has definitely changed…and boy have I learned a lot since my days as a teenager!
How Will You Help Change People's Misperceptions of Manufacturing?
As a manufacturer, it’s no doubt taken a lot of hard work to get where you’re at today. You’re skilled at what you do… whether you’re using the latest technological advances or age-old craftsmanship. It doesn’t matter which it is, and it doesn’t matter whether you have a large facility with hundreds of workers or you have a small shop with five workers. The point is, you’re passionate about what you do and you have a lot of knowledge and expertise that you could share with others. By getting involved in Manufacturing Day, you can help change the perception that people have about manufacturing. You can help open the minds of students, parents, teachers, friends, community members ... and people just like me -- someone who was never exposed to manufacturing and who only knew what she saw in some old movies.
So, are you willing to set aside an hour or two and host an open house at your facility to tell people your story and let them see the products you create? Or, if that’s just not feasible, are you willing to contact a local school or community organization to see if you could give a presentation …kind of like a show and tell? Or, if you really enjoy getting up in front of people and telling your story and talking about manufacturing, would you be interested in being a panelist or speaker at a larger Manufacturing Day event sponsored by local colleges and other organizations? There are so many options, and with so many Manufacturing Day resources available to help you, it’s really quite easy to get started.
CMTC Is Committed to Helping Spread the Word About Manufacturing Day
As part of CMTC’s mission, “To serve manufacturing as a trusted advisor providing solutions that impact and grow the California economy,” we are committed to getting the word out about Manufacturing Day. Through emails, newsletters, blogs, our website, and by having our employees network and spread the word, we are working hard to encourage manufacturers, schools, and various organizations and associations throughout California, to get involved. One of our goals is to partner high schools and middle schools with manufacturers in their local area to provide first-hand learning experiences for students -- especially those in ROP, STEM and CTE programs.
Don't Forget to Register Your Event
If you haven't started thinking about Manufacturing Day yet, you should read our recent post: “It’s Not Too Early to Start Thinking About Manufacturing Day 2017.” If you’re past the thinking stage and have already decided on hosting some type of event, don’t forget to register it on the MFGDay.com website. It just takes a few minutes. By registering your event, you will automatically be added to the schedule of events, giving your event national exposure – for free! CMTC will also promote your event for free on our website on our Who’s Participating page and, on our Schools Participating page, we will list any schools that are looking to be matched up with a local California manufacturer.
Manufacturing Day is definitely a big deal and, as indicated in a 2016 survey, it has been helping to improve people's perceptions of manufacturing. Please help us by continuing to open your doors and get involved in Manufacturing Day so that even more people (students, teachers, parents, friends and entire communities) will understand the important role that manufacturing plays in our economy and in our lives.