Monday, October 29, 2012

When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word?


I was recently asked to join a regional panel at the RFI (Request For Information) Workshop on Building the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation at the Beckman Center at UC Irvine. Don Norman, member if the National Academy of Engineering, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and author of “The Design of Everyday Things” gave one of the welcoming talks at the start of the workshop. One of the stories he shared with the group was particularly troubling and it deeply saddened me.

Norman told us that Northwestern University had a graduate program titled, “Master of Management and Manufacturing”.  If you were to search for this program now you would only find it listed as MMM. In fact, finding the word manufacturing on their website is difficult. At MIT they took similar action, changing a joint program with the Sloan Business School now known as LGO (Leaders for Global Operations). In both scenarios the enrollment for these programs INCREASED after the word manufacturing was dropped from the program name. The word manufacturing has such negative connotations that it is avoided in marketing educational programs.

Infographic: When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word?
[ click image for larger view ]
Infographic, 5 Myths Debunked
What has happened in our country to make our next generation so turned off by the word manufacturing?
  1. Its Dirty. Too many kids and their parents still see manufacturing as a “dirty” job.  This is far from true, especially in the state of California. Environmental, health and safety laws have created clean and safe work environments. Our facilities lead the world.  The rise of lean and continuous improvement cultures have made many manufacturing facilities almost clean enough to eat off the floor (I say this with the five-second rule in mind).
  2. It’s Dumb. Wrong! Manufacturing drives the majority of innovation and R&D investment in our country. Manufactures are leading the way in new technologies and the design and development of products that improve our daily lives and the welfare of people around the world. If you want to be on the cutting edge, then you want a job in manufacturing.
  3. It’s Boring. Images of the Henry Ford assembly line still exist in many minds. We have come a long way, baby! In fact, manufacturers like myself now have trouble finding the skilled workforce needed to run the type of state-of-the-art technology machines we now have on our production floors. Making chips fly takes brains and skill.
  4. It’s Cheap. Wrong again! Manufacturing jobs on average pay 20K higher than service sector jobs. Manufacturing jobs are the back bone of a strong middle class.
  5. It’s Dead. Excuse me? When is the world going to stop consuming? Why do we think manufacturing is a thing of the past when we as a nation are the largest consumer of goods in the world? The face of manufacturing may be changing in the US but it is far from dead. Just look at the DYI craze and the rise of the Maker Faire phenomena. Just thinking about the impact that additive manufacturing will have over the next decade is mind blowing.
I am happy to see that both presidential candidates are at least uttering the “M” word. But in my book, neither has really given manufacturing the credit it deserves for the role it plays in a strong US economy.

14 comments:

  1. Until we modernize and promote a nationally accredited machining apprenticeship program nothing will change. The short term machining programs that the NTMA programs offers don't produced the trained and skilled machinists that many high tech machining job shops want. What they produce from their programs are graduates that are a few steps above button pusher. I have watched over two decades of these type program fail since real machining apprenticeship programs were scaled back. You don't learn machining out of a book. It's all about very diverse hands on experience that takes at least 4 years to gain from a 8 hour a day 5 day a week program.

    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jon,
    I agree that the educational process has to include hands-on training. I think the struggle is that hands-on programs are expensive and require capital equipment to train the students on. With the current budget issues effecting community collages and high schools across the country I think this hurdle is a struggle. Do you have any creative ideas of how to get around this issue?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The majority of machining is learned hands on by making many different kinds of difficult to make parts. Machining is a craft/skill that can't be taught in a traditional classroom or out of a book. Manufacturers and machining job shops need work together to offer what the old 8,000 hour journeyman machining apprenticeship programs once offered but with modernization tailored toward small shops. An example would be a worker changing to a different shop every 4 months for 4 years. At the end of the 4 years they decide which shop they will stay with based on what they were best at and what they enjoyed the most.

    Since the 70's manufacturers and machining job shops have all used the approach of trying to steal machinists from their competitors and pay them more. This approach gets less and less effective all the time. Soon the only choice for manufacturers and machining job shops will be to work together and setup long term, hands on programs that create real machinists or to close their doors.





    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jon,

    While the thought of a community collage sounds fun I meant community colleges :)

    I think the rub in your scenario above is that most small manufacturers and machine shops don't have the scale or resources to support internal journeyman type programs. Getting a bunch of small shops to work together may be a challenge as well.

    I agree with you that stealing won’t solve the problem long term and if we are not generating any new machinists then at some point there won’t be anyone to steal regardless.


    ReplyDelete
  5. Pamela,


    "I think the rub in your scenario above is that most small manufacturers and machine shops don't have the scale or resources to support internal journeyman type programs. Getting a bunch of small shops to work together may be a challenge as well."

    It's an easier challenge than trying to get the US government to do the right thing. I think it can work with perhaps 15 small companies banding together to produce a quality program.

    "I agree with you that stealing won’t solve the problem long term and if we are not generating any new machinists then at some point there won’t be anyone to steal regardless."

    My guess is that it's 5 to 10 years before it becomes a crises of epic proportions.

    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  6. http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20120917/FREE/120919868/why-manufacturers-can-t-find-the-workforce-they-need#

    "Some leading industry watchers, such as Intel Corp. founder Andy Grove and business school Professor Peter Cappelli, say that much of the blame for insufficient talent rests with the companies themselves, which have shown a lack of foresight and evaded responsibility for a problem that they fostered."



    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jon,I tend to agree with the statement above; the push needs to come from the business sector. Here in Ontario there are programs for companies to take on apprentices, and incentives for students to enter tool making and related industries, but a concerted effort by the industry is needed to educate students about the work, jobs, and market so that they considered the fields in the first place. Further, coop opportunities, work-study, and high school introduction programs need to be developed, and this starts with initiative from the companies themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jon, while I tend to agree with your sentiments I think the article you referenced has an important point you alluded to in a prior comment in the next paragraph after the one you cited.

    "Manufacturers, like many companies in other sectors, have scaled back apprenticeship and training programs because the payoff is uncertain: Workers don't stick with one employer for decades like they used to, and a factory manager may sponsor a star employee's machine-tool course only to see that worker get lured away by a firm across town."

    And in support of my comments before I think Intel has WAY more resources and scale to support apprentice programs than most small machine shops. I think trying to organize 15 small shops to band together and define and pay for an apprentice program could be like trying to herd cats.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sandra who supports the "programs for companies to take on apprentices, and incentives for students to enter tool making and related industries"? Is the support government resources or financial support or are the programs all funded by industry?

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "I think trying to organize 15 small shops to band together and define and pay for an apprentice program could be like trying to herd cats."

    No doubt but it's still easier than trying to get government to do the right thing and create the right program that would turn out real machinists. Finding the right person to run the program I suggested would be the hardest part.

    Keep in mind nothing that's worthwhile is ever very easy.

    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  13. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-lindner/skilled-workers_b_1952327.html?utm_hp_ref=opportunity-working

    "Companies have to start developing a self-interest in educating the workforce. They have to incur the cost before they can reap the benefits. Today's leadership has to understand that people are not mass-produced. Employees are unique human beings with different skills, talents, feelings and beliefs that can be leveraged by helping them to become the best they can be and to reach their full potential.

    We have become a society that likes customized products and we are willing to pay a premium for it. The time of mass production will slowly become history. Manufacturers today have to think about how they can discover their own uniqueness and their own voice by creating a culture that helps them to stand out from their competition. This will attract youth and a skilled workforce. The goal however, cannot simply be to awaken an interest in our young people to choose manufacturing as a career. We also have to consider what would make them want to stay.

    I hear a lot of complaints that our young people don't want to work but the reality is that we have to learn to understand what motivates them and help them to perform to the best of their abilities. Generation Y is not only interested in a bottom line that shows a profit. They don't want to feel that they have talents that are going to waste and sitting idle due to a lack of leadership and organizational focus."


    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA
    CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  14. Carter Boswell, BGI Tucson AZDecember 5, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    The DELTECH Community College in Georgetown DE has a solution. I think you need to go visit them and find out what they are doing right. If the local machine shops supported the Community college programs their would not be a shortage of interested candidates in this occupation.

    I remember some twenty years ago when Iowa State University had a machinist class for its young engineers. The regents of the University didn't understand the need for this type of training and tried to get rid of it. The local businesses need to tell the regents how important this type of training is.

    Carter Boswell
    BGI

    ReplyDelete