As the laid-off struggle, high-tech US plants offer jobs

By Dan Sewell and Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press writers – Aug 15, 2017

Herbie Mays is 3M proud, and it shows — in the 3M shirt he wears; in the 3M ring he earned after three decades at the company’s plant in suburban Cincinnati; in the way he shows off a card from a 3M supervisor, praising Mays as “a GREAT employee.”

But it’s all nostalgia.?

Mays’ last day at 3M was in March. Bent on cutting costs and refocusing its portfolio, the company decided to close the plant that made bandages, knee braces and other health care supplies and move work to its plant in Mexico.

At 62, Mays is unemployed and wants to work, though on the face of it he has plenty of opportunities. Barely 10 miles from his ranch-style brick home in this blue-collar city, GE Aviation has been expanding — and hiring.

In the state-of-the-art laboratory in a World War II-era building the size of 27 football fields, workers use breakthrough technology to build jet engines that run on less fuel at higher temperatures. Bright flashes flare out as GE workers run tests with a robotic arm that can withstand 2,000 degrees (1,090 Celsius).

The open jobs there are among 30,000 manufacturing positions available across Ohio. But Mays, like many of Ohio’s unemployed, doesn’t have the needed skills.

“If you don’t keep up with the times,” he said, “you’re out of luck.”

This is the paradox of American manufacturing jobs in 2017. Donald Trump won the presidency in great measure because he pledged to stop American jobs and manufacturing from going overseas. His message helped him capture Ohio and other Rust Belt states with the support of Mays and other blue-collar voters.

It’s true that many jobs have gone overseas, to places where workers are willing to toil for less money. Yet at the same time, American manufacturers have actually added nearly a million jobs in the past seven years. And federal statistics show nearly 390,000 such jobs open.

The problem? Many of these are not the same jobs that for decades sustained the working class. More and more factory jobs now demand education, technical know-how or specialized skills. And many of the workers set adrift from low-tech factories lack such qualifications. Meanwhile, the dearth of qualified applicants has forced some manufacturers to pay more to fill those jobs.

Training opportunities are limited, particularly for older workers.

“The United States trails virtually all its industrial competitors in public and private spending on training,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, adding that corporate spending on training has declined over the past two decades.

And though industry experts advocate more funding for retraining, the track record for such programs has been mixed. Not enough participate. Returning to school for up to two years can mean accepting much-reduced income during that time, sometimes an impossible step for older workers with families or nearing retirement.

Still, there are efforts underway to bridge the “skills gap,” and lessons to be learned from how it has been done successfully overseas. Many political leaders and CEOs are promoting apprenticeships and other training programs as a way to help address the problem.

Jaylen Britton, 18, studied robotics through Butler Tech’s program at Colerain High School near Cincinnati, and is not planning right away to attend a four-year college. He took an apprenticeship with Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy and will earn a two-year degree while working for the power company.

He expects his apprenticeship to prepare him to benefit from automation rather than fall victim to it.

“If you evolve with the robots that are evolving, you’ll grow with whatever is growing,” Britton said.

After years of job losses, filling 2 million new American manufacturing jobs in the next decade — the number forecast in a report by Deloitte Consulting and the American Manufacturing Institute — might seem easy. It’s not.

That’s because factory automation has changed what companies need from their employees.

Assembly-line workers now need to run, operate and troubleshoot computer-directed machinery. Manufacturers maintain complex websites with thousands of product and pricing options to be updated and maintained. And where forklifts are still driven by people, drivers often use software programs that track inventory.

“There are more computers on the manufacturing floor than machine tools and other types of equipment,” said Judy Marks, CEO of Siemens USA.

Siemens, which makes turbines, medical equipment and HVAC systems, employs 7,500 software developers — nearly 15 percent of its U.S. workforce.

Last year, software developer was the second-most-common job advertised by manufacturing companies, behind only sales, according to data provided by Burning Glass Technologies, a company that analyzes labor market data.

Once-simple household appliances are now loaded with sensors and internet-enabled semiconductors. The shift has been particularly dramatic among automakers, with their expanded use of complicated onboard computers. Five years ago, they posted just as many jobs for mechanical engineers as for software developers. By last year, a sharp change had occurred. There were twice as many openings for software jobs as for mechanical engineers, according to Burning Glass.

Vicki Holt is CEO of Proto Labs, which employs roughly 1,000 workers, including 120 software developers, to make components for the auto, aerospace and medical device industries. Holt said “advanced manufacturing” — employing “hand-held computers, scanners, using Google Glass” — is a trend that will accelerate with growing use of robotics.

But when it comes to robotics, American industry is only beginning to catch up with much of the rest of the world. In Germany and Japan, higher labor costs and aging populations have spurred faster adoption of industrial automation.

Workers in many European and Asian countries are more likely to already be working with robots than U.S. workers, studies show. China is now the fastest-growing robotics buyer.

“The Chinese and Europeans and South Koreans are aggressively embracing robotics,” said Howie Choset, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We definitely are at a point where we have to keep up or get left behind.”

Choset is chief technology officer for the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute, a new public-private partnership to help U.S. companies adopt robot technologies, create and retain jobs in the sector, and help American workers compete with low-wage workers overseas.

In other countries that have forged ahead, robotics and advanced automation have created solid jobs while increasing efficiencies for manufacturers.

The Japanese have long embraced automation, and robots are increasingly becoming a part of everyday life. Sales of “companion robots” for households are surging. A tradition of “lifetime employment” by major Japanese companies means they try to retrain, not replace, workers.

On the Danish coast, a few hours from Copenhagen, Novozymes employs thousands to make enzymes for detergents, baking and other uses.

Jesper Haugaard, the vice president of Novozymes’ European unit, said automation has allowed the company to keep production — and jobs — close to the market, rather than outsourcing to China, where labor costs might be cheaper but transport and duties would outweigh the benefits.

Henrik Olsen, 61, remembers his early years at Novozymes doing manual lifting all day among workers who were “only arms and legs that followed the recipe.” There were fears of job loss when automation came, but today, he’s an operator seated behind a row of computers, with “a better day at work and much more interesting job.”

Dan Piil Petersen is another operator in the control room, where abbreviations for tasks adorn two whiteboards posted above dozens of monitors with graphic representations of the enzyme-making process. The six people in the air-conditioned room wore white T-shirts with the company logo and white pants.

“No stains,” Petersen said, smiling as he moved his hands down his spotless uniform.

In the United States, Trump continues to make promises about adding manufacturing jobs. In blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio, he talked about passing by big factories whose jobs “have left Ohio” on his way to a July 25 rally, then told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “coming back. They’re all coming back.”

But U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and a former U.S. trade representative, insisted in an interview: “We’re not going to see the kind of manufacturing renaissance that we all want in this country unless we focus on skills training.”

Otherwise, Portman warned, there could be another wave of jobs going offshore.

“Companies will vote with their feet,” he said.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, in a visit to a Detroit factory in June, acknowledged the need to address the “skills gap” by developing advanced computing skills. And when Trump visited Pewaukee, Wisconsin, in June with his secretaries of education and labor and daughter Ivanka, he touted the value of training while doing.

“Apprenticeships teach striving Americans the skills they need to operate incredible machines,” Trump said. “This is not the old days. This is new and computerized and complicated.”

Of the 146 million jobs in the United States, only about 0.35 percent — or slightly more than a half-million — were filled by active apprentices in 2016. Filling millions of open jobs through apprenticeships would require a substantial increase in government resources. So far, the Trump administration has called for more funding but hasn’t made any progress securing the funding from Congress.

Apprenticeships are much more common at some European companies, notably German firms. At Germany-based Stihl Inc.’s plant in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for example, A.J. Scherman is learning to be a “mechatronics technician.” Mechatronics combines electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as computer skills.

Stihl makes chain saws, leaf blowers and weed trimmers at the factory. Once he has completed his final year in Stihl’s four-year apprenticeship program, Scherman will read diagnostic software on computer screens attached to each robot to repair and upgrade them. If necessary, he’ll hook up a laptop to program changes.

Scherman, 37 and with only a high-school degree, wanted to earn more money when his daughter was born, so he took a chance with a mid-life career change. Previously, he worked 80-hour weeks putting together special events, including Stihl’s company picnic.

Scherman is also earning a college degree as part of the apprenticeship. Thanks to financial aid from Stihl, he’ll finish with zero debt.

The prospect of increasing automation doesn’t faze him. After all, he’ll be a robot repairman.

“We’re safe, because we’re the guys who fix the robots when they malfunction,” Scherman said. “We’re going to need people to fix the more advanced systems.”

There are assembly lines at the Stihl plant, but human workers are interspersed with computers and robotics. Two robot arms in one corner of the plant tie cords to the black pull handles used to start the company’s outdoor power tools, a mundane job formerly done by people.

Self-driving forklifts with flashing lights and constant beeping sounds, akin to R2-D2 from “Star Wars,” navigate around corners and through doors. They are programmed to slow down when people are nearby.

Skip Johnson, Stihl’s apprenticeship coordinator, said the company has succeeded in attracting young people. The key is getting bright students into the plant, where they see that the grimy, dusty factories they learned about in books and movies are giving way to clean operations using futuristic technology.

“When they actually come here and they see the robots and how they interact and the programming involved, it’s almost like a laser light show,” said Johnson, 56. “They just come in here and they’re wide-eyed.”

The company says it has never laid off a worker because of automation.

There are American success stories in automation. Lou Morales, who trains young apprentices at the Festo Corp. plant in suburban Cincinnati, understands the negative images associated with manufacturing that cause many young people — often steered by their parents — to shun the sector as a career. Years ago, he showed up at his steel mill at Glen Cove, New York, to find he no longer had a job. It had shut down.

“I’ve never seen so many padlocks in my life,” recalled Morales, 60.

But now he assures young people that their “future is endless” in manufacturing because new kinds of jobs are being created and the skills they are learning are in high demand.

U.S. manufacturing workers, excluding managers, make an average of $44,000 a year, according to government data. That’s just 2.8 percent higher, adjusted for inflation, than a decade ago after years of shifting of jobs overseas or to nonunion states. And it compares with a much higher 8 percent gain for the labor force as a whole over the past decade.

But a typical mechatronics engineer with a four-year degree can earn $97,000 a year; a typical software developer makes just over $100,000.

Festo Didactic, the education arm of Germany-based Festo, last year launched two-year mechatronics apprenticeship programs in Ohio with Sinclair Community College, and is already expanding its U.S. apprenticeship offerings.

At Festo’s plant in Mason, a northeast Cincinnati suburb, the floors are clean, the aisles uncluttered. The plant remains mostly quiet as workers monitor a sophisticated robotic distribution system that self-adjusts its work flow to prevent backups.

“This kind of factory has nothing to do with the factory we knew in the 1960s or 1980 or even 2000,” said Yannick Schilly, who heads global supply for Festo’s North American business.

At GE Aviation, internships and co-ops with colleges attract younger prospective employees, while veteran workers are retrained.

With a machining background, Terry Cox, 54, works in testing of ceramic matrix composites, which make engines more durable, heat-resistant and efficient.

“It’s the design of the future,” Cox said. “There is a lot of opportunity here.”

But there’s not much demand locally these days for the kind of repetitive tasks, such as sewing-type work, that Herbie Mays has done. He picked through personal papers on his dining room table one recent morning, grumbling about jobs going to Mexico.

“I guess those people overseas who make $12 a day, you can’t compete against them,” he said. But he acknowledged there are “plenty of jobs out here. … What you have to do is get training or education.”

He’d like to do that, but he also needs work to supplement his benefits.

He sighed.

“I’ve been fighting to figure out the best thing to do … and haven’t came up with no answers.”

Rugaber reported from Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C. Contributing to this report were Associated Press business writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, AP writer Jan M. Olsen in Kalundborg, Denmark; AP videojournalist Mike Householder in Detroit, and AP photographer John Minchillo in Cincinnati.

4 Rules Manufacturers Should Remember

Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

To automate, or not to automate. To re-shore, near-shore, or off-shore. To insource, or to outsource.

Those are just a few of the strategic decisions that manufacturers face today. And each can have a major financial impact.

Automation is a multi-faceted question, with multifaceted answers for most of you. Not everyone needs robots, but many of you can benefit greatly. Safety and precision are two leading reasons to automate. Supporting workers is the third most common. Eliminating labor was a short-sighted reason that guided discussion of the “lights out factory” decades ago. Robots continue to become less expensive to buy, but operating them is far from free. If you don’t have internal expertise, develop it before you start purchasing equipment.

Most of you must become invested in the Internet of Things (IoT) at some point before 2020. Whether it’s machine-to-machine, machine-to-human, or machine-to-the-internet-for-data-use, machine-generated data will soon be fundamental to how we do business. It’s time to introduce your organization to the basics, if nothing more. It’s time to develop data capture, maintenance, and analytics capabilities.

Internet of Things

If you think IoT won’t impact your industry, you’re wrong. Just like EDI, barcoding, RFID and ERP became basic, IoT will leverage those and quickly bypass them in terms of valuable information.

Protectionism is spreading, which means the advantages and disadvantages of import and export are changing. Related strategy reviews began a few years ago. GE’s Jeff Immelt announced that due to world-wide increases in protectionism, GE is changing its globalization strategy. Instead of specialized production centers and world-wide exporting, it will transition further towards localized self-contained production.

Over the past seven years General Motors has in-sourced a significant number of IT, production, and professional jobs while investing more than $20 billion in infrastructure. But few of you are GM or GE. Their strategies make sense for them, but not necessarily for anyone else.

Jason Wolfe, CEO of NovaLink — a U.S.-based near shore manufacturing solution with three manufacturing facilities in Mexico and one distribution center in the United States — suggests that near-shoring continues as a viable option for U.S. manufacturers. Wolfe says, “ Even if a 20 percent tariff is put in place, the labor rates in the U.S. will remain approximately five times higher than the labor rates available in Mexico and elsewhere. Additionally, as the dollar continues to strengthen against the peso, as it has over the last six months, the impact of a tariff goes increasingly unnoticed.”

Wolfe continues: “Minor changes to NAFTA would be logical and beneficial, but ultimately Mexico is the United States’ greatest asset in manufacturing. While relocation to the United States makes sense for some companies already positioned to invest in automation and receive the benefits being offered, the sub-assembly producers and small to mid-sized businesses have to remain competitive to survive. A lot of companies are unable to invest billions of dollars on capital improvement and automation, so Mexico must continue to play a large role in supplying competitive markets of labor and reinforcing the U.S. manufacturing base.”

Four rules to keep in mind

How should the average mid-sized manufacturer answer the automation, shoring, and sourcing questions? Here are four rules to keep in mind while deciding:

The first rule: To not decide is to decide.

The second rule: Make vs. buy is old but sturdy.

By adding competitive contribution to the old calculation, it still applies. Supply-chain management should always be aware of potential suppliers that improve your competitive position. As the needs of your customers and your business change, SCM can follow standard processes for evaluating alternatives.

The third rule: remember that Kodak was still hiring chemical engineers when digital was exploding.

Your technical resources should support the business you’ll be in in five years, not what you were five years ago. That means something different to each of you, but I hope no one is saying those are one and the same.

The fourth rule: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Manufacturing leaders will make these decisions soon. Each can be optimized with reasonable analysis and an operations strategy that supports your business vision. The four together can also be optimized as part of your operations and product management strategies. But if you have no real vision and no real business strategy… well, now’s the time to fix that problem.

Contributing Writer Rebecca Morgan

Manufacturing businesses ranging from $100 million to $1 billion in annual sales value the advice of operations strategist Becky Morgan and her Finish Strong thinking. With more than 25 years consulting with manufacturers, preceded by 14 years of hands-on executive responsibilities, Morgan has contributed to the success of aerospace, food, machining, assembly, electronics, tool and die, jewelry, and process industry businesses. Morgan speaks with audiences typically ranging from 35-150 attendees.


Safariland sees success after relocating acquisition to Jacksonville

Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal

For Safariland’s Jacksonville manufacturing site, focusing more on making military products was a big change.

After acquiring Mustang Survival in 2013 and manufacturing that line in West Virginia, they found it was a difficult, remote location to get to, especially with added military personnel from different branches frequenting the facility to test and inspect products.

Jacksonville was just the opposite. There was already infrastructure in place from the company’s headquarters, so no brick-and-mortar expansion was necessary. Throughout 10 months, Safariland shifted forensics and firearms productions from their Jacksonville headquarters to their facility on Faye Road where they already manufacture holsters and moved in the Mustang Survival line to the freed up space.

Now, $1.9 million and 108 new jobs later the Mustang Survival line–consisting of personal flotation devices, dry suits and gravity suits–is running at 85 percent efficiency six months after its installation.

But getting everything running has been a process, said Blake Brown, vice president of manufacturing for Safariland. Dealing more with the military has been a lot to get used to: the products are more specialized and they’re designed as a “joint effort” between the military and Safariland.

“Just learning how to manage in a military contract world, it’s not the norm for us,” Brown said. “Not that we don’t do military products, but doing it like this is different. This is heavy gauge military contract business is what this is.”

Safariland Helmets

Staffing the new line in Jacksonville also proved to be a challenge at first. When they moved the Mustang Survival line out of West Virginia, Safariland offered 70 employees relocation, said PJ Wilson, supervisor of Safariland’s human resources. Of those 70, only eight chose to relocate to Jacksonville which meant to staff the new line in Jacksonville, more people would need to be hired and some workers from other parts of the factory would need to be retrained on the Mustang Survival line.

Wilson said each person who needed to be trained would cost the company $10,000 to $12,000 per person. But with help from grants from CareerSource Northeast Florida and the city, they were able to offset some of the costs of training.

“You bring someone off the street, it takes six months to train,” Brown said. “If you bring someone who’s been sewing for 20 years over [to the Mustang Survival line], it’s harder sewing but they’re accustomed to industrial sewing so they got used to it quicker.”

Part of the extra cost in training stems from the difficulty and complexity of manufacturing the dry suits and gravity suits. Brown said the gravity suits are “the most complicated product we have to build.”

Fighter pilots wear gravity suits, which have air pumped into the legs of the suit when the pilot hits G-force speeds to pump the blood that rushes into their legs back into the brain to keep them from passing out.

The dry suit production required “a specialized skill that we did not have,” Brown said. Dry suits are used by mainly the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard and keep its user dry and warm in the event they go into the water, especially in colder waters.

“It’s not a product you want to fail on you,” Brown said. “In the North Atlantic, you don’t want any leaks, the cold water will cause your blood to do weird things. It’ll shut your system down.”

The dry suits are sealed with hot tape to ensure no leaks occur and the product is tested until they show they don’t have any leaks. Safariland brought in help from their British Columbia plant, where Mustang Survival production is based, to help train and refine the skills of those sealing the suits to maximize their efficiency down the line.

Adapting to new changes in the company, however, is something those at Safariland are accustomed to doing. Brown said the company expands primarily by acquisition of similar, smaller companies and with every acquisition, there’s a “plateau” period where the company needs to “stabilize” and figure out the logistics of their new acquisitions.

But it won’t be too long before more acquisitions come along, Brown said. And when they do, it’s possible Jacksonville may be the place for them.

“We do have another lot next door [to the Jacksonville corporate headquarters], so we do have expandable space, and we do have a little more land over at the operation at Faye Road,” Brown said. “So we have some room in Jacksonville, so we will see what happens.”



Innovation Keeps Aerospace Aloft

Courtesy of

By Karen E Thuermer

The fast-evolving, highly sought-after FDI sector of aerospace is driving innovation and creating lucrative jobs from the US to Asia and Europe, with no signs of coming down to Earth. Karen E Thuermer reports.

Airplane at Sunset“Thrilling” is the word KPMG uses to described the aviation market in its Global Aerospace & Defense Outlook report for 2016. “Change is everywhere – in new technologies and automation, in new markets and sectors, in new business models and connected platforms,” says Doug Gates, KPMG global head of aerospace and defence.

Consulting firm PwC ranks the top aerospace manufacturing locations in descending order as the US, Canada, the UK, Singapore, Switzerland, Denmark, Hong Kong, China, the Netherlands, Ireland and Finland.

Sweet home Arizona?

PwC ranks Arizona as the number one US state. The city of Tucson has experienced an increase in activity through the arrival of Raytheon Missile Systems, which relocated from Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to this, ballooning company World View Enterprises has contracts with two US federal agencies to launch satellite equipment and measure wind speeds from Tuscon’s Spaceport. In October, Vector Space, a micro-satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, announced plans to locate its manufacturing facility at the 2000-square-metre Pima County Aerospace, Defense and Technology Business & Research Park in Arizona.

“While Vector’s eyes are focused on the stars, our home is in Arizona because we believe in its potential as a competitive tech hub,” says Vector Space founder Jim Cantrell.

Elsewhere in the US, growing numbers of global aerospace companies, such as Zodiac Aerospace, Airbus Helicopters, Finmeccanica, Rolls Royce and SpaceX, are calling Mississippi home. The reasons behind this are its low operating costs, a minimal tax burden, easy access to the rest of the US and international markets, and proximity to important military installations.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected Mississippi State University (MSU) as the location for its Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence. MSU will lead 13 other universities in helping the FAA to research methods to integrate UAS into the national airspace.

Oklahoma has seen investments from a growing number of international aerospace companies over the past eight years, including ASCO Industries (Belgium), Rolls Royce Engines (UK), Lufthansa Technic (Germany), Ferra Engineering (Australia) and Mitsubishi (Japan). The state has also hosted more than 15 aerospace-focused trade delegations. In September 2016, it signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s South Gyeongsang province based around collaboration and trade.

Contributing to Oklahoma’s success is its innovative workforce development programmes and Aerospace Engineering Tax Credit, which is the only tax credit of its kind in the US.

Florida’s thrust

Florida is seeing a big boost in aerospace activity, the result of the US government ending the space shuttle programme. “Privatisation took hold and this led to rapid expansion and competition within the industry for the best talent,” says Destin Wells, business development manager at Enterprise Florida.

Among Florida’s strengths is its education push with regard to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Colleges such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Central Florida and others provide a constant stream of STEM talent to the industry. “This talent is quickly snapped up by these businesses,” says Mr Wells.

Florida has seen a number of aerospace FDI projects of late. In 2016, French multinational Thales announced a $6.5m expansion in Orlando. In February, UK-based GKN Aerospace announced plans to locate a new $50m manufacturing facility in Bay County.

Also in 2016, OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space, announced plans to build a $85m high-volume satellite manufacturing factory in Exploration Park outside NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Set to open this year, it will begin to deliver satellites in late 2017 and early 2018. The project received $20m in Florida state incentives. OneWeb founder Greg Wyler says the company chose Florida for its spaceport and the state’s “deep bench of aerospace and engineering talent”.

OneWeb Satellites has launch contracts with Virgin Galactic and Arianespace. Some are expected to be fulfilled at the Kennedy Space Center, beginning in 2018.

Launch activity is also revitalising Florida’s Space Coast. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has broken ground on a new rocket manufacturing facility and engine test centre in Exploration Park. Operations are expected to begin in December 2017.

Europe connections

Thanks to Virgin Galactic, Florida could realise economic opportunities with the UK’s aerospace sector. A spaceflight bill is before the UK parliament regarding industry regulations.

UK figures suggest the country’s space industry is worth more than £13.7bn ($17.6bn), but that the country lacks the infrastructure for satellite launches. Virgin Galactic supports the spaceflight bill, and has successfully worked with US regulators.

Should the UK spaceflight bill be passed, Mr Wells believes many Florida businesses will be open to investment in the UK. “We would first likely see a number of smaller contractors accepting work with UK-based businesses, before any major moves take place. But these things can often spiral quickly,” he says.

Elsewhere in the US, significant M&A activity continues within the sector. In February, Sonaca Group, headquartered in Gosselies, Belgium, entered into a merger agreement with Gulfstream supplier LMI Aerospace of Savannah, Georgia. LMI will continue its operations in Savannah. Sonaca Group CEO Bernard Delvaux says the addition of LMI supports Sonaca’s vision of expanding its capabilities in the US.

Canadian moves

Canada’s aerospace sector is comprised of about 700 companies. These include Promethean Labs, which recently located in Edmonton International Airport (EIA) as part of the Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre (AATC). Promethean Labs will help Alberta’s ‘smart economy’ by supporting the forestry, mining and agriculture industries, as well as measuring greenhouse gas emissions with precision satellite data. Promethean Labs will launch its first satellite in late 2018.

The AATC is a joint venture by Canadian Helicopters, Canadian North, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, the government of Alberta and EIA. As part of the AATC, Canadian North operates a 737 training simulator in the airport’s Cargo Village, HNZ Topflight operates a helicopter training simulator in the main terminal building, and the Alberta Motor Transport Association will begin construction of a new educational facility in the north part of EIA.

Thailand on the up

Singapore may be the leading aerospace hub in the Asia-Pacific region, but Thailand is establishing itself for full-service avionics. The country has realised $78bn in investments across five separate projects.

Bridgestone is investing $150m in constructing two new manufacturing plants in Thailand: one to produce new aircraft tyres, and one to produce retread aircraft tyres. Production is scheduled to begin in December 2019. Airbus is looking at U-Tapao airport as a future regional hub.

The Thai government recently approved its 15-year Aviation Industry Development Plan as part of its Thailand 4.0 economic development efforts to further develop the country’s aerospace sector and strengthen its position as a south-east Asian aviation hub. The plan offers investors incentives that are valid until 2032.

Top 20 Facts About Manufacturing


  1. In the most recent data, manufacturers contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2016. This figure has risen since the second quarter of 2009, when manufacturers contributed $1.70 trillion. Over that same time frame, value-added output from durable goods manufacturing grew from $0.87 trillion to $1.20 trillion, with nondurable goods output up from $0.85 trillion to $1.00 trillion. In 2016, manufacturing accounted for 11.7 percent of GDP in the economy. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  2. For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy. That is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. In addition, for every one worker in manufacturing, there are another four employees hired elsewhere. (Source: NAM calculations using IMPLAN)

    With that said, there is new research suggesting that manufacturing’s impacts on the economy are even larger than that if we take into consideration the entire manufacturing value chain plus manufacturing for other industries’ supply chains. That approach estimates that manufacturing could account for one-third of GDP and employment. Along those lines, it also estimated the total multiplier effect for manufacturing to be $3.60 for every $1.00 of value-added output, with one manufacturing employee generating another 3.4 workers elsewhere. (Source: Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation)

  3. The vast majority of manufacturing firms in the United States are quite small. In 2014, there were 251,901 firms in the manufacturing sector, with all but 3,749 firms considered to be small (i.e., having fewer than 500 employees). In fact, three-quarters of these firms have fewer than 20 employees. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics of U.S. Businesses)
  4. Almost two-thirds of manufacturers are organized as pass-through entities. Looking just at manufacturing corporations and partnerships in the most recent data, 65.6 percent are either S corporations or partnerships. The remainder are C corporations. Note that this does not include sole proprietorships. If they were included, the percentage of pass-through entities rises to 83.4 percent. (Source: Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income)
  5. There are 12.3 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of the workforce. Since the end of the Great Recession, manufacturers have hired more than 800,000 workers. There are 7.7 million and 4.6 million workers in durable and nondurable goods manufacturing, respectively. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  6. In 2015, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $81,289 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all nonfarm industries earned $63,830. Looking specifically at wages, the average manufacturing worker earned nearly $26.00 per hour, according to the latest figures, not including benefits. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  7. Manufacturers have one of the highest percentages of workers who are eligible for health benefits provided by their employer. Indeed, 92 percent of manufacturing employees were eligible for health insurance benefits in 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is significantly higher than the 79 percent average for all firms. Of those who are eligible, 84 percent actually participate in their employer’s plans, i.e., the take-up rate. Three are only two other sectors – government (91 percent) and trade, communications and utilities (85 percent) that have higher take-up rates. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

  8. Manufacturers have experienced tremendous growth over the past couple decades, making them more “lean” and helping them become more competitive globally. Output per hour for all workers in the manufacturing sector has increased by more than 2.5 times since 1987. In contrast, productivity is roughly 1.7 times greater for all nonfarm businesses. Note that durable goods manufacturers have seen even greater growth, almost tripling its labor productivity over that time frame.

    To help illustrate the impact to the bottom line of this growth, unit labor costs in the manufacturing sector have fallen 8.4 percent since the end of the Great Recession, with even larger declines for durable goods firms. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  9. Over the next decade, nearly 3½ million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap. Moreover, according to a recent report, 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly-skilled production positions. (Source: Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute)
  10. Exports support higher-paying jobs for an increasingly educated and diverse workforce. Jobs supported by exports pay, on average, 18 percent more than other jobs. Employees in the “most trade-intensive industries” earn an average compensation of nearly $94,000, or more than 56 percent more than those in manufacturing companies that were less engaged in trade. (Source: MAPI Foundation, using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis)

  11. Over the past 25 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports have quadrupled. In 1990, for example, U.S. manufacturers exported $329.5 billion in goods. By 2000, that number had more than doubled to $708.0 billion. In 2014, it reached an all-time high, for the fifth consecutive year, of $1.403 trillion, despite slowing global growth. With that said, a number of economic headwinds have dampened export demand since then, with U.S.-manufactured goods exports down 6.1 percent in 2015 to $1.317 trillion. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)
  12. Manufactured goods exports have grown substantially to our largest trading partners since 1990, including to Canada, Mexico and even China. Moreover, free trade agreements are an important tool for opening new markets. The United States enjoyed a $12.7 billion manufacturing trade surplus with its trade agreement partners in 2015, compared with a $639.6 billion deficit with other countries. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)
  13. Nearly half of all manufactured goods exports went to nations that the U.S. has free trade agreements (FTAs) with. In 2015, manufacturers in the U.S. exported $634.6 billion in goods to FTA countries, or 48.2 percent of the total. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)
  14. World trade in manufactured goods has more than doubled between 2000 and 2014—from $4.8 trillion to $12.2 trillion. World trade in manufactured goods greatly exceeds that of the U.S. market for those same goods. U.S. consumption of manufactured goods (domestic shipments and imports) equaled $4.1 trillion in 2014, equaling about 34 percent of global trade in manufactured goods. (Source: World Trade Organization)
  15. Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world. With $2.1 trillion in value added from manufacturing in 2014, only eight other nations (including the U.S.) would rank higher in terms of their gross domestic product. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, International Monetary Fund)
  16. Foreign direct investment in manufacturing exceeded $1.2 trillion for the first time ever in 2015. Across the past decade, foreign direct investment has more than doubled, up from $499.9 billion in 2005 to $1,222.9 billion in 2015. Moreover, that figure is likely to continue growing, especially when we consider the number of announced ventures that have yet to come online. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  17. U.S. affiliates of foreign multi-national enterprises employ more than 2 million manufacturing workers in the United States, or almost one-sixth of total employment in the sector. In 2012, the most recent year with data, manufacturing sectors with the largest employment from foreign multi-nationals included motor vehicles and parts (322,600), chemicals (319,700), machinery (222,200), food (216,200), primary and fabricated metal products (176,800), computer and electronic products (154,300) and plastics and rubber products (151,200). Given the increases in FDI seen since 2012 (see #15), these figures are likely to be higher now. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

  18. Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. R&D in the manufacturing sector has risen from $126.2 billion in 2000 to $229.9 billion in 2014. In the most recent data, pharmaceuticals accounted for nearly one-third of all manufacturing R&D, spending $74.9 billion in 2014. Aerospace, chemicals, computers, electronics and motor vehicles and parts were also significant contributors to R&D spending in that year. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  19. Manufacturers consume more than 30 percent of the nation’s energy consumption. Industrial users consumed 31.5 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2014, or 32 percent of the total. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2015)
  20. The cost of federal regulations fall disproportionately on manufacturers, particularly those that are smaller. Manufacturers pay $19,564 per employee on average to comply with federal regulations, or nearly double the $9,991 per employee costs borne by all firms as a whole. In addition, small manufacturers with less than 50 employees spend 2.5 times the amount of large manufacturers. Environmental regulations account for 90 percent of the difference in compliance costs between manufacturers and the average firm. (Source: Crain and Crain (2014))

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Manufacturing Through the Eyes of Human Resources, Recruitment and New Hire Training

By Brian Kingston, MC Assembly – Courtesy of SMT Magazine

Perhaps more important than the technology and tools a manufacturing company has are its people. People are what make a company truly great and the process of recruiting talented, skilled, dedicated employees and training them properly for success is an important aspect of any manufacturing company.

At MC Assembly, we are very involved in the local community and make an emphasis on volunteering and helping with CareerOneStop, American Job Center or what we locally call CareerSource Brevard. This active involvement allows us to network with other professionals and meet a local candidate pool that one will not be able to find on job boards or through a recruiting agency. We also participate in internship programs in hopes the intern will succeed and we will be able to hire them full time.

Some other ways we find candidates include employee referral programs, partnering with the local community, participating in job fairs, and working with and volunteering at the local high school and vocational school. Community outreach initiatives are also very important when finding new candidates.

In today’s market, it’s not only about what the candidate can contribute to the company, but what can the company contribute to the candidate: “Do you allow room for advancement?” “How is your on-the-job training program?” “Do you have tuition reimbursement?” “Do you contribute or volunteer with a cause the candidate is passionate about?” All these methods are very important in finding people.

Right now, one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturing companies is recruiting millennial talent. There is an outdated mentality that with manufacturing, you do not have autonomy, that it’s challenging work and there’s no opportunity for individualism or advancement. At MC Assembly, we counter that by giving employees an opportunity to voice their thoughts and take ownership over their work, by voicing how they think things should or shouldn’t be done. It really gives us an upper hand honing in on our manufacturing process and making it the best we can. It’s critical for our future that we be able to bring in younger talent. We’ve also introduced a lot of incentives like tuition reimbursement and on the job training that can help us attract and retain that talent.

The use of social media sounds cliché, but in manufacturing it is critical to reach millennial talent. Recent statistics show that over 85% of millennials have smartphones and touch them more than 45 times per day. Five out of six millennials connect with companies via social media networks. If your company is not active and does not invest in social media today, you are simply not visible to this generation and missing out on this talent pipeline.

Another challenge facing many manufacturing companies today is finding candidates with the right skill sets to fill specific jobs. There is a real gap of skilled manufacturing talent, largely because many schools have not been teaching manufacturing skills for nearly two decades.

About 20 years ago, many high school just stopped teaching manufacturing-related skills. There was no more wood shop, no more automotive, no more welding or electronics classes. Students were convinced that they needed to go to college for advanced degrees and manufacturing was no longer looked at as a long-term career. This all happened around the time of the dotcom boom. The new trend started to shift towards internet and computer-related jobs and teaching.

Today, we find ourselves with a serious skill gap; in some places, finding skilled soldering and SMT operators can present a real challenge. Overall, manufacturing finds some of the largest gaps in welding, CNC machining and electronics.

According to the Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, over the next 10 years we will need to fill 3.5 million manufacturing jobs – the current skills gap will result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.

Recently, we have seen a huge push to start teaching manufacturing at the high school level again with a dedicated focus on STEM. Seeing this need, MC Assembly has participated in a local effort called Advancing in Manufacturing (AIM), created chemical plant operator
by CareerSource Brevard. Funded by a two-year DOL National Emergency Grant, the program is making efforts to expand training and early education opportunities in the Brevard area to address immediate employment skills needs and build a pipeline of talent for the future.

I serve as a volunteer member of the AIM committee. Over the last two years we’ve demonstrated effective results in expanding training, educational and internship opportunities. We believe that our approach is a logical and effective solution to help address the skills gap in our area and serves as a model for a successful sector strategy. Through the AIM internship initiative, MC Assembly will host two high school seniors this summer. This is a great way for students to learn about the great benefits a manufacturing career offers, and it’s also a way for us to give back and become a bigger part of our community.

At the same time, we have developed a robust new hire training program. On the first day, we start new hires with a safety and quality training. This allows employees to learn safety tips, who to call, where to go and how to work in a safe way. It also stresses the most important aspect to our business, that quality as our number one priority. This happens well before an employee walks on to the production floor and works on our customers’ products. On-the-job training follows the safety and quality training. New hires are identified on the production floor with a different colored smock and are assigned a mentor.

Once the supervisor and mentor believe the OTJ is complete and the employee is ready to be on their own our quality manager will assess their skill and what they learned and confirm the employees is ready to perform the job on their own. This process is very involved and usually takes 1-2 weeks, this helps new hire get up to speed quickly and have the confidence they are able to complete their assigned tasks.

The skills we look for in candidates are the “soft skills,” which are essential. Every resume you look at will tell you whether a candidate qualifies for the job based on their work skills, work experience and education. The one variable that cannot be determined from reading a resume are the soft skills. Communication, problem solving, adaptability, teamwork, self-motivation and emotional intelligence are just as important, if not more, than the technical skills to do the job. The six soft skills are hard to identify in an interview setting, behavior based interview questions are asked during our interview process to help identify these skills in each candidate. I believe you should always hire character and train skill.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of SMT Magazine.

Building a Thriving Manufacturing Workforce

Ed Potoczak, Director of Industry Relations, IQMS Manufacturing

Courtesy of

When asked about recruiting, hiring, and retaining skilled workers, most manufacturers across North America report that they are experiencing challenges. It is not surprising in light of recent observations by William A. Strauss, a senior economist in the Economic Research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

In his keynote at the IQMS 2017 Pinnacle User Conference, “Economic Conditions and Factors That Impact Manufacturing,” Strauss explained that labor force growth is limited to an extent by the availability of potential workers. He noted that population growth in the United States is at 0.8 percent, and the population is aging. Baby-boomers represent a bigger portion of the potential workforce, he said, compared to younger members of the population considered to be in their years of prime employment. Compounding the recruitment challenge is that many parents of high school and college students envision factories as loud, chaotic places where the focus is on manual labor and the need for education is limited — a view far more accurate in 1977 than in 2017. The results are two-fold: Students with a strong academic focus are steered toward other career paths. Meanwhile, students placed in vocational tracks often lack the core science and math skills required for modern manufacturing jobs.

Finally, the youngest entrants in the labor force, the millennials, bring a different set of priorities and expectations along with a fundamentally different relationship with technology.

Fortunately, innovative manufacturers have developed strategies for overcoming these hurdles to build skilled and effective workforces. Let’s look at best practices in recruiting, training and knowledge transfer, employee engagement, and technology adoption they have developed to build modern manufacturing teams.

Revamping Recruiting Strategies Today, attracting skilled talent extends far beyond manufacturers posting job notices to build a pipeline of people interested in their openings. Instead, it is important to generate a plan for consistent year-round public relations activities to present the company’s values, purpose in the market, support of individual employee interests, availability of ongoing training and education, modern technology, opportunities for advancement, and involvement in charitable and civic organizations.

Manufacturers also need to reach out to providers of secondary and higher education along with community development groups. This may include sponsoring robotics design teams, offering plant tours, or participating in career fairs. Additionally, events can provide a positive peek behind the curtain, whether they are organized as part of national Manufacturing Day efforts or as independent initiatives.

kids on a manufacturing tour

Another avenue is to creatively expose students in high school, technical schools, and community colleges through interactive tools such as EduFactor, a Netflix-like, cloud-based, video service developed by Edge Factor. Content features innovative designer-makers, the need for products in all aspects of life, and exciting careers in product design and production. Throughout these recruitment efforts, it important to reach out to women as well. According to 2016 data from the nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women hold fewer than 10 percent of jobs in the growing areas of advanced manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and logistics. Many companies that focus on engaging with young women in high school and college report greater success in filling important entry-level specialty and management roles.

Training for Today’s Job Demands Alongside recruiting, it is important to invest in training to help grow the pool of available skilled workers. In many cases, manufacturers can take advantage of opportunities to partner with industry, government, and educational institutions. For instance, Raise the Floor is a training program in the Cincinnati metropolitan area started by 26 women from the education, manufacturing, and nonprofit worlds. It is helping fill middle-skill manufacturing jobs as a way for women to better their financial situation. Carissa Shutzman, a co-founder of Raise the Floor and a vice president at Gateway Community College in Northern Kentucky, said the group’s founders came together because of “a perfect storm” with a high number locally of unfilled, skilled jobs in manufacturing and a high percentage of under- and unemployed women.

Another example is, 50 Strong, a subsidiary of mid-size manufacturer Precision Thermoplastic Components. It has launched the 50 Strong Foundation, which awards scholarships to those engaged in or interested in pursuing careers in manufacturing. With these scholarships, recipients can defray the cost of attending a technical, vocational or trade school to grow their manufacturing knowledge and skills.

Meanwhile, Dymotek, which was recently awarded 2016 Processor of the Year by Plastic News, demonstrates the success of combining outside education with in-house training and employee development. The company, which focuses on the demanding niche of liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding, looks for people with the right culture and attitude — whether working at the local diner or auto shop. Then once they are hired, often as direct labor, the company educates them on LSR molding and manufacturing skills. Notably, some 24 percent of Dymotek’s full-time employees started as direct labor and then were promoted.

Engaging Employees Once employees are onboard, successful manufacturers recognize and address the different expectations of younger millennials and “Gen Edgers.” Older Gen Xers and baby-boomers remember starting careers with trivial, administrative tasks. By contrast younger employees are used to having adults, such as parents, teachers, and relatives, ask for their input on a daily basis. So they want to contribute immediately in a meaningful way. When asked about recruiting, hiring, and retaining skilled workers, most manufacturers across North America report that they are experiencing challenges.

Communication is one key to engaging younger workers. Instead of simply assigning work, it is important for direct supervisors to consistently explain how those work assignments help colleagues, impact customers, and benefit society.

Also critical is a commitment to mentoring “high-potential” employees. As new employees gain familiarity with how things get done, they should be thoughtfully challenged with meaningful responsibilities backed by guidance to provide coachable moments. Additionally, regular meetings for informal listening, feedback, and advice with seasoned employees and managers will be appreciated, and they will help minimize the risk of frustration leading to a quick exit from the company.

While focusing on the wave of new talent, manufactures should also identify growth opportunities for Gen Xers who have years with the firm. These valuable employees, who often need to support growing family commitments, want to advance and unleash their passion to help grow the company.

Importantly, integrating new employees into multi-generational teams can strengthen all workers. Exposing recent hires to the knowledge and style of experienced team members can provide them with helpful role models. At the same time, existing team members should be encouraged to leverage younger employees’ tech savvy, enthusiasm, and creativity to provide “fresh eyes” insights for the team and project.

Using Technology to Drive Retention Technology now touches most people’s daily lives — from millennials who don’t remember a time before smartphones to baby-boomers who use their mobile devices for shopping, social media, and more. These employees expect to take advantage of technology to make their jobs more efficient and effective. Manufacturers also need to reach out to providers of secondary and higher education along with community development groups.

In particular, virtually every employee has a personal smartphone, so manufacturers can benefit by allowing — even encouraging — use of these devices for online research, collaboration, and social communications. Mobile devices also enable e-mail and text communications with colleagues and supervisors outside of business hours. Additionally, businesses can incent employees to use their smartphones for positive posts on social media to build the company brand. At the same time, preparing a reasonable policy for smartphone communications will protect intellectual property and confidential information.

Investing in software to support operations in the back office and on the shop floor is increasingly critical. Well-integrated modern enterprise systems can provide ready access to valuable daily operating insights via many types of devices. Real-time data capture and analytics enable “instant” access to key information needed by the team to do their jobs whenever and wherever needed. Moreover, these systems help minimize the redundant work that frustrates all employees, empowering all team members to become more productive.

Enabling Effective Knowledge Transfer Many manufacturers face the need to accomplish a transfer of knowledge between retiring baby-boomer managers, technicians, and operators and newer employees. Contemporary enterprise software provides powerful tools to support this effort. Notably document management systems integrated with other enterprise software can be used to deliver written work instructions, photo images, and even video clips for training employees on a work task or refreshing their skills. Manufacturers can make video recordings of experienced employees explaining how they do specific work tasks. These can be captured in one- to two-hour sessions and then edited later into short, digestible segments for daily use that can be accessed via the web or mobile devices.

Additionally, manufacturers can leverage a significant amount of written and video training content provided by software vendors, equipment builders, and trade associations to their customers or association members. For example, the Precision Metalforming Association Education Foundation (PMAEF) is dedicated to the promotion and development of a skilled workforce for the metalforming industry. The PMAEF creates technical training materials for its manufacturing members to use in full-fledged apprenticeship programs or for refreshing skills.

In Sum To successfully build a sustainable, thriving workforce it is important to walk a mile in the shoes of those you seek to attract, hire, integrate, retain, and develop. By creatively applying modern recruiting and training techniques, creating meaningful work experiences, and leveraging technology to improve knowledge transfer and productivity, manufacturers will be well positioned to build an effective workforce.

Attract and retain top manufacturing talent in 3 key steps

Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

The manufacturing industry is in flux. Workforce data shows that the types of people working in manufacturing are changing, as are the skills they need.

The ADP Research Institute Q4 Workforce Vitality Report shows that despite the decline in manufacturing jobs (0.3 percent on an annual basis in the past quarter), the role of the factory worker will not disappear. It will, instead, change.

Similarly, automation is here, and it’s not slowing down. McKinsey’s 2017 A Future That Works report estimates that 49 percent of tasks people are paid to do in the global economy have the potential to become automated. The fundamental shifts taking place in manufacturing are affecting not just the way people work, but also the skills today’s workers need to have.

First, increased automation demands a more highly-skilled labor force. In fact, 30 percent of the workers moving into the manufacturing industry are coming from professional services. This segment is gaining fast on the 38 percent who have traditionally entered manufacturing from trade and transportation.

Those who can maintain and operate modern IT systems are especially in demand for manufacturing. And they’re paid more, too. Employees entering manufacturing from the fields of professional services, trade and transportation, and information technology see an average increase of 6.7 percent in wages, according to Workforce Vitality Report.

Second, and conversely, we are seeing “traditional” manufacturing workers exit the industry and experience a 2 percent decrease in wages in their new jobs. But this varies industry by industry. The 22 percent of workers who are leaving manufacturing to enter trade and transportation experience a 4.2 percent decrease in wages. On the bright side, the 24 percent of workers exiting manufacturing for professional services see a one percent wage increase.

A combination of efforts is needed

Employers in manufacturing face a difficult task in this shifting environment, too. Recruiting completely new talent is not an option, nor is retraining an entire workforce, but both are a major concern for employers. Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the ADP Strategic Drift report cite recruiting highly-skilled employees as their top concern, while 25 percent say it is retaining experienced employees. The answer is likely a combination of efforts to compete for newer talent while also focusing on retraining their existing workforce.

The tightening labor market is also at play here. With an anticipated worker shortage of 2 million by 2025, employers need to take a close look at their business model to understand their talent needs and develop a strategic approach to recruitment and workforce planning.

PLC photo

Here are three recommendations for employers who want to attract and retain top manufacturing talent:

  1. Tap into the STEM pipeline

A Deloitte report found that 80 percent of manufacturing companies said they’d be willing to pay new hires more than the market average, but better compensation isn’t a silver bullet. Manufacturing has a PR problem. The report found that manufacturing ranked last as a career choice among millennials, and that only one in three parents said they would encourage their child to pursue a career in the industry.

Employers should adopt recruiting practices that can shake the industry’s antiquated image. To compete for highly-skilled talent, companies need to create a pipeline of workers engaged in STEM fields.

Professional services and trade and transportation are currently the strongest sources for these workers when you look at the Workforce Vitality Report. Business should focus on recruitment from these industries and others while also looking to create a steady pipeline of young talent interested in the industry. Recruiting at colleges and establishing apprenticeship programs can help companies appeal to candidates who had not previously considered a manufacturing career.

  1. Retrain workers to partner with automation

Hand-in-hand with the talent shortage is the skills gap. The Deloitte report found that 70 percent of manufacturing employees are deficient in computer skills and 67 percent in technical skills. This reality is pushing lower-skilled workers out of manufacturing.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. With proper training, these workers can stay in the industry and thrive. The time is now for employers to invest in training, not just on the technical side, but also for educating employees to better understand how the industry is changing.

  1. Put your money, and benefits, where your mouth is

Recruiting new talent and retraining existing talent is just part of the equation. Companies then have to work to keep employees happy — the ones they attract from other industries as well as their current workers who can benefit from retraining. Especially now that millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, manufacturing companies should consider the workplace realities they come to expect — flexible hours, competitive pay, and opportunity for advancement — if they want to attract and retain this vital talent.

The future of manufacturing is not a zero-sum game. Although the industry is undergoing a transition, employers can leverage the opportunity to bring together and engage different types of workers with varying skill sets to achieve their business goals.


Add 1 robot on the manufacturing line, watch 5 jobs go poof

Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

American manufacturing jobs have been in decline for decades, with automation long identified as the key driver of those job losses. Now, a new working paper from economists Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University suggests the negative economic effect of this automation might be ever greater, as they found little evidence that other industries have grown enough to offset the jobs lost to robots in manufacturing.

The issue is particularly acute given that technological advances will likely keep coming, and businesses likely will continue to keep deciding that they’d rather invest in automated labor rather than human labor, MIT’s Technology Review reported recently. Furthermore, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Axios last week he’s “optimistic” that robots won’t displace people in the near future.

Acemoglu and Restrepo’s paper puts some hard numbers to the question of how many people robots displaced from their jobs from 1990 to 2007. Specifically, the paper said, “one more robot reduces aggregate employment by about 5.6 workers… and one more robot per thousand workers reduces wages in the aggregate by about 0.5 percent.”

two robotic arms

Economists have hypothesized that when robots displace manufacturing workers, jobs in other fields pop up to offset those losses. The new paper says that hasn’t happened to a large degree in part because, on the local level, those displaced workers generally aren’t qualified for or aren’t willing to do those new jobs or other jobs that might be hiring, so they remain unemployed and the new jobs that do get filled elsewhere don’t make up the difference, according to The New York Times.

As for what might be ahead, The Washington Post analyzed how voting data seems to correlate with where people lost jobs to automation. Rust Belt regions where manufacturing automation has been most concentrated tended to vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton last year. That suggests Trump’s message about reinvigorating American manufacturing played especially well in the same communities where automation put many people out of work, the Post said. But at the same time, it also suggests Trump’s efforts to have companies keep their manufacturing plants open in the United States isn’t as direct an appeal as it could be, as it’s one thing to call for companies to keep their operations in the U.S. and another to call for plants to hire people rather than invest in robots.

Project Velocity seeks $2.2M to expand manufacturing

Courtesy of

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

A Jacksonville building-products manufacturer proposes to add 20 jobs, retain 150 and invest $54 million into its North Jacksonville plant.

Known as “Project Velocity,” it seeks a $2.211 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant from the city to make the deal work. It says it is looking at two other U.S. cities where it has existing facilities.

Resolution 2019-289 was introduced to City Council to support the grant. The agreement would rebate 60 percent of the incremental increase in its property taxes for seven years after the capital investment is made and is on the tax roll.

The unidentified company proposes a $4 million improvement to its property and a $50 million purchase of manufacturing equipment.

The legislation requests a two-reading passage.

The legislative fact sheet explains that the company would add 20 jobs by 2022 and would pay an average $40,000 a year plus benefits.

That wage is greater than 60 percent of the countywide average.

It says the advanced-manufacturing company is a target industry. It proposes to create jobs for machine operators and assembly line workers for a new manufacturing line.

“The company has stated that the City of Jacksonville incentive being proposed is a material factor in its decision to expand its operation in Jacksonville, Florida versus the two other U.S. cities where they operate existing facilities,” the fact sheet says.

The fact sheet says the company is in a Level 1 Distress Area, which allows a REV grant up to 60 percent.

A job creation schedule in the economic development agreement shows that 10 jobs would be created by year-end 2018 and the other 10 in 2022.