Manufacturing

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America Needs Manufacturing!

17 Sep, 2013

By: Paul G. Kuchuris, Jr.

America needs a strong manufacturing sector to drive a healthy, growing economy for a few solid reasons:

  • Manufacturing jobs create a multitude of additional jobs.

  • Manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs and provide a higher standard of living.

  • Manufacturing drives productivity growth.

  • Manufacturers are major financial contributors to our economy.

Recognizing the key role manufacturing plays in our country, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) has been providing a variety of activities for organizations to “Share, Learn & Grow.”  These activities are derived from the continuous improvement best practices of successful organizations.  In fact, AME has been cultivating the revitalization of manufacturing for the last five years and has conducted a conference on the subject last April in San Antonio, Texas. We recognize that this is not enough.

We need a movement, a renaissance. AME’s goal is to spread the wealth of its outstanding group of member organizations that have been successful in driving continuous improvement and excellence. We want to make a difference and accelerate our impact, through a vision of "A Manufacturing Renaissance driven by People-Centric Leadership coupled with Enterprise Excellence.” This vision will be accomplished by "Inspiring a commitment to Enterprise Excellence through Experiential Learning by bringing people together to Share, Learn and GROW.”

There are four key pillars to this renaissance: Inspirational Leadership, Enterprise Excellence, Innovation and Manufacturing as a Desirable Career. We will be cultivating all of them as we grow to the next level of success. They are all critical for a successful movement.

This journey begins with Inspirational Leadership, without which there can be no progress resulting in blocking ongoing success. Leaders must hire and train the right people, give them the right tools and put them in an environment of openness and trust where they can do what they do best — perform.  Our first steps in cultivating inspirational leadership will be to conduct a number of events around comprehensive communication and behavioral skills. The ability to deal with a person's own behavior, as well as understanding the behavior of others, is the cornerstone of effective leadership. AME will follow this activity with a leadership development program that focuses on the engagement of employees.  Without the buy-in of an organization's No. 1 asset, it will never achieve its greatest level of success. Additional engagement events will also be made available to assist organizations in cultivating an environment of excellence.

These are the basic elements in leadership, but to take success to a higher level, you need inspiration. To inspire means to create a passion to want and this can only occur when people are engaged and an environment is maintained where people can motivate themselves. This requires trust, openness, receptivity to new ideas and change, delegation of responsibility and ownership at all levels.  People will support what they help build.

How and where does “Inspirational Leadership” apply? Everywhere. This basic framework, coupled with engagement can be successful at the top, the middle or on the department level of an organization. It can also be very effective in one’s personal life, whether it is volunteering or guiding your own family.  Engaging the group in a well-structured, focused process is the formula for success. Many have successfully used this approach in all those capacities and it really works.

Enterprise Excellence continues the movement by creating value and providing people with the aligned framework and tools to cultivate and maintain a continuous improvement culture. Excellence is a journey that has no end. It is the daily application of process improvement, while benchmarking against the very best. AME's conferences, products and services will continue to provide opportunities for continuous improvement and the opportunity for organizations to learn from other successful organizations.  This applied learning model of benchmarking with practitioner-oriented events has proven to be most beneficial to attendees. There are also a variety of tools available to assist in maintaining a focus on continuously improving daily processes. But it takes a different attitude on the part of every individual that is driven from their leadership. It takes an environment that stimulates a passion of being a part of something great and always looking for a better way to serve the recipient of their work.

This process of always looking for a better way cultivates an environment of Innovation. When employees are entrusted with their own judgment and accountability, they can become very creative with small ideas/improvements growing into larger ones and resulting in game-changing breakthroughs.  AME will be applying its improvement tools and recognition to inspire organizations to develop environments for generating and connecting ideas for creative solutions. The first steps in this direction will be to identify those organizations that are demonstrating innovative environments and bring them together to strategize how we can promote innovative behavior among organizations. In addition, AME plans on gathering innovative practices and communicating them to the manufacturing sector through a variety of avenues.

Of course, this does not happen without a supply of skilled workers that are the result of making Manufacturing as a Desirable Career. The manufacturing sector is in the midst of a major skill shortage.  As baby boomers retire, our next generation's available workforce is dramatically reduced. In addition, the complexity of manufacturing jobs continues to increase. Currently 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain open without skilled workers to fill them (Editor's note: AMT--The Association For Manufacturing Technology counts 400,000 open manufacturing jobs.) and 50 percent of our kids coming out of high school cannot read or do math at grade level. AME will be working with key organizations and schools to drive an improved image of manufacturing and expand the availability of resources to provide students the necessary reading, math and critical-thinking skills to be successful. School improvement will be accomplished through a variety of continuous improvement frameworks and tools and by coupling schools with the manufacturing community to illustrate the application of their educational learning.

As indicated, one of the key ingredients for a company to be successful is engaging their workforce. This process becomes much more difficult, however, when individuals struggle to read, communicate and interact. How can you expect them to continually look for better ways of producing a product or being innovative when they have a hard time understanding and expressing themselves?  With our current workforce aging and moving toward retirement, it is critical that our up and coming workers have the basic skill set to grow and lead this country’s manufacturing industry.  Two points to keep in mind:

  • America needs manufacturing

  • Manufacturing needs a literate workforce.

Join us on this Manufacturing Renaissance journey. It will have a major impact on our economy and make a sustainable difference in all of our lives.  It will also be an enjoyable ride. 

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