The Cerasis blog is focused on offering value and insights into trends around Manufacturing industry, Supply Chain, Freight, Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics. Our goal is to offer educational posts which spur discussions by way of comments on our blog and in social media. By researching and engaging in content around these subjects, we feel it allows us to better understand our customer base and potential customers so we may continually improve by offering the latest and greatest innovative solutions for the marketplace.
We have thousands of customers in the manufacturing industry, so a big portion of our content is around the top manufacturing issues manufacturers face, such as the Skills Gap, Reshoring, and how to stay more efficient. As anyone in the manufacturing industry knows, the Supply chain and the other industries stated above are all related.
Because we are so active on social media, we have had the fortunate pleasure to connect to Mike Monnier, a manufacturing company field supervisor, on Twitter. He is definitely worth your time to connect and engage with on Twitter, so make sure you follow him by visiting his Twitter page, where he calls himself “Manufacturing Mike.” Since he works for an actual manufacturer, we thought it would be nice to practice some LEAN initiatives and use the idea of “GEMBA” (simply a Japanese idea for “Where all the activity is” used by many in the manufacturing industry to see the root of issues), by asking him his thoughts about the current state of Manufacturing, which you can read below.
Manufacturing Industry Insights from Manufacturing Supervisor, Mike Monnier
Adam Robinson: Mike, tell us a little bit about your career? Where have you worked, what have you done in those positions, and where do you work now?
Mike Monnier: My career in the manufacturing industry covers a pretty wide breadth of businesses in both size and focus. I’ve worked in small shops and also for a large automotive company. I’ve worked in basic roles like sweeping the shop floor and being the errand boy, up to more challenging roles like being a supervisor in an auto assembly plant or working in new product development. I always tried to take an internship at a different company every year when I was in college to get exposure to various facets of manufacturing. I currently work for Barsplice Products Inc., a manufacturer of mechanical splicing systems for reinforcing bars. It’s a niche market and we offer the widest variety of splicing solutions to meet customer requirements for strength and cost. Our products end up in everyday things like bridges and parking garages, but occasionally in high profile structures like a sports stadium or the new World Trade Center tower. My current role is to manage the group of technicians who build and maintain the fleet of hydraulic equipment that we supply to customers to install two of our product lines.
AR: How did you make the decision to work in the Manufacturing Industry? What influenced you if anything?
MM: It was an easy decision for me to pursue a career in manufacturing. I was mechanically inclined and always liked to tinker and build models. My dad was a tool and die maker and works for a shop that does a lot of high precision machining for the aerospace industry. When I decided that I wanted to become an engineer, dad encouraged me to skip the traditional college prep route and go to trade school for two years to have a background in machining. It’s some of the best advice that he could have given me and is probably the spark that ignited my passion for all things manufacturing.
AR: What from your perspective needs to be done to increase manufacturing industry awareness in America?
MM: Manufacturers do all kinds of really cool things that most people don’t get to see. We haven’t done a good job of promoting ourselves (the manufacturing industry) as a viable career path. Thankfully, that is changing and a lot of smart people are recognizing what goes on in our facilities. The second year explosion of participation in Manufacturing Day is a great example. It’s also doing little things like inviting students and their parents to visit your facility, serving as a mentor to a school robotics team or volunteering to be a guest speaker for Career Day. We also need more people like Mike Rowe and John Ratzenberger on TV showing people how stuff is made and promoting careers in manufacturing and technical trades. Jeremy Bout and the team at Edge Factor have produced an amazing series of videos showing how manufacturing is solving real life problems. We need to figure out a way to get that material in front of more students, parents, educators and guidance counselors.
AR: Will we ever return to having a large manufacturing industry employment base again? Why or why not, and what does the future hold for manufacturing employment?
MM: I don’t think we are going to see the huge numbers of people employed in the manufacturing industry that we had in the 1970’s. That’s an old school model and not really reflective of the modern manufacturing environment. Sure, there are still some opportunities for low skilled manual workers. But it’s not like it was last century. Today we make more stuff with fewer people due to automation and better engineering techniques. The difference is that it requires more highly trained workers to keep these factories running. Math and troubleshooting skills are an absolute must when working with high tech machinery. I saw a great comment on LinkedIn recently that described this change as manufacturing workers being junior engineers.
AR: What are the biggest obstacles facing the manufacturing industry today?
MM: The biggest obstacle facing the manufacturing industry today is the graying of the workforce. We have a huge wave of Baby Boomers thinking about retiring and not enough new people coming in to replace them. Even if it was 1 for 1, you can’t just retire a Baby Boomer and plug in a Millenial to take over. There is a lot of knowledge transfer that needs to happen for the Millenial worker to truly replace the Baby Boomer. That’s why things like Manufacturing Day are so important to get the flow started.
AR: If you ran a manufacturing company, what would be your top concern?
MM: My biggest concern if I owned a business would be the current state of dysfunction in Washington D.C. It’s hard to plan for your business when the people running the country can’t seem to agree on something simple like whether or not the sun is out. Manufacturers face challenges every day. They just don’t have the luxury of putting off doing anything about the challenge.
AR: Anything else you’d like to say about the manufacturing industry?
MM: I encourage those in manufacturing to be an active participant in the many organizations available that are doing a good job at educating the masses, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Being a volunteer leader in that organization has given me a platform to be an advocate for the manufacturing industry. It has also afforded me the opportunity to network with individuals across the US and Canada that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve been a member since 1995 and recommend it to all manufacturing professionals.
What are your thoughts on the manufacturing industry at large? How would YOU answer these questions yourself? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!