Career Exploration, Robotics Top Youth Interest in Manufacturing Month 2020
November 10, 2020
At the end of 2019, Deloitte projected modest annual manufacturing GDP growth for 2020, with the tight labor market as a key contributor to manufacturing constriction. Then came COVID-19, which disrupted manufacturing – and everything else – in unprecedented fashion.
Research conducted in June 2020 by Fictiv, a digital manufacturing ecosystem, showed that COVID-19 directly affected 89% of manufacturing businesses, including layoffs, reduced sales and increased materials and production costs. But all is not doom and gloom. Chad Moutray, the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) chief economist, said recently that manufacturing activity has been “trending in the right direction” since the initial plummet between February and April.
“Growth over the past three months has been encouraging,” Moutray said.
As the manufacturing sector continues its slow climb back to pre-pandemic levels, NAM’s third-quarter 2020 outlook survey shows that about half of members are having trouble finding the right talent, despite the nation’s current unemployment rate. The industry’s consistent need for skilled workers is one reason NAM presents – and steel fabricator Miller Fabrication Solutions participates in – Manufacturing Day each year.
Manufacturing Day, or “MFG Day,” is held the first Friday in October, with manufacturers nationwide opening their doors to offer the public a first-hand look at their machinery and processes. More than 400,000 students, parents, teachers, community leaders and others interested in learning more about modern manufacturing typically attend thousands of Manufacturing Day events in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Because of the pandemic, however, in-person plant tours had to be largely canceled this year. Miller Fabrication Solutions decided to expand its usual one-day occasion into a month-long series of virtual events. The pivot created an opportunity to showcase all three of Miller’s facilities and incorporate “Meet a Manufacturing Expert” video interviews with skilled employees, who talk about what it’s like to work in their positions.
More than 1,000 people from 16 states registered for Miller’s virtual plant tours and unique “Meet a Manufacturing Expert” video interviews with employees across a variety of departments, who discussed how they contribute to the work Miller does for heavy original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with global operations. Approximately 87% of registrants comprised students under the age of 18 who sought to explore career options.
In post-event surveys, Manufacturing Month event participants said they valued the chance to see Miller’s equipment up close and learn about Miller’s extensive capabilities and manufacturing processes. Plant tour attendees saw state-of-the-art equipment and robotics that support Miller’s highly-skilled workforce in producing essential parts for engine crankcases, pavers, scissor lifts and other heavy machinery.
Audience members also learned how Miller has been using the economic downturn to bolster technology, processes and equipment to better meet anticipated future demand. New machines, software and other process improvements put Miller in a prime position to efficiently scale to customer requirements, without sacrificing quality, so customers can meet their own end users’ expectations. Less-agile fabricators would find it challenging to quickly scale up or down, but Miller is programmed to adapt to serve as a valued partner that delivers reliability, safety and quality – critical requirements for leaders of contract manufacturing companies that supply parts to OEMs in the construction and heavy equipment industries.
Miller’s involvement in Manufacturing Month also demonstrates the company’s commitment to community support. Miller raised funds for several nonprofits in the western Pennsylvania region by matching donations from Manufacturing Month participants. As Miller relies on the local community for skilled labor, the company champions educational opportunities and other activities that strengthen the area to help ensure families consider the area a desirable home for generations to come.
As NAM’s Moutry points out, manufacturing is muscling its way back to health. As it does, hiring and retaining skilled professional workers will be a pervasive challenge. MFG Day gives manufacturers, as well as their integrated supplier-partners, a national platform for introducing the benefits of manufacturing careers both to the next generation of workers and to laid-off individuals who may be considering new career paths. MFG Day events also benefit potential employees by giving them a realistic sense of how they can equip themselves for productivity and advancement in manufacturing roles.
According to NAM’s third-quarter survey, manufacturing optimism has rebounded to 66% since the second quarter of 2020, when it hit the lowest level since the Great Depression. While the outlook remains below the historical average of 74.4%, maintaining visibility at both the national and regional levels is critical if manufacturing is to rebound quickly, at least relative to many other industries. MFG Day is one of the industry’s best mechanisms for turning public attention to the benefits and promise of manufacturing as a key contributor to America’s economic health.
Miller recorded its “Manufacturing Month” webinars, which are available to view online.