The Image Problem with Manufacturing in the USA
To say Manufacturing in the US has an image problem is putting it lightly. Even Walmart’s attempt to rally support for their commitment to US Manufacturing portrayed factories as dingy, dirty, grit encrusted environments. When you talk about manufacturing it conjures up a vision of huge factories in the far east with unskilled workers, particularly when you ask younger people. The narrative has not improved enough, but the truth is manufacturing in the US is cool and some might even say sexy. Consider the incredible world changing innovation going on at Tesla and SpaceX, or the fact that even welders can make $150,000-200,000 even in a state with a reasonable cost of living (Ohio). Or the numerous things that “we can’t talk about” because much of what is done in manufacturing and precision machining in particular is secretive and you have to often sign non disclosure agreements just to get passed the front door. These high paying jobs that require only a trade skill should be getting more attention!
How to Make Manufacturing Cool
The key is to do things that are creative and innovative. If we want to inspire people who grew up with a ubiquitous internet and electronic devices out-numbering family members, we will have to do a much better job of getting the word out about how rewarding manufacturing is. Here are three things you can do to make manufacturing cool for current and future generations:
- Tell Stories
- Host one or more Hackathons
- A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words
There are so many channels available to your business to tell your story, so choose one that fits your style. Some people are natural speakers, others are writers, some are artistic, make the medium that you are most comfortable with work for you. Tell people what attracted you to the industry, why it’s important to you and why it’s important to your customers. When you talk about what you love to do it will inspire others to investigate.
Host a Hackathon
The MTConnect challenge is a brilliant example of an extended hackathon with real money on the line. Recently a Clemson University Engineering student won $100,000 in the MTConnect Challenge 2. Who wouldn’t think that is cool? Hackathons don’t have to be huge in nature, you could for example invite a bunch of machinists, engineers and programmers to find the most efficient way to machine a challenging part and have prize money for the winning team. Or perhaps most appropriately bring some engineering or cnc programming students in to participate in teams with some seasoned veterans. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and don’t be afraid to innovate and try something different. Hackathons are effective because you bring together passionate individuals who want to try to push the envelope and create something special. This is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.
A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, and video does even more
Earlier I suggested that SpaceX and Tesla are changing the world through their innovation, and they earned that recognition. You don’t have to follow either company long to see great media content from very nice images of cars, rockets and spacecraft. These images and videos leave a powerful impression on the viewer, and powerful impressions will inspire people to want to work for these companies. Today for example there are three beautiful images on the SpaceX homepage, consuming a very large high resolution screen:
In the case of Tesla, they use YouTube to tell a the story about the Model-S Cross Country trip, here is the “behind the scenes” video:
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Both Tesla and SpaceX are making manufacturing cool.