Manufacturing Day is a Big Deal

I submit any date a manufacturer chooses to share the business with teachers, students, officials or the public is Mfg Day. 

In 2012 the first Manufacturing Day (Mfg Day) was held, with around 240 participants. Last year saw a 1,000 percent increase with 2,800 events being held around the country. This initiative has touched a national nerve.

In 2014, President Obama recognized Manufacturing Day with a proclamation, declaring the first Friday in October as National Manufacturing Day. With event participation in 2016 from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, this movement demonstrates that it has legs and is worthy of national attention.

This year, the official date is Oct. 6, and your price of admission is simply to open your shop doors to your neighbors for a day. As a business investment, the amount is nominal, but the potential ROI is priceless.

Manufacturing Day is a growing grassroots movement that provides manufacturers dedicated to overcoming shared challenges a platform to inform their local communities about misconceptions about modern manufacturing. At the top of this mission is the opportunity to demonstrate to young people what manufacturing is and even more important, what it is not.

Statistics that reflect the skilled jobs shortage are well known in the manufacturing community. But too often, as the maxim states, we find ourselves “preaching to the choir.”

Participation in Manufacturing Day is an opportunity to dispel some of the commonly held myths that manufacturing jobs are tantamount to rowing a Roman galley ship. Opening the doors to manufacturing businesses reveals that manufacturing is not dark, dirty and dangerous or a last resort for those who can’t cut it elsewhere.

Those of us involved in modern manufacturing understand that jobs in manufacturing today emphasize innovation and advancement and provide security. It’s simple supply and demand—skilled workers are needed, wanted and valued.

The rub is getting the word out about the need for manufacturing employees and the skill sets necessary to add value to a business. Closing the employment gap first requires an understanding that manufacturing is a viable career path and that must be communicated as widely as possible. Second, we must work with educators, usually locally, to design curriculums around those needs.

I think one of the reasons that Mfg Day has seen growth and acceptance in such a short time is that it has touched a nerve in the country because it’s a grassroots movement.

Recognizing Manufacturing Day nationally as President Obama did in 2014 does help point the national spotlight on the importance of manufacturing to the economic health of the United States. However, I believe that, like politics, most manufacturing issues are local. Manufacturing Day events are locally focused, and that is a key to its success.

Small and medium enterprises make up a significant percentage of the manufacturing businesses in this country. One economic statistic about manufacturing that I enjoy quoting is called the multiplier effect. I don’t really understand how it is derived, but its bottom line is that for every dollar spent in manufacturing, an additional $1.37 is returned to the economy. That’s wealth production, and it is a relatively rare occurrence in most other fields. So while manufacturing is busy making things, it’s also making wealth for the national economy. I find that to be a cool aspect and a point of pride for being involved in manufacturing.

There is a pragmatism about manufacturing that is brought to it by the people attracted to the art and science of making tangible products, which in many ways, improve the lives of everybody. As the people involved know, these products are made by dedicated and passionate people. I like those people.

I’ve often said, half joking, that few parents stand over the crib of their newborn child and think, “I sure hope he or she grows up to become a manufacturer.” Perhaps as we continue to disseminate an accurate picture of manufacturing by cutting through misinformation and misconceptions, that scene over the crib may become less of a joke and more an aspiration.

Manufacturing Day is certainly a place to start. The benefits of teaching are enormous. My mother and grandmother both taught school, and the dedication they conveyed to me about their vocation still is with me. We in manufacturing are all better for efforts to educate our communities about what really goes on behind our shop walls.

Granted in 2017, Oct. 6 is an official date. However, I submit any date a manufacturer chooses to share the business with teachers, students, officials or the public is Manufacturing Day. We make manufacturing happen. Let’s share the news.