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Manufacturing Day Can Help Tell Our Industry Story
The forest products industry doesn't just play a role in American manufacturing—it gives a lead performance. According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the forest products industry manufactures more than US$200 billion in products every year, and employs about 950,000 men and women, and forest products holds a spot among the "Top 10" manufacturing sector employers in 45 out of 50 states. In fact, the forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total US manufacturing GDP. It also relies on a vital array of related manufacturers—of machinery, equipment, component parts, transport, and many other products—to keep its thousands of manufacturing sites humming.
That's why Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) seems like a perfect fit for the forest products industry. Created by Founding Partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International in 2012, MFG DAY has enjoyed support from many organizations aligned with its mission of positively changing the public perception of modern manufacturing. Organizations that have played a vital role in working with FMA to successfully grow this national celebration of all things manufacturing include the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute (MI), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
MFG DAY is now produced annually by NAM with key contributions and support from MEP and MI. This year's MFG DAY will take place on Friday, October 5. (Learn more about NAM, the nation's largest industrial trade association, at www.nam.org.)
The Manufacturing Day Mission
According to its website, www.mfgday.com, Manufacturing Day addresses common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is—and what it isn't. By working together during and after MFG DAY, manufacturers will begin to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.
Since its inception, the event has grown exponentially. In 2012, manufacturers hosted 240 events; by 2017, that number had grown to about 2,900 events. According to NAM, statistical analysis of key event reporting suggests that, in 2016, MFG DAY engaged more than 595,000 participants, including 267,607 students.
If your mill, plant, or factory is hosting an event this Friday, how can you ensure that it's a success? The event website offers the following list of seven tips:
1. Don't assume visitors know anything about manufacturing.
In planning a good tour—especially when the intended audience members are primarily people with no manufacturing background—you need to start by creating a story of your company that anyone could understand:
• How did your company get started?
• What do you make? Who buys your products?
• What do they do with them?
Keep explanations simple and free of industry jargon. Think storytelling with illustrations rather than textbooks packed with pages of small print.
2. You can't show everything.
The quickest way to lose the interest of your visitors is to try to show every bit of minutiae. Pick a few stops that represent key stages in the production process and allow you to demonstrate the progress a product makes through the mill or plant.
3. Create a display and offer hands-on experiences.
Of course you can't allow visitors to get up close and personal with your machinery, but you could create a display that illustrates what a product looks like in various stages of completion, where they could be allowed to pick up and hold something they've seen made. Maybe you even have something that one of your machines can make that they could take with them as a souvenir! This doesn't necessarily mean one of your finished products.
4. Clean up before your visitors arrive.
Make sure there is no clutter, everything in its place, floors swept clean, and a path through the site is easy to follow. Remember that part of the reason to invite visitors to Manufacturing Day events is to prove that manufacturing facilities are great places to work. First impressions count: What does your company look like as visitors approach from the parking lot? Let's dispel the myths that manufacturing is dark, dirty and dangerous.
Also, make sure employees are dressed neat and clean on tour day and if they have a role to play in explaining things to your visitors, they should be wearing a name badge so that they can be addressed by name when there are questions.
5. Cater to student visitors.
Students are the workforce of the future. This is your opportunity to provide advice about the kinds of careers that your company offers, the type of training and educational coursework you seek when hiring employees. There is no better time to offer comments about opportunities available to dedicated workers with a professional attitude. If there are specific kinds of training or skills that you need and find it hard to hire for, let them know.
6. Put up a welcome sign.
This is important both literally and figuratively. Put a sign on the door, shake hands with visitors, thank them for coming, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the opportunity you have to share your company's information with them.
7. Send invitations.
Manufacturing Day is a national celebration of the 12 million talented men and women who work in manufacturing. Who could you invite to share this celebration with you? Here are some ideas:
• The families of your employees. This is a perfect day to invite families to come and see where their family member works and learn what they do.
• Your elected officials. Ever complain about the fact that your elected officials (local, state, federal) don't make good choices as related to manufacturing? Invite them to come to your plant and see for themselves.
• Potential customers. Give these folks a reason to want to do business with you. Invite them in on a day when they can see how great your organization is.
• Current customers. Make Manufacturing Day your customer appreciation day. Also think about your business service providers. When was the last time you were visited by your banker or insurance agent?
• Media. Is there a local reporter who seems to have a serious interest in manufacturing? Invite them to visit your plant on Manufacturing Day. They are always looking for interesting stories to tell.
• Youth organizations. Are you active in, or do you know someone who is active in the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or a similar youth organization? Invite them to visit your company as a field trip. Better yet, invite a school group.
One of the most important things to do is to establish a connection with your guests. Those few hours you spend with them are your chance to communicate the importance of what you do — and the creativity, advanced skills and technology required to do it. Ideally, your passion will spark something similar in the young people who you introduce to manufacturing, inspiring them to learn more about the forest products industry and one day join your company's manufacturing team.
For a modest investment of $174, receive more than US$ 1000 in benefits in return.
Visit www.tappi.org/join for more details.