Manufacturing is a sector of the economy that always comes under scrutiny, and much of the business media focuses on negative aspects. If there were a media “sentiment” index, I would bet Manufacturing stories are 75% “negative twist” vs. an optimistic bent. It flat annoys me.
What I often hear usually falls into a few themes:
- Costs are unsustainable: Either legacy costs of old world pension plans or unions driving unsustainable bargains…
- Quality declines are real…
- “Just not relevant” anymore, we are a technology driven services economy….
- Jobs are being sent over seas, and all the negative aspects associated with it (lost jobs, suspect working conditions, etc.)…
I will admit that I’m a bit sensitive however with a career that is centered around manufacturing with the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, a little old $2.1 TRILLION slice of our economy. When it comes to $’s, Billions are huge. Trillions are staggering.
But why would the media fixate on $ relevancy of a major sector?
When I work at our manufacturing facilities, here’s what I see:
- Yes, the basics of transforming “raw material to a finished goods”…..so I see physical assets like equipment, I see raw materials coming from hundreds of suppliers
Most important? I see PEOPLE involved in every step of the process.
- Hard-working people, many of who drive 30+ miles to put a hard day’s work in. Physical work, on your feet for 8+ hours
- I see start-up of shifts and the energy/buzz with firing up a production line to meet the day’s needs
- I see things going wrong like equipment failure, and people coming together to trying to get back on track
- I see breaks where people come together in the common areas and unwind, talk about life and take a breather
- I see 4 people in the corner of the break-room, with 4 cupcakes, and 3 co-workers, singing happy birthday to the 4th co-worker
The end result?
I see pallets among pallets of our product in a warehouse, waiting to be shipped to our customers, who pay us a fair price that covers all that cost to make it, and then, if all works as planned, a profit results.
In capitalism, profit is final measure, and the pursuit of it and all the moving parts is a fantastically challenging game.
In any one of our manufacturing facilities, 200+ people come to work each day to try and make a life for themselves and their families, and in the process, work to achieve the goals of our company.
It happens in every manufacturing plant in the country.
Every single time I leave one of our manufacturing facilities, I leave humbled, and energized at the same time.
The media doesn’t celebrate Manufacturing like it does the sexy technology sector. That’s OK.
But I can’t help but wonder: Have they ever walked through a Manufacturing facility to begin with? They should…
If I were a principle at the local elementary school, a field trip to the town’s manufacturing facility is tops on my list.