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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

Manufacturing: A Pillar of the USA, & Media Ugly Duckling

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”… 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.

Old School values are alive and well in the USA. And there’s no better example than some of the nation’s plants.

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