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Optimism at a 20-yr High


The recent quarterly survey of manufacturers, large and small, by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) projects record-setting growth through 2018 and early into 2019—and not just in one statistical category tracked by the survey. Manufacturers project record-setting growth rates for:

  • Production, expected to rise an average of 5.5 percent. And, less than 4 percent of manufacturers expect production to drop within the next 12 months. Note: A recent survey of manufacturers by the Institute for Supply Management forecasts average revenue growth of 6.6 percent for 2018.
  • Full-time employment, projected to rise by 2.9 percent; and
  • Capital expenditures, expected to increase by an average of 3.9 percent during the next 12 months, while 25 percent of manufacturers expect to increase their cap-ex spending by 10 percent or more.

What a ride the next 12 months promises to be. Of course, the elephant in the room remains attracting and retaining the workers needed to facilitate all of this projected growth (in addition to rising costs for healthcare and materials). When it comes to dealing with said elephant, it behooves metalformers to expend maximum effort in developing what NAM refers to as “work-and-learn” programs—apprenticeships (registered or unregistered), work-study internships and co-ops. Yet, 35 percent of those surveyed say that they have not participated in such a program in the last 3 years.

I find that stunning, and it lessens my sympathy for companies complaining that they can’t find and keep quality workers. During a recent conversation with a community-college machine-tool instructor, he informed me that relatively few manufacturing companies seek to work with the school to develop and employ the next generation of manufacturing workers. This is troubling, considering that enrollment at 2-yr. schools is projected to grow by 21 percent through 2026 (according to the National Center for Education Statistics).

So, help is on the way, but only if your company strives to capture and take advantage of it. Your human-resources team must work strategically, in addition to working operationally, and develop productive relationships with your local colleges, in order to recruit able-bodied able-minded workers.

In addition, how about building a mentoring and coaching culture, where experienced workers are encouraged to transfer knowledge to up and comers, and maybe even rewarded for doing so? Companies that provide mentoring have a higher retention rate than those that do not. I recently reviewed a survey showing that 80 percent of millennials say “mentorship programs are crucial to their career success.”

OEMs are embracing mentorship programs in a big way, companies like Boeing and Caterpillar. “Mentors at Caterpillar provide guidance on almost every aspect of inhouse practice such as career exploration, corporate culture, ‘soft skills’ development, organizational understanding, internal enterprise awareness, work-life balance and community knowledge,” says Jamie Meyers, corporate counsel at Caterpillar, in a recent Next Web article.

That sounds like a program worth benchmarking, if metalformers hope to continue growing.

By Brad F. Kuvin, Publisher/Editorial Director, Metalforming Magazine

Optimism at a 20-yr. High


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