Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

Manufacturing Matters

Recently, I watched my local City Council lecture a manufacturer looking to relocate about the fact that they didn’t feel his wages were high enough to receive incentives and it really got me thinking about how detrimental the current political grandstanding around wages is. Part of that reason is that we’ve been focused on becoming a service economy so long that many of our politicians simply don’t understand how transformational manufacturing jobs can be. A manufacturer paid for my Master’s degree back when I made $5/hour in my first job of out college–that was a great tradeoff that has paid dividends my entire career. In virtually every manufacturer I’ve worked for, I’ve watched other people increase their skills and earning power through the training, tuition refund programs and career advancement opportunities. I focused my Circuits Assembly article in April on that topic. Feel to send copies to any elected officials that you feel are in need of enlightenment about the contributions your companies make to our society as a whole.

I’ll be out at the 5-Star S.T.E.M. Competition at Ft. Bliss, Sat. March 21st with a table talking up manufacturing engineering career options. The event is focused on Middle and High School students. Officials from Ft. Bliss will be judging their science projects. I’ve had a lot of support from SMTA and IPC. A couple of clients are allowing me to use photos of their manufacturing operations in a slide presentation and a local client has loaned PCBAs. Marie Cole over at IBM was very helpful suggesting a list of resources that both younger students and college-bound kids should consider. The one tip she had that I thought was particularly brilliant was to suggest that as part of college tours, that kids stop by the Career Center and see what internship or co-op/work study programs were being offered by employers through that center and factor that into their college choice plans.

Why support an event like this? The big reason that if kids aren’t exposed to manufacturing as a career path, they probably aren’t going to think about it and there are engineering shortages. And, I want to give a little back to an industry that paid for my Master’s degree and has kept relatively nice roofs over my head for the last three decades. To me, manufacturing is an economic engine that provides jobs that help people grow skills. I don’t see the same breadth of opportunities for growth present in the service sector. I think Henry Ford had it right when he pointed out that he was paying good wages to his factory workers because he could afford to build more cars than the rich could buy and he wanted to help create a middle class that would consume his company’s products. I’ll blog more about the resource links I share at the event and the feedback I get from the kids. Bottom line, if there are S.T.E.M events in your area, consider sharing a presentation about careers in manufacturing. The best way to attract the next generation of engineers is to talk about manufacturing when they are still thinking about what they want to do in life.

IPC APEX Expo

I’ll be teaching part of the EMS Program Management Essentials course Feb. 23 and 25, and attending meetings in between, at IPC APEX Expo. Learn more about IPC’s EMS Program Management Certification Program here. It’s a great way to learn new things about the most difficult job in the EMS industry.

There is no question the electronics manufacturing services industry is evolving. One aspect of that evolution is actually hurting the industry, however. As outsourcing has become more commonplace, its salespeople have become less technically competent. At the same time, as outsourcing “experts” at OEMs have retired, they have been replaced by less-experienced personnel. The result is a commodity sale focused on price.

My February Circuits Assembly column looks at ways to change that dynamic.

Medical Product Outsourcing just published a good article on EMS trends in the medical sector. Yes, I’m quoted, but more importantly Managing Editor Michael Barbella did a great job of looking at some interesting product trends.

My December 2014 Circuits Assembly article actually started out as a rant about a furniture store with a bad inventory tracking system. However, it turned out to be one of the most popular articles I’ve written in terms of comments generated. The bottom line is that it is never if you will disappoint a customer. Instead, it is how can you best resolve things when something goes wrong. This article looks at the right way and wrong way to handle things. And, yes, I did finally get the couch–it wasn’t the one I originally ordered but by the time it showed up in mid-December, it was one I was happy with and I felt that the salesperson was as invested as was in resolving the issue the right way because we had gone from a relationship of non-communication and disappointing surprises to one where she was calling me with shipping updates almost weekly.

Part of the reason I’ve been a little lax on my posting is that I’ve had a heavy travel schedule that included teaching segments of the IPC EMS Program Management Certification course as well as co-organizing a session at SMTAI on conflict minerals with Mike Buetow from Circuits Assembly.

My October Circuits Assembly column looks at ways to build a unified program management team and ensure that all program managers understand how best to do their jobs. Program management is truly the most difficult job in EMS and anything that reduces the learning curves of new program managers will generally save your company money.

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