Highlights from Day 1 at The MFG Meeting
The MFG Meeting, a gathering of hundreds of manufacturing leaders took place at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Waikoloa, Hawaii. The joining of AMT (The Association For Manufacturing Technology), NTMA (National Tooling & Machining Association), and PMA (Precision Metalforming Association) for The MFG Meeting links the entire manufacturing chain, from OEM's to distribution to end-user manufacturers, and provides the forum for uniquely collaborative conversations on the most relevant topics affecting manufacturing today.
General Assembly Session One
100 Years of Innovation and Success
Roland Martel - ITW Executive Vice President, Automotive, Appliance and Industrial
The more than 600 manufacturing leaders attending The MFG Meeting learned valuable lessons from ITW, which has celebrated more than 100 years of success by continually changing to keep up with its markets. The entrepreneurial-spirited company fosters an atmosphere in which innovation in how a product is made is just as important as the product itself.
Under Martel’s leadership, the division has used the 80/20 rule as a business redesign tool to simplify the business structure. In 2008/2009 he and his team actually decided where not to focus. They devoted all of their resources to the automobile manufacturers where the greatest opportunity existed. He explained that this took tremendous discipline, but has resulted in the company gaining a position as a global supplier to the industry.
Key strategies include developing patentable products that solve a customer problem and will be used in volume, designing and producing locally wherever automobiles are assembled, and investing in manufacturing technology to be able to deliver at a cost that is not prohibitive to the customer.
General Assembly Session Two
Map Your Market for 2013
John Walker, Chairman, Oxford Economics
Ken Mayland, President, Clearview Economics
The MFG Meeting participants heard from both Walker and Mayland that they do not expect the U.S. economy to sink into recession, and that manufacturing is positioned to remain strong. They also both say they believe North America will become energy self-sufficient in coming years.
Walker said that in 2013 the world economy looks better than it did in 2012 with Japan recovering from recession, the Eurozone looking more secure and China’s economy stabilizing. The middle class is growing in other countries so those that were once only producers are now poised to consume.
He expressed optimism for the U.S. economy and manufacturing pointing out that housing has turned the corner and can now grow, indebtedness has gone down in the consumer and financial sectors, and manufacturing is very competitive.
Walker told the group that the uncertainty lies in sequestration. He does not believe that a full sequester would derail the economy, but would certainly slow it.
Uncertainty was a theme to which Mayland also turned. He attributed the slow finish for the general economy and manufacturing in 2012 and the slow start to 2013 in large part to fiscal uncertainty and concerns over the Eurozone.
He noted that the reality of higher personal taxes and the certainty of reduced federal spending growth will both be drags on the U.S. economy, but expects that conditions will improve in the second half of 2013 as these blows are absorbed.
Highlights from Day 2 at The MFG Meeting
Hundreds of manufacturing leaders spent the second day of The MFG Meeting in numerous educational sessions.
General Assembly Session Three
Trends, Technology and Taking the Lead
Scott Klososky, Principle at Future Point of View
Klososky told The MFG Meeting participants that technology is a tool that can make companies win and if technology is only viewed as an operational asset instead of a strategic weapon it’s a losing proposition.
He’s not suggesting that every business owner or leader be a tactical expert, but rather be committed to learning and a certain level of risk taking. As for risk-taking, Klososky believes in leading edge versus bleeding edge – stay ahead with some risk, but don’t get behind the pack!
As a key take-away he told participants that mobile does not mean just a phone today, but that it is an outboard brain. The lesson: get on the mobile bandwagon.
He suggests building an adaptive culture where technology flourishes to achieve the key “two year lead,” become more profitable, have a happier team and achieve long-term sustainability. So, in the next five years Klososky says tap the mind hive (crowd sourcing for accelerated innovation), use data and be ready to go from mobile to wearables and, YES, implantables. In short, accept technology or starve.
Precision Machining Breakout Session Highlights
What topics are on the minds of job shop owners and managers of metalworking companies?
Attendees of this breakout session discussed seven concerns, which were all related to either maintaining profit margins in the face of rising costs or acting on opportunities.
How to handle persistent mandates from aerospace contractors for price reductions is an a example of one of the urgent profitability issues. Effective strategies shared at the session included some options such as firm, disciplined resistance (just say NO) and negotiated give-backs such as commitments to contract extensions or prepayment of material costs.
Additive manufacturing is an example of an emerging opportunity that attendees raised for discussion. The general advice was to take this technology seriously, but recognize that it is still in its infancy. Overall, the strong consensus arising from this session is that this is a good time to invest boldly in new manufacturing technology.
Best Practices: Pioneer Award Recipients
At The MFG Meeting breakout session on Best Practices: Pioneer Award Recipients, Dave Sansone, director of the PMA Educational Foundation (PMAEF), introduced three of the nine recipients of the PMAEF’s Pioneer Awards. With support from the Hitachi Foundation, the awards recognize excellence in workforce development.
The first Pioneer Award winner to present was Erick Ajax, vice president and co-owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, Fridley, Minn. A crowd of about 25 attendees at the session heard Erick describe his company’s stellar safety record (more than 21 years without a lost-time accident), and how training and commitment made it happen.
“Our non-punitive near-miss reporting and investigating program is key,” he says. “If we can’t be safe, we can’t be productive; our skilled metalforming professionals can safely create the same value as 20 Chinese workers.”
Next up was Virgil DeLay, president of Diemasters Manufacturing, Elk Grove Village, Ill., who described his company’s productivity system. The system, founded on knowledge and training, is detailed in a nearly 200-page training manual and handbook. “We feel that all workers need to strive toward growing their skill sets and knowledge base,” he says.
Then the group heard from Dan McGregor, from McGregor Metalworking Companies, Springfield, Ohio. The firm earned its Pioneer Award based on its Pay for Skills program, which compensates hourly employees based solely on their skills, without regard to length of service. Dan introduced attendees to a new initiative at the company–a paid-internship program for high school students. Students can work at the company for 6 weeks, 20 hours/week, and gain practical experience in several facets of manufacturing.
International Business Strategies
Lou Longo, Plante & Moran Global Services Partners
In this highly engaging session focusing on helping AMT, PMA, and NTMA members develop international business strategies, Longo shared insights gained over many years of consulting in manufacturing technology. He told session participants that they must be internationally aware and suggests that they think on a regional scale, not country by country. By resisting the urge to enter a market simply because a company is asked to do so, a systematic regional approach will lead to international success.
Highlights from Day 3 at The MFG Meeting
Attendees learned valuable lessons from Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman during the final session of The MFG Meeting. Waldman, also author of the celebrated book Never Fly Solo, shared his belief that the key to building a culture of trust lies with wingmen – the men and women in one’s life who help overcome obstacles, adapt to change, and achieve success. Waldman told how he overcame massive claustrophobia and a fear of heights to become a highly decorated combat fighter pilot with over 65 missions in Iraq and Serbia and that he never fly solo, but by relying on his wingmen and being a wingman for them.
The group learned about four tenets of success in battle: commitment to excellence, being mission-ready and trained, the need to trust, and how to be a wingman.
He shared his experiences of not playing it safe and encouraged the manufacturing leaders in attendance to do the same. Using the example of stepping out of his comfort zone to fly an F-16 Fighting Falcon rather than playing it safe in a C-45 Expeditor on non-combat missions, Waldman illustrated the point: fly, fight, win – do not just survive. He said go full throttle and push it up when times are tough because pulling back the throttle, or complacency means death.
He also reminded the group members that even when they are having a bad day, their wingmen are watching and relying on their leadership.
To be mission-ready leaders need to prepare. The right attitude and actions in times of adversity and accountability separate the successful from the unsuccessful. He said the more you sweat in peace, the less you sweat in battle. He urged attendees to train constantly – read the books, build the communications skills, attend the seminars and work harder on yourself than on the job. Be sure to have the tools to adapt and change because customers and wingmen are looking for passion and drive.
Showing full understanding of the complexities of the manufacturing technology world, he discussed loyalty and the importance of being lifters.
“Even when you are committed and prepared, you cannot do it all yourself,” he said. “You need the wingman to be there. Competition is coming at you from every direction. Your wingmen crosscheck your blind spot. That is tough for business owners and managers to see. It is really all about perspective because we all have blind spots. In the heat of battle, speed means life. You have to respond. You have to listen to the feedback you do not want to hear, you have to risk the relationship to tell the wingman what the blind spots are. At the end of every mission you have to put the ego aside and debrief to learn what to do when those missiles fire.”
Waldman focused on trust. “Who do you need to say thank you to?” he mused.
Lastly, Waldman gave his insights on how to be a wingman. “You have to take off the mask and ask for help,” he said. “This shows your greatness and changes your fear to courage. On the opposite side of fear, that’s where life is! Allow somebody to do the honor of being your wingman and never turn down the chance to be a wingman.”