While some people want wacky reality stars and garage mechanics to be the face in charge of improving manufacturing’s profile in the U.S., they are better off realizing that the real stars of manufacturing are the folks making parts every day.
I don’t have many opinions on brain surgery or rocket science. That’s a little beyond my limited comprehension of biology and aeronautic engineering, respectively. But I’ve got plenty of opinions on offensive play-calling in football (you’ve got to throw downfield to stretch the defense!) and the best way to make a gumbo (it’s got to have okra and tomatoes!). These are areas I have a lot more experience with.
The same thinking applies to manufacturing and magazines. All of the subscribers to The FABRICATOR are involved in manufacturing and familiar with the publication, hopefully. As a result, we get a lot of suggestions related to editorial coverage and magazine design.
Comments like that are always welcome. Anything we can do to promote communication with metal fabricators is a good thing, even if it’s strictly constructive criticism. And it does lead to some very interesting discussions, such as “What sort of covers are the best for boosting the image of manufacturing?”
The manufacturing economy in the U.S. may have picked up a bit in light of a new presidential administration that has pledged to reduce regulations and reform tax law, but manufacturers are still looking for workers.
The National Association of Manufacturers has gone on the record as saying that more than 2 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled by 2025, a time period in which even fewer overall manufacturing jobs will be available compared to today. (More than 19.5 million workers were employed in manufacturing in the 1970s; currently only 12.4 million claim the same distinction.)
So obviously metal fabricators and other manufacturers have an interest in attracting new talent to the industry. In many conversations I’ve had with fab shop owners and managers, they said they simply want somebody with a good work ethic and some mechanical aptitude that they can shape into a worker who understands the way that they conduct business.
At that point the goal becomes trying to get these parties to notice the opportunities that a career in manufacturing can offer.For some manufacturers, that means allowing “famous” personalities to be the face of the movement to improve manufacturing’s image.
I always found this to be a gamble as some of these celebrities were simply reality TV stars who were better at manufacturing false drama in the workplace than fabricating functional products for real-world use. (“Look. It’s a custom chopper that rides so low that I can’t make it over the speed bump in the McDonald’s parking lot!”) These reality TV stars were interested in generating ratings, not being disciples for manufacturing.
Other manufacturers think sexy end products make for a great gateway into the world of manufacturing. They are likely to reference the many shows that focus on custom car builds, where the fabricating skills used to create the feature products are rarely put in the spotlight.
(Ironically, Edd China, the star mechanic of Discovery Channel’s “Wheeler Dealers” actually parted ways with the show this spring after the show’s producers told him that his up-close and detailed repair and fabricating work required too many resources and was too expensive to film. It sounded like the actual mechanical work, which gained the show a loyal following, wasn’t deemed worthy.)
Who is an appropriate face of manufacturing then? Look in the mirror. While some marketing executives may hesitate to put you on a box of Wheaties or the bottle of a new barbecue sauce, publishers and those with a mission to promote the manufacturing industry shouldn’t be afraid to put the friendly faces of fabricators on posters, magazines, TV programs, and web videos. You are doing the job and getting the job done.
That man with the company-logoed shirt standing next to the powder-coated driver’s compartment for a large piece of industrial equipment—he’s got a story to tell about the robotic cell that’s being used to knock out those fabrications in record time.
That woman leaning against the modular welding table with the welder laying a bead in the background—she wants to share her success story involving her shop and its involvement with the local vocational school. The 20-something with the tattooed arm, welding torch in hand, and welding helmet flipped up so you can see his face—he’s excited that he just hired his first employee in his custom fence business.
A famous face supposedly representing manufacturing might capture someone’s attention, but the stories of real manufacturers can actually change people’s minds about the industry. That’s why manufacturers can’t be afraid to be who they are—economic engines and entrepreneurial laboratories where skilled workers and those interested in gaining skills can find a career.