Manufacturing and skilled workers

I find the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study quoted in your Column [Comment, June 2003, p15] to be hypocritical. Manufacturers whine about a lack of skilled workers, engineers, and managers, while at the same time either underutilizing or eliminating the talent they already have. Plant engineering is a classic example.

07/14/2003


I find the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study quoted in your Column [Comment, June 2003, p15] to be hypocritical. Manufacturers whine about a lack of skilled workers, engineers, and managers, while at the same time either underutilizing or eliminating the talent they already have.

Plant engineering is a classic example. Many of my peers continue to leave this career path due to reductions in staff, mounting demands, and a lack of resources. Nothing is more frustrating to plant engineers than having a solution to a clear and costly problem yet getting put off by CEOs who will not consider any future beyond the current quarter. Companies that refuse to consider projects that pay back in less than one year because the immediate expense will impact the current quarter's results are short-sighted. And they will never see the end of the cost-saving spiral.

Worse, companies or plants that see the need for skilled plant engineers either cannot, or will not, pay for those skills. Experienced plant engineers have a wealth of knowledge, but that knowledge came from years of training, education, and personal sacrifice. Manufacturers cannot expect to attract these skills at shift-supervisor wages.

And what about the manufacturers' role in developing skills? Instead of complaining about a lack of skilled employees, manufacturers need to take an active role in improving their employees' skills. How many of those companies in the NAM survey, while decrying a lack of skilled workers, were simultaneously cutting training and educational support programs?

What manufacturers continue to fail to recognize is that they do not develop the talent they have. Many local colleges and trade schools have excellent technical programs, yet workers are discouraged to use them either by a lack of flexible schedules or an inability to pay for the classes.

Why should anyone recommend a career in manufacturing to a young person when all young people read about is:

  • The movement of manufacturing to China, Indonesia, and Mexico

  • Ongoing reductions in manufacturing jobs

  • The abuse of middle management and technical employees by top management bent on wringing every ounce or more out of ever less.

    • Until members of the NAM decide to invest in the United States, and in their U.S. workers, they cannot complain about the lack of skilled employees available.

      U.S. manufacturers are stuck in a dire cycle. Until the manufacturing sector realizes that 6% ROI, or solid profit growth of 4%-8% is real profit growth and real money, not much will change. It will take real courage to change these attitudes. I don't see much courage among the current crop of CEOs.

      — Brian M. Varley, Manager, Facilities Engineering, U.S. Can Company



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me