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Rebranding Manufacturing, Elevating the Industry’s Image

The month of October kicked off annual Manufacturing Day, where the industry comes together throughout the country to showcase how great it is. This annual event is designed to celebrate advanced technologies and innovations in manufacturing. The event also serves to elevate the image of the industry, particularly in today’s highly competitive environment where attracting and retaining fresh, young talent is needed to move the sector forward. So how do we change the image of manufacturing from one of the outdated factories filled with grimy line jobs to a dynamic, challenging and rewarding industry?

In the last few years, we have seen manufacturers stepping up to enhance the image of the industry. For example, last fall a General Electric TV commercial featured a Millennial named Owen who had just told his parents he got a job at GE. The father proudly replies, “GE, a manufacturer,” and produces a large hammer that belonged to Owen’s ‘Grandpappy.’ “He would have wanted you to have it,” Owen’s dad says. Owen responds all flustered, “Yes, GE makes powerful machines. But I will be writing the code that will allow those machines to share information with each other.”

In fact, thousands of companies across the U.S. are beginning to re-brand manufacturing as a high-tech industry filled with opportunity. Their target audience: smartphone-wielding Millennials and their parents who still think of manufacturing jobs as high-risk or as a last resort after Silicon Valley tech jobs. Why the push? By 2025, it’s estimated there will be two million unfilled manufacturing jobs, according to a study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting. Millennials are the obvious target to fill these jobs, but manufacturers are facing challenges in wooing this group. According to the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, although the most sought-after jobs for Millennials are in the technology industry, they don’t automatically connect manufacturing with the tech sector. This is despite the fact that modern manufacturing relies heavily on high-tech applications. Indeed, manufacturing ranked seventh in that study, even though research by the Manufacturing Institute shows that more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturing companies are adopting 3-D printing and more than half use robots.

What can you do to re-brand and enhance your manufacturing business and attract fresh talent to your company? Following are several ideas, some of which are taken from a session on “Enhancing the Image of Your Manufacturing Company” at last month’s 2016 Minnesota Manufacturers’ Summit:

  • Freshen up the front office as well as the back shop area. Get rid of all the tall, bland beige walls and replace them with open work spaces and areas for collaboration. Allow visitors to see your manufacturing floor when they walk through the front door of your business. Install LED lighting in your shop floor area to brighten it up. Paint the walls white, or bright colors. Keep the shop floor clean (this is essential for safety, preventing accidents, too!).
  • Consider establishing an apprenticeship or internship program. There are grants available through the state of California and other business organizations. These apprentices can develop into valuable employees who help you grow your business.
  •  Set up welcoming common areas where employees can relax, hang out, and even work. These areas can be inside or outside and aren’t just for lunch breaks anymore. Younger employees would rather have the flexibility of moving around; they appreciate a change of scenery, so create spaces where people can work, collaborate and relax outside of their normal work areas.
  • Make sure your website speaks to both your customers and potential hires. This means updating an existing site or creating a new one to have a modern look and feel. Your website should also be designed to render well on all types of devices, particularly mobile ones. Today’s Millennial uses his or her smartphone for everything, including looking up a business where he or she is applying for a position. Make sure your site is functional, too. Consider accepting job applications online. First impressions matter. Your website is the virtual portal to your organization.  
  • Get social. That means leveraging social media platforms to convey your shop’s culture and environment, such as what cool things you’re doing with 3-D printing. Have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social sites. Create videos and post them on your YouTube channel. Consider adding videos to job postings to demystify certain manufacturing jobs. You can either contract with a third-party that can assist you with your social media or assign it to an individual in-house (to a Millennial!). Be sure your social strategy is consistent and aligned with your goals.
  • Provide tours. Invite students and teachers at the local colleges to visit your operation. As mentioned in our article on Manufacturing Day, many colleges team up with manufacturers to discuss and promote career opportunities in the manufacturing industry.  Also invite parents, federal, state and local politicians, and residents to talk about manufacturing and show them your business.
  • Set up an ambassador program. Because Millennials are more likely to listen to their peers than they will older experts, the Manufacturing Institute has led an initiative for companies to send younger employees as “ambassadors” to college campuses and schools where they speak about their jobs. These ambassadors also lead shop tours when students and young job seekers come to their plants and factories. One such ambassador appointed by her company was interviewed in an article in the Wall Street Journal on her ambassadorship role. “Students have no idea what jobs there are in manufacturing,” she says. “They want to know what I do all day. So we talk about how manufacturing jobs are not the dark, dirty and dangerous jobs of the past. They are really high-tech and innovative. You can make a lot of money and have a good career path.”
  • Define your differentiators in everything you do as you promote your business and what it has to offer. What makes your business unique? Celebrate your accomplishments and awards.
  • Promote volunteerism: This is particularly important for Millennials who rank social and corporate responsibility high when looking for work. Pay employees when they are volunteering their time in the company’s name. If they volunteer with other groups, offer to make a donation in your company’s name to those organizations.

The manufacturing sector is a dynamic and evolving industry, the backbone of America. At Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services (PMIS), we are proud to be a part of this industry in our role as insurance and risk management professionals whose mission is to protect the future of the manufacturers that make up the sector. To learn more about our insurance products and services, contact us at 855.910.5788.

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