Manufacturing Matters! focused on Connected Enterprises, LinkedIn, robotics, more

About 450 manufacturing professionals from all over the state came to the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee on Feb. 26 for The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s 18th annual Manufacturing Matters! conference.

The day-long conference kicked off with a speech by Gov. Scott Walker who asserted that we should send the message that we value our sons and daughters who become manufacturers as much as we do those who become doctors and lawyers.

Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of the Power Control business at Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc., shared that sentiment in his keynote address, saying it is everyone’s job to change the perception of manufacturing.

One of the ways manufacturers can do that, he said, is by hosting a Manufacturing Day event. (This year’s Manufacturing Day takes place Oct. 2.) It is important to provide opportunities like these, according to Laszkiewicz, because students are 200 percent more likely to consider manufacturing as a career if they have a personal experience.

Laszkiewicz offered a series of recommendations to advance manufacturing that included developing career counseling, adding attraction and retention tax credits for skilled graduates, expanding youth and adult apprenticeship participation, and engaging in marketing that attracts millennials.

Laszkiewicz also spent part of his keynote discussing the Internet of Things and Connected Enterprises, a topic that was elaborated on during an afternoon session with a Rockwell Automation panel.

A variety of sessions took place throughout the day on such topics as succession planning, expanding into new markets, additive manufacturing, sustainability and inventory best practices.

One of the more popular sessions in the afternoon was “How to Use LinkedIn and Other Online Tools to Grow Your Business,” presented by Janet Ady, president and chief executive officer of Madison-based Ady Advantage, and Michelle Kane, founder of Black Hills PR of Spearfish, S.D.

In that session, manufacturers learned, among other things, how to fine-tune their LinkedIn profiles and how to anonymously view their competitors’ LinkedIn profiles. Ady and Kane also advised attendees to make their summaries personable and to add contact information, and they offered a LinkedIn action plan consisting of some of the following tasks: add connections, find and share content, post updates, join groups and make endorsements.

Another interesting session was “Robotics Trends for Advanced Manufacturing” taught by Erik Nieves, the technology director at Miamsburg, Ohio-based Yaskawa Motoman. The company has a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oak Creek with 200 employees.

Nieves said we are currently in the “second robot fever” after the first one that transpired 25 years ago. He believes this time the robot fever is here to stay, and by 2020 new features on robots will shift the labor dynamics in factories, allowing humans and machines to work together through “fenceless” applications that allow for greater efficiency on the shop floor.

Some people question why robots should be supported when people are unemployed, but Nieves said robot sales correlate with growth—not unemployment.

“Any technology that improves production adds to growth,” he said.

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