Manufacturing Matters! will provide industry insight

    Important issues and the latest trends for the manufacturing sector will be examined later this month when the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership hosts the 17th annual “Manufacturing Matters!” conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

    This year’s event, on Thursday, Feb. 27, will open with remarks by Gov. Scott Walker and WMEP president Buckley Brinkman, and Badger Meter Inc. president and chief executive officer Rich Meeusen will follow as the event’s keynote speaker. More than 500 people are expected to attend.

    “We take a lot of pride in Manufacturing Matters,” Brinkman said. “One of the things that makes Manufacturing Matters unique is that it’s a conference built on education first and everything else second.”

    Brinkman takes pride that people can leave the conference with a number of good ideas that can be put to use right away.


    In addition to the Thursday event that runs from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Manufacturer of the Year Awards will be held that night at the Pfister Hotel. WMEP’s Chairwoman Reception, featuring Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish, will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Hyatt Regency and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce “Focus on Manufacturing Breakfast” will be held on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Pfister Hotel.

    In total, there will be more than 20 different sessions for attendees to choose from during the conference, with more than 30 speakers. The day’s events are split into two channels – executive and operations.

    Tim Sullivan gives the keynote address at Manufacturing Matters! 2012

    Brinkman said this year’s event will focus on important trends within the manufacturing industry, including exporting, sustainability, workforce issues and industry clusters.

    Another area that’s getting a larger focus at this year’s conference is additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing.

    Panelists will discuss manufacturing trends.

    Sheku Kamara, director of the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Rapid Prototyping Consortium and member of WMEP’s board of directors, is hosting a session called “Actionable Ideas for Operations: Additive Manufacturing – Why It Matters to Your Business.”

    “(Additive manufacturing) technology is here to stay,” Kamara said. “We work with different companies and we’ve seen the impact this technology has had on their businesses.”

    MSOE has been involved in additive manufacturing for more than 20 years, Kamara said, through its Rapid Prototyping Consortium. Utilizing a partnership with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, MSOE and America Makes, Kamara helped strategically define the “additive manufacturing body of knowledge,” which serves as the basis for the Additive Manufacturing Certificate Program, he will teach on the Wednesday preceding Manufacturing Matters. Those who take the class can get their certification by passing a test on the Friday after the conference.

    Industry clusters are also featured at this year’s conference. Highlighting this focus will be Meeusen’s keynote speech, Brinkman said.

    “I really admire what he’s done with the Water Council,” Brinkman said. “In a society enamored with social media and doing things over the Internet, Rich (Meeusen) and Paul (Jones) have done a great job creating a physical space for the Water Council, which is leading to incredible collaboration through face-to-face contact. It will be interesting to hear what’s next on that front, and how we can use that model to set up other clusters across the state.”

    In addition to the water cluster, the event will examine energy, aerospace, and the growing food and beverage industry cluster in the Milwaukee area.

    Another area of focus this year is workforce development. Brinkman will moderate a panel featuring Eric Isbister, CEO and co-owner of Mequon-based GenMet Corp.; Mike Reader, president of Elkhorn-based Precision Plus Inc.; and Marc Levine, founding director of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development titled, “Advanced Talent Management/Workforce Development: The Skills Gap: Is It Real?”

    “Marc (Levine) has done a good job putting out the numerical case for ‘No, there isn’t a skills gap,'” Brinkman said. “Eric (Ibister) and Mike (Reader) have done a good job of putting out the case that there is a skills gap, but most of their case is based on anecdotal evidence – but a lot of anecdotal evidence. We’re hoping to have a discussion as to why there are two different views of the world out there.”

    Reggie Newson, secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development, will also be a featured speaker at the conference. Brinkman said Newson will talk about the Wisconsin Fast Forward initiative and the state’s first strategic plan on workforce development.

    “The workforce issue continues to be one of the big issues,” Brinkman said. “The state and the region that comes up with the strategy to provide that workforce is going to be the one that really wins.”

    Also at the conference will be sessions on government policy and new state incentives.

    “This is an opportunity for executives to understand what resources are available through the state and what resources they can plug into,” Brinkman said. “Being a strategic partner with the WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), we generally like to highlight what they’re doing.”

    Brinkman said another focus, and one that will be a main focus of Gov. Walker’s speech, is exporting.

    “The governor has always been a big backer of manufacturing in the state and understands how important it is to the economy overall,” Brinkman said. “One of the new things on his agenda – and rightly so – is exports and how that applies to our future health. If we’re going to have a better healthy, growing economy, we’ll have to be better exporters as well.”

    Sustainability in manufacturing is another topic that has taken on more importance in recent years, Brinkman said. Costs for newer programs have become more “accessible” to manufacturers as costs have gone down.

    “If we’re talking about sustainability just from the standpoint of doing good for the world, it’s not really going to hold together, but if we can show how you can reduce the carbon footprint and improve a company’s bottom line, all of a sudden that idea would have momentum,” he said.

    Find out more about the conference at

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