Pssst! Manufacturing is alive and well

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:41 pm

    The headlines often say something along the lines of "North American Manufacturing Still Haunted by Over Capacity" or “Domestic Automakers Move More Tooling to China."
    Enough already. If you’re as tired of these headlines as I am, you might like to know that there’s another side to the story.
    Lean manufacturing. Highly engineered design. Automation. Rapid prototyping. Global supply chain partnerships. Headline-worthy progress is in full swing at manufacturing facilities everywhere, but we aren’t reading about it enough. News coverage spotlights a success here and there, but it too often on focuses on negative generalizations.
    This gloomy vision of the future is scaring away the next generation of manufacturing leaders – talented people whom resurgent manufacturers need to keep up with growth.
    That’s why I believe businesses, government and nonprofit organizations in the greater Milwaukee region, where manufacturing remains so vital, must work together to shift the focus to what’s exciting in the industry … before a worker shortage fulfills the prophesy of doom.
    The efforts of some technical colleges promoting careers in manufacturing are a good start, but to produce a lasting, far-reaching impact, we’ll need a more concerted, collaborative, well-financed effort.
    Most importantly, it’ll have to show how careers in manufacturing are vibrant and successful, right here and right now in the Milwaukee area.
    Sure, the manufacturing sector is still struggling. And shops that aren’t implementing the most advanced technology or exploiting a niche will probably have to close their doors. But at the same time, many manufacturers are on the upswing.
    For example, a recent Plante & Moran plastics processor survey shows that the top quartile of processors is definitely on the move. Many of these top performers utilized lean principles to help realize 2006 profitability increases of up to 40 percent.  And this shift from lagging to leadership continues to accelerate.
    People deserve to know the good news about these companies – especially our young people who are looking for a career.
    My hat’s off to those manufacturers who have successfully made the transition. There are a lot of them out there. Don’t keep it a secret. Pass it on!

    Mary Scheibel is a principal at Scheibel Halaska Inc. in Milwaukee. She can be reached at




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