DUBLIN (Oct. 30, 2017) – Chris Muhlenkamp, Allegion Senior Vice President of Global Operations & Integrated Supply Chain reflects on the realities of manufacturing - and how it is at a crossroads.
As someone who has committed the majority of my career to the manufacturing and supply chain competencies, you’d probably assume that I’m surprised by what’s become known as the “skills gap” in the industry. After all, I’ve spent nearly 40 years in this profession, so it would make sense to think my viewpoint might be favorably biased. The truth is, however, that I’m not surprised. I firmly believe that manufacturing – specifically in the U.S. – is at a crossroads.
It’s easy to point to the stereotypes of manufacturing sweatshops portrayed by Hollywood and television features in recent years as generating a sense of perceived negativity that has not been overcome by the manufacturing industry. But, it’s more than that. Stories and firsthand accounts have been passed through families regarding less-than-desirable conditions of factory work ranging from long hours to repetitive, mindless contributions.
This is not the manufacturing I know. In reality, I’d say most manufacturing jobs today are centered on employee empowerment, engagement and innovation. Unfortunately, our industry has not effectively communicated this.
At Allegion, for example, team members are trusted to make decisions and lead value creation for customers. The environment, pay and benefits happen to be some of the most competitive in the market, and the opportunities to grow professionally in our plants, for those inclined to do so, are enormous. We are developing skilled trade apprenticeship programs and offering tuition reimbursement opportunities, as well as transitioning some part-time and temporary employees to full-time positions. We are actively working with community and civic leaders to invest in the skills, education and training requirements necessary to support the next generation of manufacturing workers.
And I believe there can be a bright future for manufacturing, as we will continue to see the introduction of new technologies. Tools and investments are essential elements of being able to provide our customers with shorter delivery cycle times and higher quality. It is imperative to have employees who have the desire, knowledge, expertise and capability to run, manage and maintain such investments.
That’s why Allegion proactively reaches out to inspire the next generation of manufacturing employees. In October, our facilities across the Americas held “Manufacturing Day” events in conjunction with the National Association of Manufacturers. These events give students and educators, as well as government and civic leaders, the opportunity to engage with our skilled and talented workforce. Visitors can see the present and a have a glimpse of the future of manufacturing by talking to employees who hold a variety of roles – from quality to materials, engineers to assembly workers and skilled tradesman to toolmakers.
I’m proud to say we hosted eight Manufacturing Day events this month. From our first event in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Oct. 4, to our last event in Princeton, Ill., on Oct. 26, we had nearly 550 students and 40 government and community leaders through our doors – a record turnout for Allegion.
By sharing about the types of career opportunities available, we hope to help tear down the stereotypes of old that simply do not exist across the majority of the industry today. Best of all, our team members share their own experiences and communicate about the culture they have created. It’s both powerful and motivating to hear current team members tell others why their plant is the local workplace of choice and share the pride they have in their profession.
Informing and inspiring the next generation of manufacturers will require a good deal of work within our communities – but it’s a worthy cause. Allegion is committed to combating the skills gap. We will continue investing in our manufacturing processes and equipment, our people and the communities in which we work to further advance the manufacturing competency.
Maria Pia Tamburri - Director, Public Affairs