Manufacturing Day was this past Friday, and there are plenty of articles written about Millennials and why they need to be recruited in order to ensure that manufacturers continue to have the labor they need to succeed. One aspect of generational change that is often overlooked, however, is that Baby Boomer workers are retiring from manufacturing in increasing numbers, and certain skills they have will be lost - unless companies encourage collaboration between these workers and those from younger generations.
So much of the emphasis in manufacturing is on breakthroughs in technology and increased automation and how these affect process and output. It’s assumed that Millennials, since they’ve been exposed to continuously updated technology since they were children are better suited to the new tech. However, Baby Boomers have their own skill sets. Baby Boomers, for example, learned a strong work ethic from their parents. They also have longer attention spans and need less encouragement to complete their tasks. They don’t have the same expectation Millennials do that their daily tasks will be exciting or important. They just want to be paid and promoted, not praised.
Baby Boomers also have a lifetime of experience under their belts. They watched the progression of technology from mechanical to computer-driven. They also have a lifetime of knowledge about workplace interactions. While Generation X workers have the reputation for wanting to work independently and disliking micromanagement, both Baby Boomers and Millennials are comfortable working within groups, and Boomers make for good mentors - something Millennials consistently report wanting more of at work.
Given that Baby Boomers have a lot to teach, if at all possible they should be paired with Millennials to transfer their knowledge and their ideas about work to younger coworkers. In some industries, Baby Boomers are being let go because companies think younger workers are more of a bargain. Their wages or salaries are lower, and benefits far less expensive. This is a short-sighted approach. Many Millennials come out of the school system unfamiliar with the way the workforce runs and struggle with absorbing the rules and norms and settling in. They are known for bouncing around from job to job and not staying in one position for very long - the opposite of Boomers.
Manufacturing needs workers who can be trained and who will stay in the positions they were trained to do. Pairing a Baby Boomer who has experience, knowledge, good social skills, and will pattern necessary workforce habits with Millennials who need guidance and crave connection in the workplace is a win-win. Some companies are rewarding late-stage Boomers for this mentoring with time off and other benefits. They want them to postpone retirement to do this critical work.
Older workers often feel like the high tech world we live in is passing them by, but Baby Boomers already have a lifetime of experience adapting to change and a host of other skills. This Manufacturing Day we should focus on how workers of all generations can help make our industry stronger and better by using the variety of strengths and skills they possess and helping each other to succeed.
How are you feeling? Are you stressed out? Do you get enough sleep at night? If you are a typical American today, you are probably not as healthy as you could be. The stress of work and daily responsibilities can take a real toll on the body over time, but there are simple things people can do that would help mitigate this. One area nearly all Americans can do better in is exercise. There are a number of ways to add movement to your daily regimen.
In 2013, a CDC survey revealed that the vast majority of Americans do not get enough weekly exercise. Researchers collected data from more than 450,000 Americans ages 18 and up. They asked respondents how often they engaged in aerobic activity outside of work and for how long. According to the survey, only 20.6 percent met the total recommended amount of exercise, with the ones most likely to exercise being those between the ages of 18 and 24. Men were more likely to get enough exercise than women, but only 23 percent of men reported exercising 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity or a combination of the two.
An inactive person runs a greater risk of developing health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease over time. One study linked a sedentary lifestyle to the above problems, as well as breast and colon cancer, estimating that 5.3 million deaths each year are a result of physical inactivity. This number is comparable to the number caused every year by smoking.
While the CDC survey monitored the amount of exercise people reported doing outside of work, work heavily factors in for most people, with the amount of exercise people getting varying widely depending on what they do for a living. The good news for people in our industry is that manufacturing workers get, on average, far more exercise than do office workers. Factory workers walk about 3.9 miles per day or 9,900 steps - more than retail sales staff, teachers, and much more than the average American who walks only 5,117 steps on average, with men a bit more active than women.
The question, then, is: How many steps counts as the “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise” the CDC recommends for health? Researchers say 10,000 steps a day qualifies. This is approximately 5 miles of walking and by itself constitutes a moderately active day.
Most Americans are only getting about half that, however. In order to add more steps to your day, look for ways to be more active either at work or on your free time. Walking at lunch or during break time can make a big difference in the number of steps you take. Talking short walks in the morning and evening can also help as can parking farther away or using the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are not sure how much exercise you are getting, buy a cheap pedometer to track your steps throughout the day. Being aware of your own personal activity level is the first step in creating a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The good news is that simply adding more exercise can improve physical health, lower your stress level, help you get better sleep, and reduce your risk of chronic illness. Most Americans do not realize how sedentary they are compared to people in other areas of the world or their own ancestors. This is entirely fixable, though, and with a little extra effort, you can reach or exceed the goals the CDC sets for maintaining good health.
Back in March D+M Metal Products sent out a letter to our customers. This letter discussed changes in the price of steel, specifically increases in the price of steel and how that would affect them and us going forward. Since that time, the Trump administration has announced further tariffs on steel and aluminum. How do these tariffs and domestic production of steel affect the price of the products we manufacture for our customers? What is the outlook on the price of steel moving forward?
On June 11, 2018 The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that U.S. steel mills shipped 7,798,326 net tons in April. This was a 6 percent decrease from the tonnage they shipped in March of 2018. All of the following were down 6 percent: cold rolled sheets, hot dipped galvanized sheets and strip, and hot rolled sheets.
Demand for steel remains high, so steel imports were up 12 percent from March. The U.S. imported a total of 3,738,000 net tons (NT) of steel in April 2018, including 2,860,000 net tons (NT) of finished steel. Year-to-date totals on imported steel were also up - 1.1 percent for steel and 2.3 percent for finished steel up over steel imported year to date in 2017.
“Key finished steel products with significant import increases in April compared to March include line pipe (up 87%), heavy structural shapes (up 57%), tin plate (up 53%), reinforcing bars (up 47%), hot rolled bars (up 39%), sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized (up 24%), sheets and strip all other metallic coatings (up 23%), standard pipe (up 20%), cut lengths plates (up 16%), and plates in coils (up 11%). Major products with significant year-to-date (YTD) increases vs. the same period in 2017 include plates in coils (up 43%), hot rolled sheets (up 40%), line pipe (up 31%), oil country goods (up 25%), mechanical tubing (up 23%) and hot rolled bars (up 12%).”
A huge spectrum of American companies need steel to manufacture their products. This steady demand has already lead to higher prices, but the increasingly complicated trade situation with America’s trade partners Mexico, Canada, and the European Union make things even more tangled. The U.S. typically imports about a third of its steel, but that’s unlikely to remain true with the added tariffs Trump has just imposed.
In March the U.S. Government announced that it would be imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. This caused the price of aluminum to rally. Initially Canada and Mexico were exempt from these tariffs, but as of the end of May, President Trump made it clear that there would no exemptions for Canada, Mexico, or the European Union. U.S. companies will now have to pay 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum.
As a result, E.U. Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic announced that as of July it will begin imposing duties on a list of U.S. products. Canada also announced retaliatory measures. A trade war has begun.
How much tariffs on steel will curb imports is not yet known. Globally, steel prices will likely go down minus U.S. demand (China ramped up its steel production 5 percent in April and exports soared). That’s good news for foreign manufacturers. In the United States, it’s a different story. Already the price of U.S. Midwest domestic hot-rolled coil steel has risen almost 39 percent year to date - good news for American steel mills. For the manufacturer, it’s a different story, though. It costs more for the manufacturer to produce, and the market for his products just contracted considerably.
As of now, there are not enough American steel mills and aluminum smelters producing and competing with each other to drive the price of steel down. How soon this may change is still unknown. It’s also unclear how President Trump’s strategy of hard negotiating with the U.S. trade partners will continue or for how long. All of this means that any industry or company that relies on steel or aluminum will be held hostage to unpredictable pricing for the foreseeable future.
Manufacturing, both in Michigan and in the United States, is experiencing a renaissance. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of this industry, both in terms of technological advancement and overall profitability. There are a number of growing pains manufacturing is experiencing, however, and one of the largest is a shortage in labor. In order to optimize the economic future, Americans and Michiganders especially will need more young people to consider manufacturing as a career opportunity and focus on acquiring the skilled trades the industry needs to succeed. The Millennial generation has an important part to play in 21st century manufacturing.
In the most recent NAM Manufacturing’ Outlook Survey more than 70% of companies listed their greatest challenge as recruitment and retention of their workforce. The need for young workers is so great that the State of Michigan is now stepping in with an additional $100 million in funding for specialty education programming funding. Employers are also investing in training for their workers to assure they have the skill sets they need.
While there is less need for unskilled labor, for almost any skilled job across the industry workers are in great demand. In April Michigan Manufacturers Association President Chuck Hadden stressed this: “Welders — I can get almost any of those people jobs any place in the state,” Hadden said. “If you’ve got a skill of some sort, (employers) will help work with you. If you’ve got a skill, I’ll find you a place you want.”
There are a number of reasons for this skilled labor shortage. Low unemployment and Baby Boomers retiring are two of the biggest. Why Millennials aren’t flocking to fill those empty positions in manufacturing is complicated, though. Some of it can be blamed on the industry’s image problem.
Michigan’s manufacturing birthed a middle class lifestyle for unskilled workers, and every sector of the state’s economy benefited. However, for decades now young people have been encouraged to shun jobs in factories in favor of pursuing white collar jobs. They’ve come to associate manufacturing jobs with older generations and think of them as boring, outdated, and dead-end. Many young people want jobs that will fulfill them personally, and they do not envisualize that happening in manufacturing.
Today’s manufacturing jobs are not the same as the ones available in 1960 or 1980, though. With the advent of automation, more of the jobs available require skills and training. They are personally challenging and often interesting and engaging. They’re also well paid. Few Millennials emerge from college without student loan debt, but manufacturing offers them the opportunity of work without accumulating debt at a rate of pay many college graduates can only dream about.
For example, the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program, also know as MAT2, is available in a number of colleges statewide. The MAT2 allows employers to sponsor student workers who study and work at the same time. When they graduate with degrees in mechatronics, IT, or product design they go to work for the companies that sponsored them for at least two years. This is a win-win for both companies and workers. Employers get the skilled workers they need for a reasonable investment and workers acquire their educations without acquiring tens of thousands of dollars in student loans - and they have a job guaranteed upon graduation.
The MAT2 is only one example of incentives companies are giving in their search for skilled employees, of course. There are many others. If you are young and undecided on your career choice, consider pursuing a skilled trade. For Millennials with energy, drive, and commitment, manufacturing offers a great deal. Going forward into the 21st century, Michigan needs you.
Training is vital on the job, and there are many types of training. Safety training is always crucial in manufacturing, but organizational training is equally important for maintaining order and promoting efficiency and profitability. For these reasons, D+M Metal Products is retraining both our plant and office staff in the 5S process. We consider 5S training to be another investment in our success.
5S is “a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely.” In the West this is often referred to as Lean Manufacturing, but this method of organization began as a part of the Toyota Production System as a way of making Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing possible. The main focus of 5S is to return the workplace to a clean, organized state. This has many benefits for employers, for workers, and for customers.
The term 5S comes from five Japanese words that, in English, translate to:
In this 5-step process, workers sort what is necessary from what is unnecessary in a workspace, eliminating what isn’t needed. Next, they organize what is left, clean the entire work area, create a schedule for the regular cleaning and maintenance of the work area, and sustain this cleanliness and organization over time.
The 5S process succeeds because a messy, cluttered space creates all kinds of obstacles to efficient work. The 5S system is not just establishing order, it’s a commitment to maintain order over time. This is not only true in manufacturing, but in every workspace.
There is an additional important S step that many businesses choose to add to the 5S process. That sixth S is “safety.” Following the 5S process will improve the workplace and make it inherently safer, but an added focus on maintaining safe conditions at work helps employees notice potential hazards and eliminate them. This further reduces the risk of a workplace accident. D+M Metal’s employees have incorporated the sixth S into their rounds in the plant.
It’s important to understand that 5S success isn’t possible without employee commitment and involvement. Educating them about 5S is only the first part. Employees need to be involved in every step of the process. This includes sorting, elimination of waste, tagging, and consulting. After 5S has been implemented or, in D+M Metal Products’ case, retrained, workers need to be continuously observing their workspace and determining if what has been implemented is working or if the workspace can be improved to make it more efficient, productive and safe for everyone.
We at D+M Metal Products believe that the 5S process is a tool for everyone to use to help make our workplace better. That is why we are focusing on 5S training in 2018.
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