Let me start by saying that, yes, I am a Millennial and I am enthusiastic about manufacturing. You can pick your jaw up off your desk, it’s not that shocking. Despite the generational separation that is rampant among social media, you cannot dispute the fact that Millennials are engaged and contributing to growing businesses and adding their mark on society. Mostly in the worlds of tech, startups, and service based industries. My mark just so happens to be in manufacturing.
I have been around manufacturing my whole life. My family and I moved from Kansas City to Detroit in the mid-80’s when my father took a job with an automotive supplier. It was not long after that, he broke out on his own and purchased a small tooling and injection molding shop just south of Detroit. I have vivid memories going to the shop with my father on the weekends and “helping him out.” At that point, I probably deterred him from getting anything done with my endless curiosity and questioning. I remember walking out onto the shop floor as he flipped the switch on the lights. The increasing soft glow of the warming overhead lights, was met by the smell of lubricating oil and the rhythmic “chunk-chunk” of an injection molding press opening and closing. With every stroke of the press dropped a new set of part in to the gaylord below. I always had an interest in making things, but seeing that press fully automated and optimized, running in the dark, producing a part every 6-8 second was where my enthusiasm for manufacturing started.
Fast forward though an engineering degree, an MBA and seven different companies, I am still that same enthusiastic 11-year-old every time I step on to a manufacturing floor. The manufacturing landscape has changed significantly since I was 11. I have seen the rise and fall of some of the largest OEMs and suppliers, jobs have been “outsourced” and “in-sourced”, and as of recently, it seems that we have a whole generation of people completely disinterested in manufacturing. Despite all the turbulence within the industry, there is something supremely satisfying in being involved with the symbiosis of people and machines working together to create something of value out of nothing. I have seen gaylords of plastic pellets turn in to cooling fans, piles of sheet metal stamped in to car doors, and two chemicals mixed together to create the side of a hot tub. Regardless of the process, all manufacturing is the same, it is the creation of tangible value that cannot be achieved an any other industry.
My enthusiasm is further fueled by the impact that I am making on this world through my involvement with manufacturing. Every program I have worked on, that has launched in to the manufacturing of something, has become my contribution to a better world. As significant or insignificant as my roll may have been, I hold on to the fact that I added value that has impacted the lives of others. When I see car that has a component in it that I work on, I see the countless hours spent with a team of engineers finalizing designs. I see program managers, sales people, purchasing people and leadership all negotiating their positions. I see the factory workers assembling components and building cars. Each with their own lives and families supported by manufacturing. So, next time you hop in your brand-new SUV, brew a cup of coffee, or read another LinkedIn article on your phone, take a moment to observe and consider that everything you see, hear and feel was manufactured by a symphony. A symphony of people and machines creating their own contribution to add value to your life.
As you read this article, you will notice that I chose the word enthusiastic in place of “love”, “like” or “excited about”. Enthusiasm, to me, brings with it a joy that is not found often in life. Joy is deep seeded happiness. When you are working on something you are enthusiastic about, you have endless energy and time fly’s. It’s not work at all at that point. So, I propose a challenge to all the other Millennials (and other generations) out there, what are you enthusiastic about? Have you found it yet?