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Manufacturing Day Looked Different This Year, But It Was More Important Than Ever

By: Eric Miller, Industry Week


Even though the pandemic threw us all a curveball this year, Miller Fabrication Solutions didn’t let it hold us back. We could’ve opted out of participation in Manufacturing Day (MFG Day), thereby ending our six-year streak. Instead, we decided to double down, because the event is too important to our company for us to sit it out.


Miller is a metal fabrication supplier-partner for global original equipment manufacturers. We have almost 400 employees across three production facilities in western Pennsylvania. While we have a significant footprint in our region and our customers have operations all over the world, it isn’t often we have a chance to put our company on a national stage. This year, we did. 


Because the pandemic forced MFG Day to look different anyway, we expanded our usual event from one day into a series of virtual events running throughout October, which we dubbed “Manufacturing Month” at Miller. By making that pivot, we created an opportunity to showcase Miller to a national audience and make our company more visible regionally and locally. 

For several reasons, using MFG Day as a platform has proven to be the right decision. The choice already is paying off, and it will provide other dividends down the road. Here’s why our expanded participation in MFG Day is a good business move: 


1. Our Manufacturing Month audience includes customers who haven’t visited our plants for months and prospective OEM customers who are dealing with travel restrictions, all because of COVID-19. Our virtual events exposed attendees to the depth of our bench through a revolving panel of moderators and interviewees. We’ve been showcasing the breadth of our capabilities and processes, giving an up-close view of our lean initiatives, like our kanban pull system, as well as our five-stage coating processes and other areas where we shine. It is our chance to give OEMs a peek behind the curtain and show them how much we can do, which we believe will expand our business opportunities with them. 


2. Miller and other supplier-partners are muscling our way back from the downturn of the pandemic’s early days, but getting there will take a year or more. As the market improves, we’ll face anew the challenge of finding enough skilled workers. 


To that end, we incorporated “Meet A Manufacturing Expert” video interviews with employees across several departments, who talked about what their jobs are like. For both the next generation of workers and those who may be considering new, post-COVID career paths the videos allow us to introduce the benefits of and ways to excel in fabrication and manufacturing careers. 


But the videos are more than just a new way to tell our employee success stories. We’ll stretch the dollars invested in creating them by including them in vocational presentations to senior high school students, outreach to teachers and administrators, job fairs and other recruiting events for the next several years. 


3. People don’t always understand how much impact manufacturing businesses like Miller have on regional economies. Our operations spur business for ancillary companies like local raw material suppliers and other vendors, logistics transportation firms, restaurants and lodging facilities. Wages spent by manufacturing workers also have a positive effect on local economies. In Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, where we are headquartered, this spending generates more than $500,000 in compensation for other County workers each year, according to a Penn State Economic & Workforce Brief. Using the MFG Day podium, we are highlighting our contributions, which further solidifies our relationships with our local communities. 


As the places Miller employees like me live, work, go to school and raise families, those communities are deeply important to us. Because we know local charitable organizations have been hit hard by COVID, we highlighted several of these nonprofits in our events and are matching contributions participants make to each of them to help make sure the services they provide remain available for generations to come. Manufacturing Month gave us a new way to follow through on our commitment to giving back. 


4. Our virtual events attracted registrants from California, Florida, Texas and many other states. These individuals would never have known about Miller’s usual onsite MFG Day experiences, let alone have been able to attend them. Even locally, despite being right around the corner, many residents and students considering potential career paths have little awareness of the work we do and what we’re capable of. By leveraging and expanding MFG Day, we’re using the spotlight of this national event to educate our community, prospective employees, suppliers, vendors – even customers and prospects – about the unique and critical kinds of work we stand ready to do. 


Eric Miller is president of Miller Fabrication Solutions, a strategic metal fabrication partner for global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across construction, forestry, transportation, oil and gas equipment and other heavy industries.

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