Last October, a group of manufacturing organizations and related government organizations teamed up to launch Manufacturing Day. Known as #mfgday online, the event was a simple but novel concept: Expose as many people as possible to the real world of manufacturing through open houses, public tours, career workshops and other events.
Essentially: Blow the doors off the factory and let people see inside.
It was a fantastic success in terms of numbers, with 240 events nationwide and thousands of participants, including students of all ages, the media, lawmakers and community leaders, among others.
But even more importantly, the event helped to dispel all the stereotypes and falsehoods that tend to haunt our beloved manufacturing industry. Attendees were able to see what many of us who work in manufacturing already know: It's a sophisticated, dynamic, high-tech, globally competitive world that is always changing.
And -- oh, by the way -- it's also vital to the economy and security of the United States.
This year, Manufacturing Day organizers say there are 335 organized events, which can be viewed at http://www.mfgday.com/events. When I last spoke to them, they had all but three states offering at least one event. Our SME Education Foundation is one of the more than 100 sponsors.
At Manufacturing Engineering, we're doing our own version of Manufacturing Day in this issue, where you can visit the shop floor of three companies.
Take a look inside Milacron LLC. Long known as Cincinnati Milacron, the plastics machine maker is diversifying its growing business with contract manufacturing business, using its excess production capacity to make small lots of big, custom parts for other companies.
In our online edition, visit MPC Industrial Products (Irvine, CA), which has been precisely grinding and polishing metals for airplanes, medical devices and other high-quality products for decades. MPC has been recognized for some lean improvements that helped them streamline their process for polishing the large aluminum skins that wrap the fuselage of aircraft. Or take a look inside Hampel (Germantown, WI). Founded in 1976, the company specializes in heavy-gage, deeply drawn thermoformed parts that are sold on a proprietary and custom basis.
Without events such as Manufacturing Day, factories are just huge buildings surrounded by tall fences and expansive parking lots to outsiders. It's good to let people inside, to see the intense, high-tech competition in which U.S. manufacturers are engaged -- if only once a year.
This article was first published in the October 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.