The celebration of National Engineers Week started in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers and is always during the week in February which includes George Washington’s birthday, February 22nd. President Washington is considered the nation’s first engineer, notably for his survey work. It is observed by more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies. Primarily, the goal of this week promote recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. The intent is to motivate youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.
Photo Credit: Netflix
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about a really neat project that we were doing at Eastman Business Park, the old Kodak Park Campus in Rochester, NY. Netflix was going to film a series that would rival American Ninja Warrior only with high performance cars and expert drivers on challenging obstacle courses. It is dubbed “American Ninja Warrior meets the Fast and the Furious.”
There are both direct and subtle ways to “manage” your suppliers. Some companies have elaborate supplier programs with score cards, audits, cost reduction goals, targets, etc. It is great if you have the infrastructure to support this type of program, but not everyone can.
Unemployment is down, manufacturing is up, and the demand for skilled trades hasn’t been this high for a long time. There is a gap between demand and the available skilled workforce. This is true in many trades. One example is electricians. According to numbers from the National Electrical Contractors Association, 7,000 electricians join the field each year, while at the same time 10,000 retire.
Before we go any further into the new year, let’s take a look at what brought us here, starting with thinking about the mix of work that Optimation performed last year. And then let’s look at some of the other things going on in our world (not political).
At Optimation, our corporate mission is to provide unique and creative solutions to the manufacturing segment. That’s a broad statement that means we build custom engineered systems for anyone that produces hard goods and needs some form of automated equipment with which to manufacture those goods.
"Unintended consequences." Sounds harmless, guilt-relieving, “not-our-fault” kind of language. On the surface it's a simple-enough statement, declaring that there were outcomes to some actions taken that (usually) ran counter to the intent of the project, and generally they were not desired. In other words, "some bad things happened that we did not expect."
At Optimation, we describe our company in terms of our ability to provide turnkey solutions to the manufacturing segment. Our solutions and services can start early in the project process, as we are able to assist our clients in investigating a variety of technologies that might help them with their production challenge or problem. We generally receive a problem statement and some User Requirements from our contact at the client company. We respond to the customer’s needs with a Concept Design phase, which includes performing a technology assessment. Our Media Conveyance Facility stands ready to offer Development Engineering and modeling to predict behavior for products that are built on flexible webs, for example. Once a preferred technology is selected, a manufacturing platform or machine configuration is generated that answers the client’s User Requirements (the first steps of our Project Process). We then invite our client to participate in a Concept Design review to validate our work product so far.
Fifty years ago, manufacturing in the US was strong and manufacturing jobs accounted for over 25 percent of total employment. In addition to the jobs for production operators on the factory floor, major US manufacturing companies had large research divisions and engineering departments, internal construction divisions and maintenance departments. They were self-sufficient and outsourced very little. Self-performance was one of the tools they used to develop proprietary products, support quality of these products, meet schedules on aggressive time to market for these products and make certain they could manufacture in sufficient quantities to meet market demand.
When faced with the need for additional technical staff, to accomplish short-term project goals, companies that seek to supplement their own personnel generally focus on the work at hand that needs to be executed. But what about the many and varied other factors that influence effectively adding help to their existing workforce? Beyond the obvious needed technical skills and related project experience, what should a hiring company look for in their supplemental service provider? At Optimation, one of our goals is to view each and every project, though it may be but a small service contract, as an opportunity to build a relationship that will remain after the current job is completed.