What You Missed from the Manufacturing First Expo

In case you missed it, the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference — held in Green Bay, Wisconsin late October — was well worth the price of admission. If you weren’t able to attend, not to worry. We’ve put together some key points from the conference.

#1. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker spoke at the expo about one of the biggest problems facing manufacturers in Wisconsin: the aging and retiring workforce. One way the State of Wisconsin is addressing this problem is by tempting potential out-of-state workers to move here. Who better to attract than highly skilled and trained military veterans?

No property taxes is one of the draws. All eligible veterans and unremarried surviving spouses can receive a refundable property tax credit for their primary, in-state residence thanks to the Wisconsin Veterans & Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit.

No income taxes. On top of that, all military retirement pay is tax free in Wisconsin.

Partially free education. The Wisconsin G.I. Bill for Veterans and Dependents provides full tuition and segregated fees for eligible veterans and their dependents for up to eight full-time semesters or 128 credits, whichever is greater, at any University of Wisconsin System or Wisconsin Technical College System school​.

#2. Bill Taylor of Fast Company

Bill Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company and the author of “Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways,” was the keynote speaker of the event and warned against the concept of organizations “playing it safe.”

Taylor made the case that difficult and uncertain times are often the best times for organizations to separate themselves from the pack.

Playing it safe is riskier than you think, warned Taylor. I don’t mean to minimize the challenges, pressures, and potential setbacks that are a necessary part of making real change. But is there any doubt that far too many established organizations are far better at reassuring themselves about the virtues of standing pat than they are at rallying around the benefits of standing out?

Taylor said that most leaders and organizations are really good at quantifying the risks of trying something bold or striking out in a new direction. They ponder the downsides of, and obstacles to, introducing a new product or targeting a new market. They are far less adept at addressing the risks of staying the course. The risks of your company doing more of the same can be just what your competitors are hoping for. For more info, check out 50 Reason Why We Cannot Change.

#3. Ryan Craft of Crown Lift Trucks

Speaker Ryan Craft of Crown Lift Trucks, one of the world’s largest material handling companies, is an example of a Wisconsin company that is strengthening its manufacturing footprint. Along with adding a second facility to the company’s manufacturing operation earlier this year, Crown Lift is totally invested in its manufacturing and employs 14,000 people. The company builds every part of each forklift except for the tires and the seats. They even wind their own motors.

#4. Ted Torrison of Endries International

Ted Torrison, Head of Business Development at Endries International, said Endries is going to revolutionize vendor managed inventory with their Pulse System which is designed, developed, and built in Wisconsin, and is based off of Multi-Bin/Kanban methodology that  communicates demand within minutes of a bin going through the kiosk.

#5. Bob Poggi of Optima Associates

Bob Poggi, a Business Development Specialist at De Pere, Wisconsin-based Optima Associates, was another featured speaker. Optima is a manufacturing consulting firm that provides a systems approach to improving business results by creating a continuous improvement culture. Optima hosts monthly continuous improvement breakfast meetings in De Pere and Wausau.

There were too many takeaways from the conference to include in one blog, but we thought that Governor Walker’s address on solving the problem of recruiting more workers to manufacturing was particularly important, but missed another key solution: AUTOMATION.

Think about it. If you automate your shop floor production processes, you will need fewer people to do those jobs today, while ramping up your business to prepare for the evolving workforce.  Wisconsin manufacturers must go further to embrace automation or be left behind by their competitors. There is no question that significant investments have been made in machinery and equipment to automate production, but that doesn’t solve the problems of scheduling your equipment, servicing your customers, managing inventories, lowering costs, or improving the efficiency of both labor and machinery. Whether you are a metal fabricator, a precision machine shop, an industrial machinery & equipment organization, or a part of any other manufacturing industry segment, throwing people or equipment at internal issues does not always solve them. Sometimes it makes them even more costly.

The right manufacturing software can automate processes, not just limited to the production floor, but includes all of the back office and management teams serving the entire enterprise. With software automation, non-value added tasks can be automated, while unnecessary, tedious tasks and time-devouring work can be eliminated.

The Lake Companies has been helping manufacturers automate processes for years by helping them get rid of old-fashioned punch clocks and paper-based schedules and an entire range of office, as well as shop floor workforce administration and execution tasks. The less time your employees spend on low-value tasks, the less labor is involved and the more time you can have your people doing work that matters.