by Lara Copeland, contributing writer
The American Mold Builder

Manufacturing has been an integral force behind the many successes of America, but perception of the industry as a viable career choice underwent a shift that it hasn’t recovered from yet. Soon, more than half of open manufacturing jobs are likely to be unfilled due to the skills gap and a shortage of students seeking a future in STEM careers. As part of a large-scale effort to shift and modernize the public’s outlook, Founding Partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International created Manufacturing Day, or MFG DAY, in 2012.

MFG DAY has since become an annual event produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), with key contributions and support from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Manufacturing Institute (MI). Companies all over the country host MFG DAY events on the first Friday in October to help shape and improve public perception. When manufacturers open their doors and demonstrate what modern manufacturing is and isn’t, it helps to address the skilled labor shortage while strengthening the future of the industry.

More than 2,800 companies participated in MFG DAY 2017 by hosting plant tours, community events, job or educational fairs, and other celebrations highlighting the manufacturing community. Following is a sample of what some AMBA-member companies did to celebrate MFG DAY 2017.

Manufacturing Day event held at Synventive Molding Systems.

Synventive Molding Solutions hosted an open house. Vice President and GM of North and South America Steve Gayfer opened the day with a few words about the company and how he got started as a machinist. Two of the company’s pre-apprentices presented a slideshow to the 45 high school students in attendance. The students then were divided into three groups to tour the production floor, spending about 10 minutes at each of six stations. In the laser engraving area, the company had plaques engraved for each student and their co-op supervisors ahead of time, and each team was able to help engrave a sample plaque. In Logistics, students were given a protective box for their plaques and shown how to use the bar coding system to see what was inside the box. Following lunch, the HR manager spoke about Synventive’s apprenticeship program and how it opens opportunities for students. Both apprentices again spoke about what they have learned since starting their co-op.

Manufacturing Day event held at Paragon D&E.

For Manufacturing Day 2017, Paragon D&E hosted an open house, inviting students, teachers, parents and community members to a short presentation on Paragon – including demonstrations and a tour of its facility. The company showcased the processes required for building the tooling that it provides for customers, including compression molds, composite tooling and injection molds. Paragon also provided information on many of the industries it serves, such as heavy truck, automotive, marine, aerospace and defense, nuclear, and oil and gas. The company highlighted the variety of career opportunities the industry offers and described how Paragon has partnered with the local college and universities to develop a two-year apprenticeship program and opportunities for free college tuition. Finally, visitors heard how Paragon gives back to the community through organizations like the Keller Foundation and United Way.

MGS Mfg. Group welcomed high school students for the 2017 event.

MGS Mfg. Group, in Germantown, Wisconsin, opened its doors for a full week to help promote Manufacturing Day 2017. The company invited local high school and college students to attend a tour of its tooling and injection molding facilities. Several students and teachers visited MGS’s facility throughout the week. The company regularly provides tours for students so they can get an up-close look at modern manufacturing and learn about the variety of career opportunities available in the industry.

General Die & Engineering welcomed a group of students from a local high school with a representative from the MEDC at its shop. Students saw a company presentation showing what General Die manufactures, along with short videos on manufacturing. Then, students were given a shop tour that began with engineering and proceeded to the shop floor, where they saw how a mold or die was created from start to finish. Students reported they were extremely surprised that the shop looked nice – not dirty or dingy as they had pictured. They also were surprised at the size of the dies the company builds. Furthermore, students reported being amazed that tool shops will hire straight out of high school and put employees into an apprenticeship program paid for by the company.

Creative Blow Mold Tooling hosted 17 students and faculty from a local high school – Summit Technology Academy. The students spent time in the engineering department learning about mold design and the flow simulation the company runs on each mold design to make sure water flow and cooling are optimized. Participants also attended a demonstration of the company’s digital scanning capabilities that allow it to quickly and accurately reverse-engineer existing molds, mold components or even bottles, speeding up the engineering processes. Finally, they toured the shop floor to learn more about how the company processes various mold components in its CNC department, assembles the components into a finished blow mold and the steps taken in the quality control area to make sure the finished molds exceed customer specifications. This is the second year that students from local high schools have toured Creative Blow Mold Tooling’s facility on Manufacturing Day to learn more about designing and manufacturing blow molds, along with the consumer packaging that its molds help create.

Held over the course of several days, Mold Craft’s Manufacturing Day event had a lot of interest from local students, faculty career counselors, teachers and administrators from three area high schools. Each group was welcomed by Mold Craft’s owners, Tim Bartz and Justin McPhee, before being split into smaller groups and taken on an in-depth tour of the facilities, where they were encouraged to engage and ask questions. During the presentation, groups were led through six stations: design and engineering, CNC steel milling, CNC electrode milling and sinker EDM, wire EDM, career path planning and a final presentation at the Technology Center, demonstrating the latest technology in micro injection molding.

At each station, the students and faculty were shown that manufacturing is not the dark, dingy, low-skilled career that many still believe, but rather that it is a high-tech, well-paying field that allows skilled workers to use some of the latest technology to create essential items for everyday life. Bryan Farmer, the College in the Schools (CIS) physics and engineering teacher from Mahtomedi High School said, “The kids were very impressed with the tour. I heard many positive and encouraging comments.”

Industrial Molds hosted students for Manufacturing Day 2017.

Industrial Molds had approximately 25 Auburn High School students tour its facility in honor of Manufacturing Day. The students ranged from freshman to seniors, and they all were engaged in the tour. They asked a lot of questions and were genuinely interested in what Industrial Molds has to offer as a company and as a potential future employer. Account Managers Randy Hanson, Wes Stephens and Kerry Smith led the tour for the students. Each student received an Industrial Molds-branded pad of paper and pen to take notes during the tour.

Manufacturing Day event held at M.R. Mold & Engineering.

M.R. Mold & Engineering is focused on changing the perception of manufacturing. The company opened its doors to more than 300 students, faculty and parents in the area to emphasize how important manufacturing is to the nation’s economy. The visiting students are studying engineering, CAD and other technical courses in their respective schools. Being able to apply their knowledge in a real-world environment was an eye-opening experience for them. Learning about engineering and mold flow analysis, advancing through the machine programming and cutting processes before wrapping up with the actual molding of the product showed the tour participants the importance of each step to the guests. R.D. Abbott, a material supplier to the rubber industry, partnered with M.R. Mold in educating the students on the chemistry of liquid silicone rubber, the process it goes through to produce products and its various uses.