During June’s amerimold 2013 show and conference, a yearly event hosted by Plastics Technology’s parent, Gardner Business Media, and our sister publication, MoldMaking Technology magazine, I sat in on a presentation delivered by Robert Schiavone, global marketing director for R&D/Leverage.
This company, based in Lee’s Summit, Mo., describes itself as a “full-service plastic product solutions company…bringing together consumer research, industrial design, and prototyping to manufacturing and validation” with services that include injection and injection-blow mold manufacturing.
In his presentation, Mr. Schiavone outlined a well-timed, critical endeavor whose goal is to promote the real-world value plastics have in our everyday lives, value that folks outside our realm either don’t know or don’t believe in. I am also bringing it to your attention because it needs your help to be effective.
At amerimold Mr. Schiavone spoke about the launch of the “Support Plastics USA” group, which he explained is “dedicated to the support and promotion of the plastics industry and our American pride.”
Schiavone stated, “We are here for moldmakers, processors, and designers. Our goal is to build a coalition that is specific to our industry and create one voice. We want to create business partnerships and work together. We want to highlight manufacturing facilities as well as show our young adults that a career in manufacturing and plastics is alive and well.”
The SupportPlastics USA group is the latest industry initiative that endeavors to unify the diverse plastics market. Through its various activities and programs for industry suppliers, moldmakers, processors and brand owners, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) has the same objective.
In any event, Schiavone outlined his group’s four-pronged approach to achieving all this:
1. Build a database of member companies to participate.
2. Share success stories that include (when possible) plastic-made products that have been designed, engineered, and manufactured in America. This includes mold makers, molders, design houses, brand owners, and all other American companies who are part of the success story.
3. Share information among tool makers, molders, engineers, and designers on how we can get local high schools more involved in looking at our industry as a career.
4. Network, network, network.
This is where you come in. R&D/Leverage created supportplasticsusa.com to help with this effort. I encourage you to go there, click on all the links, and sign up. I just did, and it took seconds.
Let me share a few more of Schiavone’s observations and recommendations that I found particularly noteworthy:
•“We need to improve the image of manufacturing. We need a marketing push to change attitudes and perception. The shift of manufacturing to low-cost countries looked so obvious a few years back that businesses overlooked the fact that if you get someone else to do the dirty manufacturing work you slowly but surely lose the knowledge and skills that enable you to do the bits you thought you’d be able to keep.”
•“We must bring back vocational education. We have over-emphasized four-year college degrees. Some 72% of high-school students go to a four-year college, only half graduate. College is important. Just don’t let it be the only avenue to education.”
•“Overseas training in manufacturing is booming. And in the U.S. we can’t get companies here to pay for one day of training.”
•“Reach out to your local high school, tell them what you do at your company, offer an open house. Do the same with your colleges.”
•“We don’t sell commodity items. What you do is high-quality, customized work.”
•“Start by emails, blogs, editorials, joining groups like ours, and voicing opinions.”
•“And don’t be afraid to say, Made In America!”
This is a critical time in our industry. According to a survey conducted by the National Tooling and Machining Association, 91% of surveyed manufacturing businesses are experiencing “severe” or “moderate” problems recruiting qualified employees; 69% of surveyed manufacturers currently have job openings; and 81% of these manufacturers have between one and five job openings.