How to Plan Well for Manufacturing Day 2023
Manufacturing Day 2023 is October 6th this year… you have time, but it moves fast, so here are ideas to help you unlock how you’ll celebrate and inspire kids to take up CTE (Career Technical Education) and STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math).
For the sake of your ease, we are breaking this blog into sections for different readers.
Section 1: Connecting Schools and Manufacturers (3 min. read)
Section 2: How Teachers can prepare Students for Manufacturing Day Visits (5 min. read)
Section 3: How Manufacturers can prepare to bring awe and wonder to Student & Community Visitors (4 min. read)
Section 1: How to Connect Manufacturers & Schools
Did you know that approximately 63% of the world population is an S on the DISC Personality Assessment? If you are an S you are likely a great team player but may not naturally know how to take on new initiatives. I’m convinced that this very natural reality holds great people back from doing great things. They just don’t naturally have a “let’s start a brand-new thing” vibe to their personality. With that in mind, this section will help you break loose and start a new, great thing for Manufacturing Day.
Manufacturers: How to reach out to Schools about Manufacturing Day
The important first step is to make an initial connection. If you don’t know the STEM & CTE Teachers at your local middle school and high schools, call the front office. I’m on the school board in my community and am familiar with most of the staff at my kids’ schools. The gatekeepers are at the front desk. They know everyone and a bit about everything at their school. They care so much about student success. When you call, just tell them what you are up to and ask for their help. They WILL help.
In fact, here’s a mock script for this call:
“Hi, I’m (name) from (business).
I’d like to talk to either a science teacher, a math teacher or maybe the school counselor. We’re a manufacturing business, and there’s the annual event called Manufacturing Day to get kids excited about our industry and all the STEM stuff that happens in it. We’d really like to find a way to do this with your school.
Do you know who I should talk to about this idea?”
Trust me… that level of transparency and humility will be noticed. They’ll connect you. And then it’s on you to basically say the same thing over again and ask one more critical question:
“Would you mind if I dropped in, so we can talk about how we can get your school involved?”
Come to that meeting with some semblance of a plan – basic ideas – and then ask them how their school normally participates with field trips like these. Learn how they need you to operate and work with them to come up with a plan of action.
Make sure to register your event at https://mfgday.com/ so that you can be a positive part of the movement.
Inspiring True Story:
I know the above approach works from experience. You see, I want my kids and their peers to be exposed to “non-traditional” career paths. What I mean is, I don’t want college blindly rammed down their throats as the only option for a future. College is great if you have a plan for success. Other options are equally great if they represent their own viable plan for success. Exposure to options and new ideas is critical to help choose that success path. As such, I found out that the regional airport near my home was a local gem that went unnoticed by our community. The site has more than 1600 jobs on the property. Jobs include everything from ATC (Air Traffic Control) to A&P (Airframe & Power maintenance) and Avionics to mowing the lawn and firefighting. I approached both my school AND the airport’s GM to pair them in a program I called “Pathways to Flight”. We now take our students for a ½ day immersive tour and career day event on-site at the airport… all because I called two parties – the school and the airport – and pitched an idea. It took about 10 meetings to pull it all together, but it worked splendidly. Secretly I also knew that the airport is about to build 80 acres worth of manufacturing space on site and that’ll be a huge boost to local jobs and our kids will be the right age to take entry-level positions there once it’s built. So… I’m playing chess 5–10 years out to get Manufacturing Day wins for all parties.
You can do this very same thing for your business and community. Connect two parties with a simple call and diligent follow-up.
Schools: How to reach out to Manufacturers about Manufacturing Day
The simple answer here is to read what we just told manufacturers to do and try it in reverse. Call them. Seems simple, right? Here’s a pragmatic breakdown of how to find them, so you can call them.
- Visit https://mfgday.com/ to see if the official organization has registered events near you. If there is one… register and/or call them.
- Google, “Manufacturing Day in <hometown>”. If you get a hit, call that company first.
- If, like many regions, it’s not obvious who is doing an event, Google “Manufacturers near me” or “Manufacturers in <hometown>”.
- Take all the pages 1 and 2 companies and put their names into a spreadsheet.
- Now, Google the 1st name with “+ Manufacturing Day” because they may have write-ups on blogs like ours here at Optimation. If you find one, call them next.
- Finally, go to LinkedIn and research a few of them to find names of Owners, Presidents, COO’s or Directors of Operations and HR people. Call the main desk and ask to speak to one of them. Tell them honestly that you’re from the local school, and you want to discuss manufacturing day with them. If the first name you drop doesn’t work, ask for HR.
What you should know about Manufacturing in the USA is that we’re turning grey. Our workers are aging out and retiring. We need youth to get excited about this great-paying, pride-inducing work. Our industry is a more than $2.3 Trillion Dollar industry in the USA. There’s more than enough room for your students – in fact, there are holes now and opening daily that we need them to fill for us. You heard that right, we NEED them and are thrilled to teach them just how amazing our world in manufacturing truly is.
Section 2: How Teachers can prepare Students for Manufacturing Day Visits
Enthusiasm is everything.
Teachers, if you see this opportunity as exciting, there’s a good chance your students will, too. So, tap into the excitement first. Grab their attention, and they will soak up that information!
First, the more involved you are in making manufacturing day a possibility – the more ownership you personally have – the better. In a perfect world, you’ll engage with the manufacturing company host before the event. Find out what to expect from them, or even better, help them plan like we suggested in section
Second, guide the students through some exploration of manufacturing. Here’s a bullet list of ideas on how and what to explore:
- Visit the host company’s website with the students and learn about what they make. Many companies make a finished product, but even more make parts that don’t make sense without context. Take us at Re:Build Optimation for instance. Some say, “We make the machines that make the machines”. That’s certainly one way of looking at it. We don’t make food; we make machines that make TONS of food. We don’t farm, but we do help farm millions of eggs. We don’t make jet fuel, but we do make the machines that can make it. Kids get food. They get fuel. They get a lot of other things very quickly. Find out what your local host does and connect it in real terms to your students.
- Invite a guest speaker BEFORE the day. This is something we did for the Pathways to Flight event that we do at our school. We have an official from the airport come to give a pre-field-trip presentation to set the tone. Now the students come armed with intel and can ask better questions on-site.
- Watch videos. Yeah, that kind of goes without saying, right? Here are a few that may get your students excited about different areas of manufacturing:
CNC Machining: The term is Computer Numerical Controlled Machining, and the concept is simple if you’re a STEM teacher. A cutting tool can move in X Y & Z axes, guided by a computer plot that allows precision cutting of material. In most cases, metal is shaved, trimmed, cut, bored, and drilled by tools to create a new, precise part.
Owned by Titan Gilroy, this CNC shop and educational institution is engaging and exciting. They have countless videos and shows to share, and their education platform is largely free to use. Titan himself is outstanding on camera and an industry leader in inspiring others to take up the manufacturing cause. https://academy.titansofcnc.com/titan-tv
Battery Energy Storage Technologies: Energy storage is a part of the future that feels common, but new things are being invented daily. How batteries work and are made is a critical understanding for all people in manufacturing.
How Batteries are Made: https://youtu.be/q8laRePW618
Tesla Batteries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTb3SNtwTjg
Lemon Powered Car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1D-fZP8qJk
Solar Power: Alternative energy is hot in manufacturing right now. Photovoltaics – or solar cells – are on the cusp of reinvention right now.
How It’s Made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDqb6lGNnVk
Food & Beverage Manufacturing: Mass manufacturing of food happens in every part of the United States. This is a stable industry as we cannot live this American life without access to mass-manufactured food.
McDonald’s Food: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKCmBcRbxk0
Small Job Shops: Manufacturing and the word “making” often come together in the same package. There are many small job shops that manufacture single items at a time. These “custom-built” items fit our world just the same. Here’s a glimpse into a small job shop.
Welding Shop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T1FRMLA73k
Welding: Did you know that welding can be done on more than metal? Plastics are often “welded” together in manufacturing, too. Now, the videos below are more traditional metal fabrication but know this: welding is a critical tool in manufacturing. We need welders!
Welding by Robot: https://youtu.be/3HhN2tNTVto
This Girl Can Weld! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C8E4okh3Es
Production Welder In Action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51vw2ZxCuGE
4 Types of Welding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-OKi8oSNQ4
Robotics: Automation creates efficiency. It also allows processes that could harm humans to be done in a safe way because the robot takes all the risks. Robots require maintenance and programming as much as they do initial design and integration.There’s a whole world open to the robot curious. Look at these videos.
Programming Tutorial by Titans of CNC: https://youtu.be/XzJwWwIeZk8
Synchronized Unpacking (Fanuc Robots): https://youtu.be/bTkz4RYkevQ
Space & Automotive: Space manufacturing is a bit hard to come by online because so many of the activities are covered by NDAs… many CNC Machining companies are contracted to mill parts for spacecraft of all types. That reality is no secret. Ask around and you may know a CNC Machinist who’s made a part that is in orbit right now!
Space X: https://youtu.be/hMZoi1OeyoY
Consumer Goods: These videos are crowd pleasers. Kids know Legos and Crayons. They also REALLY love their sneakers.
The S W E A T Pledge by Mike Rowe: https://mikeroweworks.org/sweat/ This link doesn’t quite fit into “Manufacturing” but it’s worth sharing. If you’re in our world you likely appreciate Mike Rowe. His voice as a forever curious, always learning, appreciator of all things “dirty” has elevated our cache and allowed us to see work like ours featured and shared as a point of pride. Now, thankfully our work is far cleaner than most of Mike’s exploits on Dirty Jobs, but his ethos found within the SWEAT Pledge is everything we stand for in the world of Manufacturing. It also can be ported over to any other industry because these are more life maxims than dedicated to just, we who manufacture. Please heartily consider adding this to your curriculum.
Watch an OLD Manufacturing Documentary and talk about whether manufacturing looks like that now. Then, watch a newer video (see list above) and talk about the similarities and differences.
Classic (FREE) Manufacturing Video’s via Arcive.Org
General Motors “The Master’s Hands” Manufacturing Documentary 1936 https://archive.org/details/masterhandscomplete4kh264
Wurlitzer Jukeboxes “A Visit to Wurlitzer” 1950:
GoodYear Tires, “Farmer Miller goes Into High Gear” 1920
Chevrolet, “Triump of America” 1933
As you find success in getting your students excited, call your local MFG Day Host and tell them. To be honest, MFG Day is daunting to a lot of manufacturers because we take this so seriously, but we are often not sure if we’re really reaching the youth of our community. Communication is not only kindness, but it’s the inspiration for us as well as high-value feedback.
Section 3: How Manufacturers can prepare to bring awe and wonder to Student & Community Visitors
Let’s start with the least important information but the most important aspect of every gathering – food.
Feed your guests and be sure to let them know ahead of time that you’ll be feeding them. Feed them well. I’ve been on a lot of field trips for my kids. Once, we took the 8th grade to Universal Studios in Florida for “Gradventure”, which was a one-night celebration for students moving on to high school. I anticipated it would be crazy – and it is a giant theme park, so it was – but Universal did us a kindness. Not only did each ticket come with a free meal – a large, free meal – but chaperones received access to an exclusive “Chaperone Lounge” where they had finger foods, soda, coffee, and swag bags at no additional cost to us. I was floored. They cared for our needs. Food speaks volumes to people. So… feed your guests.
Now, as for planning your day, consider the following non-edible elements.
Your facility has machinery and activity that most people have never seen, and if they have, not in the way you do it. A full tour is in order. Be sure that you have clear stopping points where you can explain steps in your process and fun facts. Add demonstrations where you can. Sparks flying from a welder are cool. Chips flying from CNC machining is great. Assembly line activity is fascinating. “Wow,” kids with how many pounds of pressure a break uses to chop metal. Bring your A-Game to the tour and any demonstrations you’re doing. Oh, and if it’s safe… have volunteers participate in doing something, too.
Speaking of safety: Prepare ample PPE beforehand and make sure your safety coordinator plans not only their safe passage but also shuts down any potentially risky activities before the guests are exposed to them.
And, since safety is such an important aspect of our world, bring your safety coordinator in to introduce the concept of PPE and explain the rules of safe touring. Just that one moment will introduce students to the fact that you have someone in charge of safety. That’s a job kids probably didn’t know existed.
Some manufacturers have it easy. One of our clients, Once Again Nut Butter in New York, makes very kid-friendly food. For them to do a show-and-tell is easy. They can taste pairings of nut butter with foods and talk about the science behind the chemistry of food, flavor, and machinery. Let’s assume you don’t have it as easy. Maybe you make hydraulic hoses. That’s just about as boring as it gets to a kid, right? Maybe so, but maybe not in the hands of a storyteller.
Let’s stick with hydraulic hoses for a moment and create an example of a story that you might tell. Imagine what it might be like to pre-plan a story moment where you can explain the importance of hydraulic hoses in our world. What if you invited your local John Deere Dealer to deliver a farm tractor and a backhoe for the day? What if they also supplied a rep from their dealership? And what if you also invited a US Army Reservist who works in logistics to come in uniform? And how about the head of maintenance at your local waste disposal company who drives a garbage truck on-site? Three guests, some with props… that’s starting to get interesting already, right?
Now, your resident storyteller – maybe your CEO – can gather students around to hear stories from each person… John Deere explains how this tractor helps crop farmers care for corn that gets harvested for a local food manufacturer, and their backhoes are in use by the local utility companies for both electricity and water. Your US Army Logistics Specialist explains how his well-maintained vehicles are moving supplies across states to do hurricane relief. And your waste disposal pro explains how their work is keeping a sanitary community that limits disease spread and helps control animal populations by not giving them improper food access. And then your hose manufacturing storyteller can explain that their hoses proudly serve each of those causes by being vital parts of the machines that help humans do the great work each of those other companies is doing. The concept of being a key cog inside a larger system that we take for granted on most days would illuminate and bring humanity to a seemingly boring, inhuman item.
The point here is that your work is used by humans with purpose. Students will see sparks and chips flying, machines moving, and people working in your facility and know something cool is happening. Seeing “cool” stuff isn’t enough. Modern kids want to sense purpose. Millennials and Gen Z’s are taking jobs at lower pay in exchange for feeling like they’re doing something of greater value for their world and community. Your guests will need to feel the “why” behind the things you do. If you can connect manufacturing activities to the WHY, you win.
With that, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get creative TODAY and plan out some ideas on how to express your company’s value in the world.
In the event world, SWAG is an acronym: Stuff We All Get. You probably already have pens with your logo on it. That’s not enough for kids. An absolute HIT with kids is drawstring bag backpacks. Imagine your logo being worn by kids for more than a year because they just happened to use your bag. That’s good stuff. So, get bags if you can, and then consider adding stuff. What stuff? Consider this SWAG List:
- MUST HAVES:
- Draw String Bag Backpacks
- Pens (because you already have them and they’re cheap)
- Inexpensive, under $2/ea
- Plastic Stadium Cups with your logo & a cool Manufacturing phrase like “Make Stuff”
- Breath Mint Packs with your logo
- Sunglasses (with logo)
- Branded waters (disposable)
- Moderate Priced, under $5/ea
- Plastic water bottles
- Branded cookies or other goodies
- High Priced, under $20/ea
- Double Walled Yeti Style Cups
- Baseball hats w/leather logo patches
- We’ve seen facilities that have CNC Machines live-milling aluminum keychains that have their logo.That was a smart way to have a great take-home item that represented the work their staff does.
The bottom line is that we believe that a take-home gift of modest value can have a lasting impact on students remembering their time with you.
Manufacturing Day, the annual celebration of our industry, does not happen by accident. In fact, since we do not like accidents in our industry at all, let’s be clear… you can’t allow your celebration to be one. Start today to plan an experience. Make the experience a partnership between schools and manufacturing and not just one day when they happen to cross paths. Be intentional about building relationships that will have lasting value for all parties.
Here’s to a great day on October 6th.
Blogger Josh, out.