2011 Mid-Year Report: Question 3

Manufacturing leaders share their challenges within their operations that needed to be addressed in order to grow as a company.


Question 3: You are a manufacturing supplier, but you’re also a manufacturing business. What challenges have you found in your own operation that you’ve had to address in order to grow?

Andy Gravitt, Schneider Electric
In our current workforce, the shift is moving towards more white-collar jobs. We are facing mobility challenges of our people; for example, they can’t sell their homes, or one spouse would lose needed income. There is more need than ever for advanced virtual work environments to mitigate these constraints.

That being said, you can’t virtually build a product. Some of our market segments rebounded quickly from the recession to double-digit growth during 2010. That growth has continued into 2011, driving the need for talent in our operations. We invested significantly in engineering, quality, and manufacturing engineering to put resources in place to meet our customers’ demand. High unemployment levels eased labor hiring challenges. For skilled positions, we support organizations like Dream It, Do It in an effort to expose high school students to the opportunities in manufacturing and the skilled trades. Schneider Electric also has targeted university relations programs in place to establish a pipeline of talent for professional positions.

We see a huge talent pool with a lot of high quality resources, but the pool is starting to dry up. We, and our customers, are concerned about university relationships—hiring interns, offering co-ops. What are our career tracks? What about sponsoring test and lab environments on campus, or sponsoring local robotics contests? Schneider Electric worked with the Automation Federation and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to develop a comprehensive competency model for careers in automation, helping to increase the number of individuals pursuing careers in industrial process fields. We need to use this with universities, along with expectations for today and in the future, so that they can create and offer the appropriate curricula and train the engineers of tomorrow.

Jay Mellen, Savigent Software
There needs to be a clear, consistent focus on improving visibility into manufacturing operations and the ability to resolve and act on meaningful information. Tools don’t solve problems; people do, and they won’t increase efficiency unless they are adopted and used effectively.

Mike Pulick, Grainger
Grainger’s product line has more than quadrupled over the last five years, and we’re constantly evolving our supply chain to make sure our customers have quick, easy access to everything we offer. One of the most exciting projects we have underway right now is construction of a new 800,000-sq-ft distribution center near San Francisco, which will improve our next-day availability on the West Coast. In addition to infrastructure investments, our supply chain has a constant focus on continuous improvement and engaging our team members in helping identify waste and improve our core processes.

Return to 2011 Mid-Year Report: Grading on the curve.

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