“It’s been a long journey since the recent depression, but if you are not moving forward, you are falling behind,” said Donald Dardis, president of Dukane Precast.
That was the most poignant line I heard at the recent Valley Industrial Association’s Spark Awards, which honored Fox Valley area manufacturers. It was poignant because Mr. Dardis spoke from the heart. He spoke about the pain Dukane Precast faced during the challenging years 2008-2010. He spoke about the vulnerability that every business experienced – doing everything to keep the doors open and the lights on.
Manufacturers, like Dukane, have clawed their way through challenging times, and today experience record production.
If manufacturing were a brand, it would bear scars. In a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, eight in 10 Americans believe that manufacturing is important to maintain America’s standard of living. However, one-third would not encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.
The good news (finally): The gap appears to be lessening. Misperception is changing. A growing number of people are understanding that the makers of our day are high tech global competitors. Educative, informative content gives manufacturers an open opportunity to rebuild industry integrity and set the record straight that making products is really cool.
When manufacturing companies share vibrant content, they too have an opportunity to change the tenor of industry perception. For people to understand something, they must see it.
Here are a few examples of vibrant content manufacturers can create:
• Blogs about products solving critical problems from a human perspective
• Best practices guides
• Q&A with high school and college students attending plant tours
• Articles and blogs authored by a diverse cross-section of a company
• Inclusive job descriptions
• Stories about living company values, social responsibility, community involvement, philanthropy and environmental impact
• Podcasts around industry growth and the role of manufacturing
• Books talking about manufacturing careers and education
• Online journal (yes, actually on your website) detailing collaboration with community leaders and other manufacturers in your industry
• Supply chain video series to educate youth about the big picture behind manufacturing
Manufacturing by the Numbers
From the National Association of Manufacturer’s Q1 2019 Outlook Survey, respondents remain optimistic about manufacturing in 2019. Here are some of the results from 466 manufacturers around the country:
· 89.5 percent feel either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook (up from 88.7 percent in Q4 2018)
· 4.4 percent expected growth rate for sales for the next 12 months
· 2.1 percent expected growth rate in full-time employment for the next 12 months
· 2.8 percent expected growth rate in capital investments
· 2.4 percent expected growth rate in product prices
How Are Your Stories Being Told?
In a fun, light-hearted way, @Jim Carr and @Jason Zenger founded the Making Chips podcast where they tell stories of success, talk about challenges. Associations, like the VIA, Technology & Manufacturing Association and Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center are sharing member stories through award ceremonies, workshops, seminars, email campaigns, member spotlights and more.
The bottom line: the content that manufacturers distribute is extremely important because it elevates the perception of manufacturing.
So how are you telling your stories? Don’t forget – it’s OK to be like Mr. Dardis and reveal your vulnerability and how you overcame it.
Oftentimes, those are the most vibrant stories of all.
Roderick Kelly is co-founder of K+L Storytellers, a brand storytelling and vibrant content writing company that works with middle market and funded start-up companies that are hungry to scale.