Posted on July 12th, 2017

The Midwest as a whole received relatively high grades in an annual rating of states’ manufacturing industries, but Illinois’ manufacturing sector is still struggling due to an unpredictable economic climate and unfunded public liabilities.

The 2017 Manufacturing & Logistics Report Card gave Illinois a “C+” for the overall health of its manufacturing industries, but the state earned a “D” in the “Tax Climate” category and an “F” in “Expected Fiscal Liability Gap.” That latter estimates the state’s ability – or inability – to fund bond obligations and pension costs.

Illinois also received an average grade – “C+” – in “Human Capital,” which measures the education level of the state’s workforce in an effort to gauge how well it is serving manufacturers.

The study gave Michigan an “A” for the health of its manufacturing sector, while Ohio and Wisconsin both received “B” grades.

Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, echoed some of the points made in the Ball University study.

“Manufacturing is alive in Illinois,” Denzler told Illinois News Network, noting that manufacturers in the state employ about 570,000 people. “However, it is struggling.”
The state’s strengths include good colleges and universities and a great transit system, according to Denzler.

“Seventy-five percent of the nation’s freight comes through Illinois,” he said.

But an out-migration of jobs to other states and workers compensation costs that are the highest in the Midwest and eighth highest in the country continue to add to the state’s economic uncertainties, Denzler said.

Although Denzler said today’s manufacturing workforce in Illinois is second to none, the employers continue to deal with a skills gap as they try to hire new workers. Manufacturers need to hire 20,000 to 25,000 production workers and 5,000 engineers every year just to remain at a constant level, he said.

“The governor has put a focus on vocational education and trying to provide workers with the skills needed,” Denzler said, but lately there has been no money for job-training programs.
Manufacturers have some advantages in the near future, including a growing advanced-manufacturing industry around the Chicago area, he said. But the state needs major structural reforms and begin to live within its means, according to Denzler.

“Quite frankly, Illinois needs to change its focus moving forward,” he said.

Illinois did end it's more than two-year-long budget stalemate last week, but it came at a high cost to businesses and workers, who will both see tax increases.

"[Last week's] action by the Illinois legislature will speed up the loss of manufacturing jobs and will further decimate our economy," Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, said shortly after the state House voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's vetoes of the tax hikes and budget bills. "Imposing a $5 billion dollar tax hike on Illinois families and businesses without addressing the root causes of our stagnant economic growth is a recipe for disaster and will only hasten the further loss of Illinois’ middle class."
Those knowledgeable about the manufacturing industries in other Midwest states questioned some of the conclusions in the Ball State University study. Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, took issue with the state’s “C-” grade in the “Tax Climate” category.

“I don’t think the Ball State report recognizes that Wisconsin’s Manufacturers and Agricultural Production Tax Credit reduces the corporate tax liability for qualifying companies from 7.9 percent to 0.4 percent,” Bauer said in an email to Illinois News Network. “Combine that with our right-to-work status and our recent regulatory and litigation reforms, and Wisconsin is clearly one of the most attractive states for manufacturing in the U.S.”

All of Illinois' neighbors are right-to-work states – meaning employees can opt out of joining a union if they choose – which is another competitive disadvantage.

Professor Edward Hill, a faculty member at the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, took issue with some of the variables the study used to give Ohio a “C-” in “Human Capital.” The six states receiving “A” grades in this category were Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Washington.  

“There are good manufacturers in many of these states, but none, with the exception of Washington and possibly Minnesota, can be claimed as centers of exceptionally skilled pools of manufacturing workers,” Hill said.

Still, Ohio is not doing particularly well in providing the type of skilled workers manufacturers need, he said, but all states likely have this problem.

“Manufacturers themselves are just waking up and taking ownership of the problem … and reinventing secondary and community college manufacturing training programs,” Hill said.
In Ohio, major employers such as Honda, Minster Machine, Lincoln Electric and Yaskawa Motoman are working hand-in-hand with educators to turn out a more skilled workforce, he said.

“We will see progress over the coming year,” Hill said.

Though Michigan was rated a top performer in manufacturing, it received “D” grades in both “Human Capital” and “Sector Diversification” in the Ball State study.

“It’s all tuned to just transportation,” Devaraj said, adding that the lack of diversification in Michigan’s manufacturing economy means that if any shocks hit that industry, the impact for the state as a whole will be major.

Recently released economic forecasts for Michigan have been positive. A University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study said that the state recorded 28 straight quarters of payroll growth through the first quarter of 2017. But job growth should moderate through 2018, the report said.

“Manufacturing employment declines modestly over the forecast, reflecting the slowdown in the light vehicle sector,” the University of Michigan forecast said.

Devaraj stressed that manufacturing remains a key player in the U.S. economy, even as productivity gains have held down employment growth. Increased skill attainment by workers will help lower the risk of them being replaced by automation, he said.

“In reality, things are going really well in terms of manufacturing,” Devaraj said. 

Back in Illinois, the state earned an “A” for the health of its logistics industries. That was due to a number of Illinois’ assets, including its central location, the value of shipped goods in the state and an efficient transportation system.

“Chicago is leading the pack in terms of the commodities flows,” Devaraj told Illinois News Network.
By Michael Carroll | Illinois News Network

Posted on May 31st, 2017

Original Article:  Click Here
The government must help match workers with manufacturing jobs]© Getty ImagesDespite stated commitments by many to support well-paying manufacturing jobs, a fundamental challenge persists: matching workers with those jobs and the career pathways they provide. In fact, industry experts predict that while manufacturing employers will need to fill nearly 3.5 million jobs by 2025, as many as 2 million of those could go unfilled because of the inability to find skilled workers that match employers’ needs.

Solving this problem is not a simple prospect. Despite the best of efforts, there has been a persistent inability to “sync the signals” between companies and educators. Far too often, companies are advancing their technology, processes and job functions, but at the same time, aren’t signaling what competencies they need to those who train workers — community colleges, universities and local workforce training programs — or if they are, those entities often aren’t making needed adjustments. But this can be fixed.

One model that has proven effective is the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. Developed by Toyota, it’s now being shared with more than 300 other companies in conjunction with the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education.

AMT, which currently works with 22 colleges in nine states, offers participants an opportunity to gain work experience while attending college, spending two days each week in the classroom and three days on the job. While in the program, participants learn the skills and competencies that employers need, increasing their job prospects exponentially. In fact, nearly 100 percent of graduates are placed into full-time positions with either the sponsoring employer or other partnering company.

The essential ingredient to these types of successful models is collaboration. It’s critical that manufacturers work with local colleges and workforce training agencies to close the gap between when a company needs certain competencies and when training programs are graduating workers who have those competencies. Done effectively, with the right mix of public and private partners, they help manufacturers reduce job vacancies and first-year turnover, increase workforce diversity, and provide greater advancement for their workers from entry-level to middle-skill jobs. For workers, what that means is a solid pathway to a well-paying career.

As the data points out, our nation’s efforts on this front need to be accelerated if we are going to close this gap and match skilled workers with the jobs manufacturers will need to fill over the next decade. Private sector companies and educational institutions are two of the partners needed to do this. The third is government.

Many of these collaborations already include local government entities. But they need the federal government as a partner, too, in the form of budget and policy support for workforce training programs and apprenticeships — including through the reauthorization of the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. They also need block grant and competitive grant opportunities, which allow local and regional collaborations to bring in more community partners, have better impact assessment of their efforts and a broader inclusion for their areas’ workers.

Syncing our signals on workforce skills and competencies is critical to fulfilling a promise of economic opportunity and access to the middle class for countless Americans. Up to now, our nation’s efforts to do so have been marginal at best. But this is a challenge we can overcome. Collaborations across the nation are proving to be highly effective. But if we’re going to accelerate the impact of these programs, the federal government must be at the table, too.

Martin Scaglione is president and CEO of Hope Street Group, a nonprofit committed to ensuring economic opportunity for all Americans, that has partnered with Arconic Foundation and Toyota to build local manufacturing career pathways collaborations.

Posted on May 10th, 2017

by Joseph Lawler | May 9, 2017
Published for Washington Examiner: Read Original Article
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Job creation in manufacturing accelerated to start the spring, as both job vacancies and hires hit the highest marks of the recovery.

Manufacturing job openings rose to 394,000 in March, the Department of Labor reported Tuesday, matching the highest level since April of 2006.

And actual hiring in the manufacturing sector jumped to 322,000, a level not seen since the early months of the recession, when manufacturing hiring fell off a cliff. Monthly hires were up nearly a quarter since last March.

The good news about manufacturing came in the agency's release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which contained other encouraging data as well. Overall job openings edged up from 5.68 million to 5.74 million in March, according to the report, in line with expectations.

The ratio of unemployed workers for each job opening, an important metric of labor market health, fell to 1.25, the lowest since January of 2001. During the worst of the recession, there were more than six unemployed workers for each advertised job, a sign of how hard jobs were to find for people who were laid off.

Tuesday's report includes figures about gross job creation, hiring, and layoffs that are not available in the monthly jobs report. The high level of detail makes it valuable to government officials and investors, even though it is released on a lag of month from the more widely noted jobs report.

The news will be welcome to the Trump administration. President Trump has prioritized manufacturing jobs. In the first month of his tenure, he launched a manufacturing jobs initiative involving business CEOs, and last month he signed a "Buy American, Hire American" executive order intended to promote U.S. manufacturers.

Posted on May 4th, 2017


ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO -- Local manufacturers participated in a survey on the “state of manufacturing” in St. Charles County, and the consensus is: Manufacturing is alive and well! The survey was distributed by the Manufacturing Task Force of the St. Charles County Workforce Development Board in late 2016, and indicates that businesses are hiring for manufacturing jobs and seeing more technical training opportunities in the community.

“It is important for the community to know that manufacturing is growing in St. Charles County,” says Michael Hurlbert, chair of the task force and director of the County’s Community Development Department. “There are more people employed in manufacturing jobs in our community today than there were a decade ago, and that isn’t the case everywhere. We are definitely not in the norm, and that’s great news!”

Hurlbert says that because St. Charles County had a strong manufacturing base prior to the recession, recovery was faster than in many areas of the country. He said another contributing factor is the number of suppliers that came into the county as a result of the Wentzville General Motors expansion in 2014; those companies now are expanding themselves. Additionally, the community has been a regional leader in aerospace-defense manufacturing and has a strong and growing plastics sector, he says.

Results of the survey show that the top local manufacturing jobs available in the next two years are expected to be in assembly/production, engineering, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, quality/inspection, warehouse/shipping and receiving, sales and welders. To meet those needs as they arise, 62 percent of businesses that responded to the survey indicated they plan to hire full-time employees with benefits.

Asked about their areas of need for technical skills training, respondents identified SOLIDWORKS® 3-D CAD, AutoCAD®, CNC operation, machine maintenance, blueprint reading, electrical, forklift operation and welding, among others.  This information is assisting the task force in connecting manufacturers with programs already available through local tech and vocational schools, as well as helping them determine what programs need to be developed.

The survey had a 20 percent response rate, and Hurlbert was pleased with both the quantity and quality of responses. “Feedback from the surveys, as well as from one-on-one meetings with manufacturers over the past nine months, has helped us make strategic planning decisions for the county,” he says. “We are making recommendations to manufacturers regarding training opportunities, about target marketing, and about planning, to help them continue to grow and prosper in St. Charles County.”

Since 2016, several major accomplishments in manufacturing can be cited, showing the community overall is in line with the task force goals and survey findings. Those accomplishments include:
  • St. Charles Community College’s recent purchase of the former Barat Academy facility in Dardenne Prairie, and its plans for expanded technical training
  • Consideration of a countywide Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program by the five local St. Charles County school districts
  • Opening of a second location in the EDC Business & Community Partners incubator in St. Peters this spring for Inventor Forge Makerspace, a creative ideas lab and creation space
  • Growth and expansion of the Missouri State Technical College on the campus of Lewis & Clark Career Center in St. Charles 
  • Recognition of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology program at Ranken Technical College ­­– Wentzville as a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship
“We can’t say it enough,” Hurlbert says.  “Manufacturing is alive and well in St. Charles County, and we salute all the work of local businesses, educational institutions, and civic groups that are moving the needle when it comes to technical training, technical careers and technical business success in the community. We’ll be celebrating more milestones during Manufacturing Day 2017 activities being planned for this fall. Stay tuned!”

To download a copy of the Manufacturing Workforce Survey Results and Recommendations, visit Click on Manufacturing Workforce Report in the left column.

by Kyle Carreau on April 12th, 2017

Smart Manufacturing is Driving Success in Factories & Processes

Smart manufacturing represents the integration of three key productivity factors: automation, operations information and advanced analytics. You can’t achieve smart manufacturing without embracing modern technology. Automation has been tied to manufacturing for over 80 years. Industrial automation of factories and processes will save man-hours, energy and material costs. Automated machines also improve quality, accuracy and precision. If you are facing challenges with older legacy equipment and the opportunities afforded by new technologies, you might be asking yourself “Is it time to join the smart manufacturing revolution?”

What is Smart Manufacturing?

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) states, “Smart manufacturing is the ability to solve existing and future problems via an open infrastructure that allows solutions to be implemented at the speed of business while creating advantaged value.” Smart manufacturing, as a concept, is all about agility and efficiency driving success in your processes and your factories. SMLC also considers non-hardware and non-software factors, such as a next-generation workforce and global competitiveness. 
Why Forward-Thinking Users Are Moving Towards Smart Manufacturing

Many manufacturers are asking themselves questions like these:
How do we keep up with changing consumer demand?
What are other companies doing to be more responsive?
What visibility and information options exist out there for manufacturers?
How do we improve productivity? Or, reduce downtime?
How can I reduce operating costs?

Already, innovative companies have started building smart factories designed to answer these questions. Manufacturers will always need to deliver quality products and will always be driven to reduce costs. The key here is doing so through innovation and fundamentally changed production processes. For some industries, smart manufacturing solutions may look completely different that those commonly in place today.

Smart manufacturing does not represent a “cheap labor, cheap parts” solution. Rather, entirely new ways of operating industrial plants through the intersection of human innovation and integrated technology. Rockwell Automation recently had a cover story in TIME Magazine on this exact topic. 

Modern Technology, Analytics & Globalization

Securely converging plant-level and enterprise networks is no small effort. Here are three things to consider as you move towards smart manufacturing:
1. IoT & IIoT: The IoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) give us the ability to connect and interconnect many smart devices. Sensors, switches, phones, tablets – all working together. This improves machine function, allows increased data collection, and ultimately allows better visibility into processes. Discover how to bring the IIoT to life with this 5-step guide.

2. Analytics: Smart manufacturing can’t make your decisions for you. It does, however, enable a lot of useful data. And not just more data but intelligence, software, reporting and dashboards to all enable better and faster decision making. Get the details about operational intelligence here.

3. Globalization: An ever-increasing global marketplace is driving manufacturers along with government agencies to create and validate new approaches and technologies that can enhance productivity and performance. The Connected Enterprise & Globalization: Getting Started (eBook)

Working closely with Rockwell Automation, Horizon Solutions brings experience and understanding of manufacturing, industrial operations and information technology to your plant floor. Our team can help bring both IT and OT together into a secure and collaborative architecture. We can help you uncover data and transform it into actionable information. Is it time to join the smart manufacturing revolution? The answer is YES.

Kyle Carreau is an Automation Specialist based in New Hampshire. His expertise domains include PLC, HMI, network switches, controllers, and all things IO-related. He has spent time in every automation tech segment across Horizon Solutions and brings a view of drives, sensors, safety and motion to every application he looks at. Kyle recently became a Cisco Certified Industrial Networking Specialist.