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Blog: The 17 M’s of Manufacturing

In the following post, we share a blog from Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University and a principal consultant at Emmanuel Strategic Sustainability. The blog was originally posted here on the Emmanuel website.

Setting the Stage
The first 28 years of my career were in a combination of manufacturing plants and machine builders. In my early twenties, I have a memory of laying on my back in a grease-covered stamping press. The plant was very noisy as these machines steadily thumped out automotive components. It was also the middle of the summer, so it was hot and stuffy as well. I clearly remember telling myself that I would need to do something different, as I did not want to be doing the same job when I was in my fifties.

“The skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million manufacturing positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential impact of $2.5 trillion.”—Deloitte

A Manufacturing Hiring Issue
The study results found by Deloitte echoed content in a Forbes article where those needing factory workers are unable to hire enough numbers of middle-skilled manufacturing employees. Both sources align with my personal experience of teaching a management principles course. Each semester I would ask the students how many planned to work in manufacturing upon graduation. I had one student raise her hand out of about a total of 400 students.

How to Fill 2.4 Million Positions
The glory days of the great industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan are gone and replaced by a Top 25 list of desirable jobs in a U.S. News and World Report article dominated by those in the healthcare industry. As baby boomers retire from manufacturing, it will be increasingly difficult to fill the open positions if things do not change. We need to figure out how to fill this shortfall.

A New Approach
Top Japanese quality guru Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa developed the fishbone diagram, also known as a cause and effect diagram. The tool is used by manufacturing teams to investigate production issues to find root causes of quality problems. The initial list was four potential causes that included man, machine, method, and materials. First, in research on this topic, I found articles with up to 10 M’s. Second, I compiled a list of the different M’s found in them. Third, I added those I felt were valuable from my experience. The result is currently 17 M’s, with the potential to add more to the list. These will help shape a proposed new approach to manufacturing with the intent to create a path to making this sector once again desirable. It seemed appropriate to use the fishbone diagram to find the root cause of this issue, and that is the method we will be using over the coming weeks as we look for the root cause of the hiring concerns for this industry sector.

Key Takeaway
Albert Einstein is not responsible for the quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We will not let that stand in the way of using it to describe why manufacturing has lost its luster as a career destination. In the coming weeks we will explore how this industry should change to become appealing once again.

My Gratitude
My first job in the manufacturing sector was an opportunity to complete the training and education that resulted in me attaining journeyman machine repair status. I had the great fortune to learn this skilled trade from my mentor, Dar Aiken. He taught me machine diagnostic and repair skills that have been key to my career success. He long ago departed from this world but is a part of my being. If you have had someone like this in your career and are still able, I encourage you to share your gratitude with them.

Taking the First Step
I recommend those interested in learning more about the fishbone diagram to go to the American Society of Quality’s webpage on this topic. They provide a good overview and links to articles, case studies, and publications.

Sneak Peek
We will begin next week with the first M of moral values.