Paranet Blog

  • March 04, 2019 10:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today’s manufacturing environment is safer, more inclusive, and higher-tech than the past.

    "Poised for global growth, factories offer exciting opportunities for a sought-after workforce."

    My dad worked for a large automaker for 30 years. He was proud of his job and I was proud of him. He lifted and hung car doors. In the ’70s, they didn’t use robots. Factory work was difficult and dangerous.

    The first time I walked a factory floor was 1989. I toured with a group of manufacturers. It was a learning experience. There were no women on the floor. At break time, men had a restroom on the factory floor, and the women’s restroom was upstairs, in a far corner.

    It was a family-owned business on the south side of Milwaukee. I was surprised by the unfriendly atmosphere. Centerfold calendars were displayed. It was a dark factory and the men seemed to have a bit of an edge. Workers weren’t engaged. There were no Lean processes or continuous improvement programs. There was a lot of wasted time and effort. As we gathered to debrief, we asked about the edgy attitude of the workers. The plant manager said it was close to union-negotiations time and workers were posturing as a show of force.

    In the ’80s, workers could smoke cigarettes on the job. Some allowed beer to be served in cafeterias. Eventually, the possibility of accidents and health concerns overrode those perks.

    In the ’80s and ’90s, factories began significant change. Smoking was banned. This was a shock, as many people were addicted to smoking. Companies tempered non-smoking policies with designated smoking areas, and smoking pagodas were erected just off site. Companies offered counseling and medical help to assist workers. I toured a company in downtown Milwaukee that taped off smoking areas. Workers would stand around the marked-off areas, holding their cigarettes over the smoking area in defiance of the new rule. On another tour, the VP of operations was faced with a worker boldly standing with his arms crossed and a smoking pipe hanging from his mouth. 

    Work-related accidents were common. Machines operated without guards. Eye protection, clothing restrictions, and safety footwear were not enforced.

    Change was in the air. Some companies were stuck, but others were making strides.

    Manufacturers wanted to improve for several reasons. There was waste in the way production lines made product. There were safety issues, inadequate lighting, dangerous machine functions, contentious relationships with unions, and an unfriendly environment for women. You would be hard-pressed to find a training room and even more hard-pressed to find a company who made time to develop their organization and their leaders. Factories had a long way to go, but they had a strong will to change.

    Midwest factories began adopting Lean principles. Production processes were introduced. A company that introduced cellular production lines (cells) was greeted by workers wearing striped T-shirts in protest. “If we are going to work in cells, then we will look like prisoners!” Today, that company is a forerunner of continuous improvement and Lean processes.

    Fast-forward 30 years. The comparison of the past and present is remarkable. Most facilities are clean and safe environments. The factory setup is different and focused on velocity and efficiency. Companies operate with teams to allow for collaborative work. Decision-making happens on the factory floor, where the work is done.

    New and improved factories require a different set of managers. Organizational and leadership development are high priority.

    Today’s factories will impress you with their sophistication. Computer-aided technology, robotics, and a new class of workers all contribute to the drastic change. Workers are hired based on their potential to help with growth and improvement. Today’s workforce is sought after, well trained and continually developed. Workforce diversity is written into mission statements and strategic plans.

    You may be struck by the level of global knowledge that manufacturers exhibit today. Most are involved with worldwide competition. Technology enables improvements but also enables competitors in areas that didn’t exist before. American factories are located across the globe.

    Today manufacturing companies are team-based and focused on the customer. Teams are engaged in customer calls, and those calls may be anywhere in the world. Manufacturing is fast-paced and ever changing. It is THE place to be for opportunity and excitement. This is not your father’s factory anymore.


  • June 08, 2018 10:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Manufacturers Need to Think Differently in Their Competition for Workers

    In a world of machines and processes, leading a manufacturing network and consulting organization like Paranet provides an inside track on the challenges facing the industry today.  The biggest disruptors are people.  Manufactures battle for talent to fill numerous open positions that have sat vacant for months.  There are constant grumblings about the younger generations currently in and entering the workforce…they don’t have a skilled trade, want flexibility, unrealistic expectations.  Who are these people?

    There are many studies and articles exploring a trend where people abandon the traditional path of permanent employment for the flexibility and freedom of independent contracting.  Companies like Uber and Amazon offer the ability for individuals to make a living on their time through a variety of “gigs”.  What does this trend mean for manufacturing companies where having someone consistently on the floor seems to be a necessity?  In an industry where it is difficult to get workers, perhaps it is time to think differently to leverage this additional pool of potential talent.

    The Paranet Group is a membership organization of manufacturing executives. Networking, community and socialization dominates our world.  The importance of community and socialization is apparent as our member companies place immense resources and thought into the development of their culture.  The foundation of culture is built in an environment of loyalty, trust and shared fate.   A person’s skills can be applied in many different companies; however, it’s the people and culture that guide an employee’s decision to stay or leave.  It’s hard to imagine a manufacturing plant, where training and safety are key, to be populated primarily with project-based workers.  Manufacturers measure their success through metrics like productivity and quality.  The insecurity of a revolving door of talent can sound terrifying.  It’s time to challenge that fear.   Change is in the air and those who do not strategize for it and innovate will be left behind by their competitors.

    A recent study done by the Brookings Institute found that the gig economy is growing faster than traditional payroll employment.  Intuit reported that 40% of American workers will be independent contractors by the year 2020 including a large population of engineers, highly skilled mechanics and machinists.  This trend really started 20 years ago with Generation X, or the “lost” generation.  For many in this generation, expectations were greater than reality thereby compromising their attitude and happiness in an organization.  This led to a change in a company’s expectation of employee tenure making development and career paths more short term.  Members of this generation started looking for other options.  Becoming an independent contractor checks many boxes including flexibility, higher wages and lowered risk due to employer diversification.  The pushback from leveraging these types of employees comes from the fear of losing control, specifically when it comes to things like intellectual property and competitive advantage.  However, less than ten years ago many manufacturing companies were terrified of any form of social media, but now those platforms are a key pillar in their strategic plans.

    Becoming an independent contractor is appealing for a number of reasons, but it fails to fulfil the need for socialization and a human’s innate need for community.  I believe companies, and in this case specifically manufacturers, could fill this need for their hired independent contractors.  In turn they would build loyalty and motivate those they hire to surpass expectations in performance.  The life of a consultant can be more lonely and difficult than most people realize.  If companies gave these cowboys a place to call home, even for a limited time, I believe the company would realize trust, high quality and even a sense of shared fate.  It’s still about culture, but it’s thinking about culture in a different way.

    At the end of the day, it would be a stretch to believe that the economy will be entirely comprised of “gigs”.  If that were the case there would not be people with enough stake in a company to take it to the next level.  However, gigs are going to be a driving force that needs to be recognized.  Manufacturing companies need to strategize this role within their workforce.  It will be key to addressing the clearly prominent skills gap and will be advantageous for companies with seasonal demand or unexpected business changes.  It will be interesting to see how manufactures develop that culture of the future that promotes a bond between various employment structures.  They can then leverage that community to increase their ability to find the skilled workers that are imperative to their success.


  • March 11, 2015 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Using the blog gadget, you can add a blog to your Wild Apricot site to provide timely updates and information to your membership.

    By using Recent blog posts, you can display a list of the most recent blog posts, with links to the full posts. The list will include the date of each post and the name of the poster – with the name linking to their profile if available.

    For instructions on inserting, moving, and deleting gadgets, see Gadgets.

  • March 11, 2015 6:36 AM | Anonymous

    You can create as many different blogs as you wish. You can limit access to a blog by placing it on a restricted page. If you make the page public, you can still use the blog gadget settings to control functionality for visitors and members.

    You can read more about setting up blogs on our Blog help page.

    If you are looking on more information on how to use blog, you can find it here.

  • March 11, 2015 5:37 AM | Anonymous

    This is another sample blog entry. Depending on your readers' access permissions, they can comment on your posts, and reply to comments.

    You can learn more about setting up blog pages on our Blog help page.

The Paranet Group, Inc.

10000 W. Innovation Drive

Milwaukee, WI  53226


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