Changing the concept of industry
Ideas sparked by an individual’s imagination are not unreachable. In today’s manufacturing environment, those ideas can be held in the palm of your hand.
Despite manufacturing’s foundational role in the U.S. economy, most of today’s youth know little about it beyond Industrial Revolution coverage in Social Studies class, according to Mike Roberts, writer and researcher for LNS Research.
“There seems to be this misperception that most U.S. manufacturing jobs have been outsourced and those that remain are low-skilled, low-paying ones that nobody wants,” Roberts said.
With annual earnings averaging at $77,060 across the United States, manufacturing jobs can hardly be described as low-paying, according to www.mfgday.com.
And industries do more than just provide good-paying jobs in their community. For every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy; the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the 10th largest economy in the world.
Along with a good paycheck, there are many technical and technological aspects that would seemingly make manufacturing an appealing career field for young people, yet it hasn’t made itself widely appealing.
“It used to be that if you were talented at making something or at fixing something, you were really a revered member of your community,” Pat Lee, marketing director for Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International, said.
The association is a co-producer for National Manufacturing Day, held Oct. 4. Hamblen County is observing October as Manufacturing Month.
JTEKT Morristown is interested in offering a window into modern manufacturing, according to General Manager Ken Boling. He has been in talks with Hamblen County Schools, in hopes of arranging an opportunity for high school leadership to tour the plant’s dojo — a hands-on training facility located within the plant.
“The dojo’s job is to show what to expect in manufacturing,” Boling said.
Today’s manufacturing involves production at near lightning speed. In JTEKT’s hydraulics department, a part exits a machine every 18 seconds. Another line close by knocks off parts every eight seconds, according to Boling.
That kind of speed and precision could intimidate the average young person. The JTEKT dojo, however, has been designed to take an eligible worker from zero experience to production ready with a series of training modules that range from the high-tech Safety Assurance Machine to Legos.
“We start with safety,” Boling said. “‘Safety first, quality always,’ it’s not just what we say.”
Manufacturing still involves the risk of an accident, and JTEKT uses SAM to familiarize new employees with the importance of avoiding contact with sharp objects and melted molten; the importance of wearing safety glasses, the use of the correct tools and maintaining correct air pressure in machine cylinders, among others.
“We also teach them repetitive motion, which the average person is not used to,” Boling said. “We teach them how to complete three or four tasks at a time. They are trained to recognize a problem and stop, call (for help) and wait.
The no pressure environment includes activities like building Lego jeeps to learn the concept of one piece flow or standardized manufacturing; using gauges to learn quality control; and using specific exercises to adapt to using both hands simultaneously. Hand prints located on the surface of reservoir pump, for example, show the exact way to pick up the part for more efficiency, enabling the employee to enter the production floor and utilize one every 22 seconds.
“These are ideas from our employees,” Boling said. “They discuss jobs that are difficult or possibly dangerous. Once we find something that helps, we take the whole team through it. Our suppliers go through it, too. You can’t invest too much in training. Employees appreciate it because we are adding value to them as a person”
Another idea from the minds of JTEKT employers, or team members, that translated, literally to the palms of their hands is the new short-order grill and marketplace in the plant cafeteria. The plant’s need for heightened security made it difficult for them to get out and back into the campus within 30 minutes, and a bump in employee numbers meant parking was more difficult.
After listening to team members, JTEKT management installed kiosks that allow them to choose items and pay quickly with a badge, grocery store card, debit card or anything that has a barcode that has been registered to the individual.
And if that’s not fast enough, there’s the thumbprint option that Boling prefers to use.
- By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer