State’s Manufacturing Ecosystem Offers Competitive Edge » CBIA | So Good News
Collaboration and partnerships strengthen the state’s manufacturing ecosystem and become one of the biggest advantages to operating in Connecticut.
This was taken from a panel of manufacturing leaders reviewing the 2022 Connecticut Manufacturing Report at the Manufacturing Summit in Wallingford, Connecticut on October 27, 2022.
CBIA The report, produced by ReadyCT in partnership with CONNSTEP and RSM LLP, was released at the conference to more than 220 manufacturing stakeholders from across the state.
The panel was moderated by RSM Senior Manager Kendra Blacksher and Burke Aerospace President Brittany Isherwood; Allnex site manager Frank DiCristina and Nuovo Pasta Productions executive vice president and COO Tom Quinn joined.
All four agreed that when the manufacturing landscape changes rapidly, companies that adapt will succeed.
Isherwood said that in the past two years alone, Burke Aerospace has turned from the commercial market to the military and back to manufacturing commercial and electric vehicles.
She told an audience of more than 220 people at the Oakdale Theatre: “It’s nimble and nimble in the sense of figuring out what customers need.
“This will change everything. I think that’s going to change every year in our industry.”
Quinn says, “People who can evolve to adapt will survive.”
Changing the playing field.
Quinn explained that all companies benefit when they work together and share information.
“I think partnerships are a big deal. “I think that’s important, because the playing field has really changed, so we learn to broaden our perspectives and open our minds a little bit to rethink what we know.”
DiCristina said a flexible workforce is critical to a company’s success.
When the epidemic accelerated the automobile industry. Allnex has beefed up its workforce to meet the immediate demand.
“This will be more worrying.” And I don’t think the market and general economy is as stable and predictable as it used to be.
“And if you want to survive, you have to be able to move quickly.”
Supply Chain Disruptions
The report states that 93% of manufacturers will be impacted by supply chain disruptions by 2022, with 11% citing supply chain bottlenecks as the biggest cause of their losses.
Seventy-one percent of respondents reported problems with product availability, with another 19% citing higher costs and 6% losing business or revenue.
DiCristina expects continued volatility.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to get any better,” he said. “This seems to be getting harder.”
He added that changing suppliers is a difficult process in the chemical sector as products have specific qualities and are simply not interchangeable.
“Changing your suppliers is not something quick and easy,” he said.
Quinn encouraged manufacturers to start buying materials now to supply customers within months.
“Unfortunately, the timely lists are no longer timely,” he said. “At some point, you have to be brave.
“If we are going to be able to support this person for three or four months from now, we must import these items now.” Or do we have to bring these items from somewhere? Or will you order these devices? I’m sure you can use it when you need it.
“It’s nothing because you’re trying to get it right now when you need it.”
Blacksher asked about the paradox in Connecticut’s manufacturing sector: 93% of the jobs lost in March and April 2020 due to the pandemic have been regained.
87 percent of manufacturers surveyed reported difficulty finding and/or retaining employees, and 44 percent said a lack of skilled applicants was the biggest barrier to growth.
With about 11,000 manufacturing workers in the state, 114,000 job openings and a shrinking workforce make a difficult situation even more challenging.
So what steps are these manufacturing leaders taking to attract and retain workers?
One barrier for employees, such as having five to 10 years of experience, is prerequisites, Isherwood said.
In response, Burke Aerospace reduced requirements and increased their training.
“Removing barriers has been really successful for us,” Isherwood said.
“Opening the eyes of other people who come into manufacturing without a prototyping background is key for us.”
In May 2021, Nuovo Pasta increased their minimum wage to $15 an hour, Quinn said.
He said he “checks one of the decision boxes for a potential employee” by matching or exceeding salary from competitors.
Quinn says showing employees you care by offering generous benefits or remembering their name and recognizing their efforts goes a long way.
Isherwood also said he challenges himself every day to address Connecticut’s labor shortage.
“Workforce is the number one issue in our state. As a leader, what are you doing today to make an impact on that?
“Being passionate about your organization needs to be a priority as a leader.”
Twenty-two percent of surveyed manufacturers say employee retention is their biggest investment — the highest of any category.
Communication Transparency and “helping them understand why we’re doing what we’re doing” are keys to attracting and retaining employees, DiCristina said.
As Allnex employees work overtime to rapidly increase demand, DiCristina says, “Transparency has really helped them feel engaged and a real part of the team, as opposed to ‘they’re ordering’ or ‘this is us,’ and we’re doing it because we’re doing it.”
Isherwood highlighted a process he calls “stop, start, save” at Burke Aerospace, where employees anonymously discuss processes they’d like to stop, processes they’d like to start, and processes they’d like to keep.
“Most people don’t want to talk to your face, so make sure your employees hear in a way they’re comfortable with, and it’s easier if you write it down without naming names,” she says.
“But just know that all concerns are being addressed and make sure you follow the team.”
‘Stick to the original’
Burke Aerospace is CBIA; Affiliate CONNSTEP, and successful collaborations with organizations such as the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology.
for example, Isherwood said using additive manufacturing cut the project from three to four months to one to two weeks.
DiCristina said supply chain disruptions have forced many companies to operate “lean as usual.”
He added that having a flexible and flexible workforce is important to adapt to market changes.
The pandemic has made Nuovo Pasta “assess the right balance between people, machinery and technology,” Quinn said.
He agrees with DiCristina; In the current environment, “it’s typically thin. If you’re going to survive, adapt, and evolve, you’re going to be lean.”
It closed the conversation about how to provide career paths for employees.
Burke Aerospace says Burke Aerospace has created a career path program for their employees, offering them opportunities to change their roles and responsibilities.
“Make sure they’re getting the education they need?” she said.
“What roles do they need? And make sure they can spend their careers with our company and feel great.”
DiCristina said there have been six people in the last ten years who started as apprentices at Allnex and are now supervisors or managers.
“Developing your own skills is key in the world we live in now,” he said.
Quinn said his company has three levels for each position for each track for employees.
“People want to know what they can do,” he said. “People want to know where they can go.
“It’s one of those jobs you never get done. We fight the good culture battle every day.”