Montana Chamber Eye on Business: MFG Day Tips from the Kalispell Chamber
September 05, 2018
MANUFACTURING DAY 2018
MFG DAY TIPS AND TRICKS FROM THE KALISPELL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
As featured in the September 2018 issue of the Montana Chamber's Eye on Business
Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Manufacturing Day is on the first Friday in October, this year Manufacturing Day is Oct. 5.
While Manufacturing Day is officially Oct. 5, companies and community organizations should plan their events on the date in October that works best for them. If you are interested in hosting a Manufacturing Day event, visit MFGday.com.
In Montana, several companies and organizations have hosted Manufacturing Day events for years. One of those organizations is the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce. Kate Lufkin, the marketing and communications manager, shares what has worked and the successes the Kalispell Chamber has seen with its Manufacturing Day events.
Q: WHEN DID THE KALISP ELL CHAMBER HOLD ITS FIRST MANUFACTURING DAY EVENT?
A: This will be our fifth year hosting MFG Day events, we started in 2013.
Q: WHY DID THE KALISPELL CHAMBER DECIDE TO GET INVOLVED IN MANUFACTURING DAY?
A: Manufacturing has always played a vital role in our local economy, historically in the area of wood products manufacturing. Now, in Flathead County, there are over 500 unique manufacturing companies, and niches in firearms manufacturing and breweries, wineries, and distilleries are rapidly growing. As manufacturing has continued to expand here in Northwest Montana, we were hearing from our manufacturing members about challenges they were facing regarding attracting a talented workforce in addition to legislative hurdles. In 2013 we founded our Manufacturers Alliance, a coalition of all of our manufacturing members, to tackle these challenges; MFG Day was a natural fit to become the signature event of the alliance to bring awareness across the community to the industry.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO FOR MANUFACTURING DAY?
A: When we started MFG Day events, in 2013, we hosted a single day of community tours at local manufacturing facilities on National Manufacturing Day, and also hosted the Flathead Timber Tour, which for years has highlighted wood products manufacturing. Now, we're actually moving away from branding our events under the MFG Day title, since our program actually runs for about six weeks each fall.
We begin our manufacturing programming with a luncheon each September that highlights the manufacturing industry through either a keynote speaker or panel. This year, our panel will discuss a few workforce challenges, but will primarily highlight programs local manufacturers have implemented to overcome talent recruitment and retention challenges, which will be applicable to businesses from all industries.
During the week of National Manufacturing Day, we host community tours of manufacturing facilities, allowing the public to get an inside look at organizations that typically have closed doors. These community tours have been the backbone of our MFG Day programming since 2013 and laid the foundation for our current focus on workforce and education in the industry.
Since a constant challenge for manufacturers lately has been recruiting and retaining talent, we began focusing on area students in 2017 and will have an even stronger program of work this year. Last year, we worked with high school teachers to take groups of students on either half-day or full-day field trips to tour manufacturing facilities. We also created a PIR day for teachers across Northwest Montana to earn eight of their mandatory continuing education credits, while learning how to implement the basics of manufacturing and production into their class curriculum.
This year, we will be hosting more high school classes for field trips and will be working down into the middle school and elementary school level to bring younger students along for this great, off-campus learning opportunity. Additionally, we will again be hosting the PIR day, and are reaching out to more teachers across our area and also attracting school counselors, who are in valuable positions to help encourage kids to explore manufacturing careers. During the PIR day, we will also be developing and implementing a "Monday morning readiness" exercise, where teachers will work together on a project encompassing engineering and production and, in turn, have all of the tools they need to teach the project the following week in class, should they so choose.
We also run the Flathead Timber Tour each year, which highlights wood products manufacturing through forest tours as well as plant operations. Lastly, our title sponsors are given the opportunity to present a 90-minute educational seminar, which is traditionally focused on the manufacturing industry, but still applicable to businesses of all sizes and industries.
Q: WHAT ARE TWO TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MANUFACTURING DAY EVENT?
A: I think two best practices anyone could implement in order to host a successful Manufacturing Day event are 1) Start small. My first (Kate's) Manufacturing Day had only 9 events, which included the kickoff luncheon and the Timber Tour. Establishing your program from something small and successful is the key to growing it to a large program that encompasses many circles from your community. 2) If you're going to have a focus on education and workforce training, build a relationship with your local school district(s). For us, having Mark Flatau, the Superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools, on board and invested in the opportunities for KPS students was the best thing we have done. When communication to teachers and counselors comes not just from your office, but also the office of the superintendent, you tend to get more eyeballs to pay attention and eager to learn more.
Q: WHAT ARE TWO THINGS NOT TO DO FOR A MANUFACTURING DAY EVENT/WHAT ARE TWO THINGS YOU LE ARNED NOT TO DO?
A: 1) If you're going to host a suite of facility tours on the same day, like we do each year, don't schedule them too close together. We had tours starting on the hour, every hour, and discovered a lot of people wanted to participate in the entire day and visit each facility. Scheduling should take into account not only travel time, but time for tours to go for longer than planned. Instead of cramming more tours into the Friday of National Manufacturing Day, we spaced tours out throughout Friday, and also scheduled tours for Wednesday and Thursday of the week; it's actually one of the things that helped our programming grow into a multi-week schedule. 2) Don't host tours at facilities where individuals can't get in and actively participate. We find the best, most engaging tours, are the ones at facilities where machines are up and running, guests can interact with employees, and a product can be followed from start to finish. Tours that have major sections of the facility roped off, behind doors, or enclosed in areas where guests can't see what is going on make tour participants unengaged and unlikely to attend other tours. It's okay to say no to someone who wants to host a tour that might not be a good fit - instead, see if you can feature that businesses product or have a representative speak at an event.
Q: ANY BIG PLANS FOR THIS YE AR?
A: Of course! I am incredibly excited to host the continuing education day again for area teachers and counselors, but more so to incorporate handson learning activities for them and provide the tools to implement projects in classrooms right away. As always, we are adding new facilities to our lineup of tours, so being able to get in and see new businesses that are creating products that ship all over the world is always exciting.
Additionally, our main focus for this year's program is to highlight all of the different kinds of jobs available in the manufacturing industry. We're working with local employment agencies and Flathead Valley Community College to better communicate the myriad of career opportunities in the industry beyond working on the shop floor, like graphic design, sales, finance, etc.