Ten years ago, in 2012, the Fabricators and Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) founded Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). MFG Day is a national movement to show the public (students, parents, and all others) just what modern manufacturing is all about, because as they say, “It’s not your father’s machine shop anymore”.  MFG Day is always the first Friday in October. This year we are celebrating all things manufacturing on October 7th, 2022. In addition to MFG Day, many states and manufacturing associations (including the International Trade Administration) consider the first week in October National Manufacturing Week or the entire month of October Manufacturing Month. But it doesn’t stop there for FlexTrades. We celebrate manufacturing all year long and hope you will too. Below are ways in which you can do so!  

  

  1. Open your manufacturing doors to the public. You can find tips and tricks to do here. 
  2. If you’re an employee, encourage your employer to open their doors!  
  3. Partake in trade shows as a visitor or manufacturer. Here’s a list of 2022/2023 tradeshows to get you started!  
  4. Visit or participate in a tour (or two) of manufacturing facilities. Find events to attend or ways to host an event at mfgday.com  
  5. Know the industrial revolutions to see how manufacturing has changed and why it’s so great!  
  6. Talk to the kids you know and tell them what it’s like, share your knowledge of manufacturing and discuss the vast opportunities within a manufacturing career. Show them some of these great How It’s Made videos so they get time on their electronics and they’re learning!   
  7. Share positive messages about manufacturing to your social media accounts. 
  8. Follow and reshare positive messages from manufacturers and those in manufacturing on your social media accounts.  
  9. Shop and buy American made products. 
  10. Donate or volunteer to the Nuts and Bolts Foundation (also known as Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs ® – NBT). NBT is on a mission to bridge the skills gap in manufacturing, keep American manufacturing alive and strong, and provide students the opportunity to learn how they can do great things by working in manufacturing.  
  11. Donate your time and knowledge by visiting technical or trade schools to spread awareness about manufacturing and opportunities in manufacturing. Bring brochures with you (here’s an example). 
  12. Encourage your coworkers or employees to share their own stories with each other.  
  13. Curate an Employee Appreciation Day – managers can genuinely thank their workforce, provide pizza for lunch, or organize a cookout, send thank you cards, give gift cards, sponsor a team outing, or film a video of thanks.  

 

And as you celebrate, keep in mind the words of Alan Mulally, an American aerospace engineer and manufacturing executive, former executive vice president of Boeing, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and former President and Chief Executive Office of the Ford Motor Company, Alan is well versed in manufacturing and once said:   

 

“No country is very successful in the long term…without a really strong and vibrant manufacturing base”.  

 

Happy MFG Day (or week or month)! 

As the seasons change and life begins to settle in, we often think we need a change of scenery ourselves. Fall is one of the most popular times for job opportunities to arise. So here are some tips from our technicians on how to fall into place with your new position successfully. 

 

 Be Prepared  

  • Check out your new job site on Google Maps, familiarize yourself with the area. What local stores are nearby? Gas Stations? Convenience stores? Can you find parking?  
  • Pack your essentials the night before and get plenty of sleep! Starting your new assignment well-rested will help you succeed! 

 

The First Impression 

  • Review your orientation schedule and job aids. 
  • Get to know you supervisors by engaging in conversation and asking questions. 
  • Carry a pen and notebook with you, jot down notes during the day! 

 

Become a Networking Guru 

  • Introduce yourself to your coworkers, learn about their interests, you can even add them to your LinkedIn network! 
  • Be mindful of suggestions within the workplace – constructive criticism can help you grow in your field. 

 

Take A Deep Breath 

  • Remember that this is just the beginning of your transition. Adjustment takes time! 
  • Confidence is key, perform your best! 

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) occurs in Chicago every two years. It is normally one of the biggest events worldwide in all of manufacturing but, after a 4-year gap due to COVID concerns in 2020, this year was even bigger. IMTS 2022 didn’t just represent a symbolic return to “normal” for our industry or a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues. Rather, it was a celebration of all we’ve missed in the last couple years AND everything new we get to look forward to in the years to come. FlexTrades was there last week, and we had so many amazing experiences, interactions, and takeaways that we can’t possibly share them all. However, we do have some highlights we want to make sure you didn’t miss. 

By the numbers 

IMTS, even for veteran attendees, is overwhelming. It takes up all McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, and an entire week of the calendar. The raw size and scale of the venue and exhibits creates a sense of shock and awe for first time attendees. Meanwhile, the sheer number of people creates not just a crowd but an energy that can be felt physically. A great way to start wrapping your mind around IMTS is to begin with the numbers. 

 

  • 2.6 million Square feet of exhibit space utilized by vendors and conferences 
  • 1.3 million Square feet taken up by display booths alone 
  • 86,307 Total individuals who attended at least one day this year 
  • 33 Number of times IMTS has been held in Chicago 
  • 2,000+ Total exhibitors displaying products and solutions 
  • 117 Number of countries with exhibitors or visitors in attendance 
  • 57 million Total weight (in pounds) of equipment and material on display 
  • 9 Number of pavilions featuring displays (each a trade show unto itself) for different specialties 
  • 12 Total conferences occurring during the week 
  • 9 Specialty attractions, including a demo of a JET SUIT! 
  • Countless Number of demonstrations, conversations, and ideas that occurred 

 

By the images 

Words can say a lot about IMTS, but pictures and videos say even more. Here are links to some from the Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the host of IMTS, and FlexTrades. 

 

T-minus two years 

The star of IMTS 2022 was all of us, our excitement to reconnect, and our hunger to tell the stories of our industry like never before. The increase in media and content creators in attendance was noticeable this year. We expect that number to grow even more by the time IMTS 2024 arrives. But we don’t want you to wait years to see and learn more! If you found this content interesting and informative, we put out new industry content all the time. Follow FlexTrades on your social media platform of choice or check out our blog page to make sure you don’t miss out. And, of course, if you have other ideas for topics you’d like to know more about, or questions for FlexTrades, just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to cover them in a future article or video.  

As a working parent, a celebration for ‘Working Parents Day’ (I say with sarcastic air quotes) seems like extra work, because I know I’m the one throwing the party or begging my kids to give me a break. Considering so many of us live a working parent’s life every day (more than 60% of U.S. families have working parents or dual earners), I will admit I appreciate the idea that our children should take 24 hours to reflect on all we have sacrificed for them and celebrate it on a day other than the 2nd Sunday in May or the 3rd Sunday in June. (End sarcastic tone… 😊) 

 

When my husband and I started talking about having kids early in our relationship, I knew being a stay-at-home mom was not going to be something that kept me satisfied. Stay-at-home parents are a special kind of person. I absolutely look up to them and admire them, but I knew I didn’t have it in me to be one of them. 

 

Fast forward to our children being born. Heading back to work after 12-weeks of leave was really difficult but it was something I knew I had to do for my own sanity. When we moved from central Illinois to the Minneapolis metro when our youngest was just 6 months old, the cost of living more than doubled and it felt like every kid in my daughter’s preschool class had a mom who stayed home and could volunteer at every teachers request. I struggled with what the expectation was of our community and if we were going to be able to give our children everything they needed while both my husband and I worked all day. 

 

Today, as our girls head back to middle school, I appreciate the fact that I have a success story to share with them, so they know what they are capable of. That you can go from working at a truck-stop diner right out of high school and finally graduating with your bachelor’s when you are 27 years old, to being the Director of Human Resources at a really great company that appreciates the importance of quality time with your family. I get to show them every day what being a successful businesswoman looks like and to the same effect, their father does too, just with his own story to back it up.  

 

In the end, I feel like Working Parent’s Day (minus the sarcastic air quotes this time) is almost more of a day for me to appreciate myself: that I’ve done everything I’ve done to be a positive example for my children. I must preface that by saying stay-at-home parents likely feel the exact same way, and for goodness sakes, they absolutely should feel that way – what they do is a full-time job as well. What it really comes down to is that I’m happy doing what I do every day and I get to share with my girl’s what happiness at work looks like.  

 

If you are like most of us, you will not find happiness and contentment in your first job, or your second job, or your third job, or even your tenth job but you will find it if you keep following your passion and doing what feels good to you. Just keep doing what you believe in, and all that work will pay off in the end. And then, that’s when you get to throw yourself that party or ask for a break.

On September 11th, 2001, the unthinkable happened when four airplanes were hijacked by militants associated with the extremist group al Qaeda. Of the four planes, two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Almost 3,000 people were killed during these terrorist attacks resulting in not only major US initiatives to fight terrorism but also paths of grief for all Americans. To recognize that grief and commemorate the victims of these 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS New York (LPD-21), one of six Navy ships with New York in the name. This ship was different though. This ship, the USS New York (LPD-21) is a massive ship with 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center and Ground Zero. The steel is forged into its bow of the ship which is significant. It symbolizes the strength and resiliency of citizens as the ship sails forward, around the world. In fact, the motto of the USS New York (LPD-21) is “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”  

Although named after New York, the USS New York (LPD-21) was not constructed there. This mighty ship was constructed at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems/Avondale Shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.

Avondale Shipyard sold, now called Avondale Marine | WorkBoat 

The steel from Ground Zero was melted down at Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, Louisiana. Not only was Amite Foundry and Machine close to the shipyard, they also had the capacity to do a job of this size. You could say the foundry specializes in jobs of this size. They’ve been known to turn down molding jobs for product weighing less than 1,000 pounds and are also known to make mold products that weigh as much 119,000 pounds. Depending upon the economy, Amite Foundry and Machine has a goal of producing 24 million pounds of metal per year. How did they make the bow stem? By melting a total of 24 tons of steel (7.5 tons of that being from Ground Zero) and molding it into the bow stem. With the bow being front and center of the ship, the steel from Ground Zero will lead the way everywhere it goes.  

With the bow completed, the rest of the ship was constructed. To construct a ship, the process starts with steel plates longer and wider than an average bus. These plates are cut into panels, bent on hydraulic presses to match the shape of the ship (or rolled to form the needed contour). Once formed, these panels are painted then welded together to form sub-assemblies of the ship. Once complete, the sub-assemblies are moved by large cranes and transport vehicles across the shipyard to the final build location of the ship. While all of this is occurring, the ship is also built out with internal mechanisms, equipment, cabling, etc. You can find a great video of this process (and really understand the sheer size of the process) here. Once the ship is close to being completed, it will be launched into the ocean where the final touches are added internally and it’s prepped to start sail.  

Final touches include:  

  • A New York City subway sign from the station beneath the World Trade Center  
  • A display case of hats and uniforms from first responders (including a firefighter’s helmet) 
  • A mural of the twin towers with the words Never Forget 
  • A banner with the many  names of the victims of 9/11 

A general timeline of the USS New York (LPD-21) is as follows:  

  1. August 2002: New York’s Governor (George e. Pataki) receive approval for his request that a United States surface warship bestow the name of New York to honor the victims of 9/11. 
  2. August 2003: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is awarded the contract to build the USS New York (LPD-21). 
  3. September 2003: Amite Foundry and Machine melted steel down to form the bow stem of the ship.   
  4. March 2008: the USS New York (LPD-21) was christened in a ceremony at shipyard. 
  5. August 2009: the ship was delivered to the Navy. 
  6. October 2009: the ship set sail for Norfolk, Virginia.  
  7. November 2009: the ship passed the World Trade Center site for the first time. 
  8. November 2009: a commissioning ceremony took place in New York City.
     

From the very beginning to the very end, it took 7 years to build out this magnificent ship. There were many hands involved in the process including those who poured the metal at an unheard-of foundry in Louisiana to every welder who brought the plates together down to the last crew member to board the ship. This 9/11, let’s remember those who made this memorial ship possible in addition to the first. 

 

What Beard Are You??

Beard Styles Guide

September 3rd is World Beard Day! What is Beard Day? It occurs every year on the first Saturday in September. On this day, people internationally celebrate their face ferrets. In the beginning of history most men had beards to keep warm. 

 This day is observed to celebrate and promote those who were gifted with good facial hair genetics. If you want to get started on growing your chin curtain here is a link to the perfect beard growth starter kit.

 

To those who participate in the beard life… here are some tips on how to maintain your manly mane.  

  1. Trim your Beard. If you have a goal to grow your mane, make sure you are trimming the hair. Link to Beard Kit Here 
  2. Keep it Clean. Consider purchasing a beard wash to stay fresh and avoid irritation.  
  3. Tame and Style. Use some beard oil and comb that facial hair.  
  4. Take your Vitamins. For optimal hair growth keep up on your health routine.  

If you follow these tips… maybe one day you will be able to catch up to Mr. Hans Langseth, whose beard was over 17 feet long. 

Hans Langseth 17 Foot Beard

*** SHOW US YOUR MANLY MANE BY SENDING US A PHOTO OR TAGGING US IN YOUR BEARD PIC ON INSTAGRAM***

Recently, one of my streaming services had The Machinist in a list of movies recommended for me to watch next. I’ve seen the movie before and, at least from a critic’s perspective, it’s a fine film. Dark, suspenseful, surprising – it really does check a lot of boxes that normally indicate a great movie. But thinking about the film reminded me that it’s potentially frustrating to watch if you’re a machinist or somebody else working in a shop environment. For those of you who haven’t seen The Machinist yet, I’ll tell you why. 
 

PPE

When was the last time you were in a shop, even a very small one, and didn’t see anyone utilizing their personal protection equipment? For me, it’s been a VERY long time. Having the right PPE is so important we actually published a checklist for technicians. However, you can watch every single shop-scene in this movie and not see a single set of safety glasses or hearing protection. Not even one! Some core scenes in this film are set around injuries that happen, or nearly happen, around production machines. Yet, somehow, nobody chooses to opt for extra PPE, even after they see a coworker gruesomely hurt. I dislike this part of The Machinist the most because it perpetuates a narrative about manufacturing that hasn’t fit the industry appropriately for decades. 
Screenshot of shop with no PPE in sight

Machine Tool Safety

Speaking of those machines, where are the guards? Why so lax on proper procedure? At one point, the main character brings up OSHA workplace standards regarding Lockout/Tagout requirements. Does his supervisor or coworkers appreciate his input? Of course not! Instead, he gets grumbles, snide remarks, and rolled eyes. All because he’s reminding them that there is an industry regulation already in place to prevent exactly the kind of injury that occurs later in the film. First, having spent plenty of time in a shop, I can tell you this attitude is inaccurate. I’ve forgotten LOTO myself a couple times when rushing and, I can promise you, it wasn’t my coworker who was embarrassed when it was brought to my attention. Second, portraying such disregard for such fundamental procedures in a film famed for being “realistic” creates a false sense of accuracy too. This in turn goes on to undermine industry integrity for everyone unfamiliar with production environments. 
 

Environment

The theme of misrepresentation in this movie continues when you consider the physical environment of the shop itself. The Machinist is a dark and dirty movie, so it’s understandable that cinematographers chose to reflect that with the shop set they created. Understandable but sadly still a totally inaccurate representation of most modern machining facilities today. In a post-Kaizen, Six Sigma-focused industry the “standard” shop is now much different. Well lit, well ventilated, and clean is now the norm for everything from the machine to the shop floor. Part of the reason that the skills gap even exists in the trades is because media continues to portray the industry with such dated imagery. 
 

Workforce Attitude 

Another contributor to our current labor supply problem in manufacturing has a lot to do with the perceived attitude of our workforce. People in blue collar roles are commonly shown to be unwelcoming, unhelpful bullies. 

Man motioning decapitation at main character

Members of younger generations entering the workforce today are a product of an education system full of anti-bullying policies and they are unwilling to tolerate the idea of something else in their workplace. Movies like The Machinist add fuel to this fire making potential machinists and fabricators think that all their coworkers will be rude, uncaring jerks just waiting for a chance to retaliate. This is most unfortunate of all the film’s missteps because those of us already working in and around the trades know the opposite to be true. Namely, these aren’t our father’s factories we’re working in or their colleagues we’re working alongside. Rather, machinists today work in facilities using the most modern tools, processes, environments, procedures, AND mentalities. 

That’s why The Machinist is a terrible movie for machinists. If this article still makes you want to watch the film yourself, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Whether you’ve seen it already or not, I hope it also makes you watch it differently than you would have otherwise. Our industry needs more thoughtful consideration about how we’re represented and how we represent ourselves. Got another movie you think is terrible (or wonderful) to watch for people in the trades? We’d love to hear about it. Send suggestions to our Writing Team and maybe you’ll hear what we think about it in a future review.

Fun Fact: The world’s largest pool is 14 times larger than Gillette Stadium’s field…this saltwater pool in Chile is 19.77 acres long…that’s almost 15 football fields put together! Check it out: here. 

Celebrate with a splash! Not sure where to start? Grab your swimsuits, snorkels, and towels—I’ve got you covered. 

  1. Pick the perfect spot. The National Waterpark Association has EVERY registered waterpark listed on their site! With this tool, you can easily find new (and old!) exciting waterparks near you. 
  1. Prepare all the snacks. Water bottles, pop cans, sandwiches and chips all go best in coolers…Don’t have one handy? Target has a wide variety of coolers available-you can do a curbside pickup, or even have it delivered to your location! 
  1. Get the best deal. Don’t stress about funds! Groupon has a dedicated Waterpark section that can have you and the entire family covered for the day…maybe even the entire weekend. 
  1. Setup a meeting space. Identify where you and your family will meet if you get separated, this will help keep anxiety levels to a minimum and make it easier for you to reconnect! 
  1. Make a splash! Enjoy your time with family and friends, oh, and don’t forget, you will want sunscreen! 

Let’s Get Together – Maybe? 

Timing used to be of the essence, now with the introduction of COVID we are constantly re-evaluating and shifting our prior arrangements. Work events get pushed back, cancelled, or re-invented depending on mask requirements.  As a an ambivert remote worker, I find myself anxious and excited for each new event I attend. 

Getting over the awkward stage 

Growing up, I always had a fear of new events. I spent numerous summers at the YMCA forced to go through hours of orientation and ice breakers—finding a descriptor for yourself when your name starts with the letter “J” isn’t easy. The idea of going into a work environment starts with battling these preconceived notions and the feeling of “meeting everyone that’s new” and icebreakers. Really, once I remember that I am joining an event with people I communicate with daily through the screen that anxiety fades and is replaced with excitement. 

Embracing the opportunity to develop existing relationships 

That Teams group chat takes a new turn, without screens and easily accessible celebratory gifs. My favorite part of these gatherings are the genuine conversations you have. Nothing can beat hearing someone greeting you excitedly while asking about your life outside of work emails.  Each time we have a group outing I check who is going and excitedly make note to touch base with them. The opportunity to further connect with a team that already inspires you daily is indescribable.  

Weighing potential COVID exposure 

To go or not to go…that is the question I ask myself leading up to and after any event. The morning starts off with a COVID test just to ensure that I have no symptoms prior to leaving my house, the drive there consists of thoughts of concern: Should I wear a mask? What will I do if I do end up with covid? What if I was asymptomatic? Did I use enough hand sanitizer? These thoughts are a constant concern of mine and once I get home, they return the next morning. A few days later I check in with myself, my symptoms, and take another test, just to be sure.  

Realigning your work values or motivators  

After hours of conversation, connection, and anxiety—I find myself with a new take on my day-to-day life and work duties. One thing I’ve thoroughly believed in is that if it scares you, it’s something you need to do. While work events aren’t scary, the thoughts leading up to them can be—yet the minute I step out of my car and see the first familiar face, I know this is where I am meant to be. Clocking into work following this, I remember each fun moment as varying names pop up in my inbox—I feel connected and inspired by our team and mission. Most importantly, I am inspired and ready to create based off these encounters. 

Join Us!

Looking to become a part of OUR work events?

Office party laser tag crew for FlexTrades

We’re always hiring for great talent at our corporate office. Learn more here!

Have you had a time when you are with a group of people at dinner and one of your friends can’t seem to put their phone down? It is not a fun situation.  

 

One time I was sitting at dinner with my dad and had responded to a few text messages. He pointed out that I should be in the moment when I am with him and not worried about my phone. I felt bad, but I was grateful he reminded me that there’s a time to be in the moment, and not tied to my phone. 

 

In the spirit of national cell phone courtesy month here are a few behaviors to be aware of regarding cell phone use. 

 

Tips to stay in the moment and courteous of your phone use:  

 

  1. Turn it on do not disturb. Focus on who you are with or the task at hand. The person you’re with is the priority, not whoever DM’d you the latest viral TikTok video. 
  2. Tuck it away. If your phone is out of sight, you will be less likely to use it. “Out of sight, out of mind” as they say! 
  3. Communicate! If you must use your phone to respond or answer a call, apologize for the interruption.  
  4. Respect the people you are with. Stay involved in the conversation and make sure that you make them feel valued. Remain engaged with the conversation even if you must reply to a quick text from family. 
  5. Keep the noise down. Pay attention to the volume you have your phone on and if it’s appropriate to have calls on speaker or not. Everyone hates watching their favorite TV show next to someone who can’t seem to get off YouTube on their phone. 
  6. Eyes on the road. No phone call, text, or snapchat are as important as your safety! Click here for a refresh on how to practice safe driving with a phone in the vehicle.