Two weeks ago, I attended the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) Management Update, a three day annual conference where around 200 representatives from manufacturing companies in the association gathered in Arizona to network and go to lectures on the economy and business management. It was a great place to bond with my machining industry peers, find some leads and get a scoop for a blog.
I almost always come away from PMPA events with a warm feeling from seeing how much the members genuinely care about their industry and each other. As usual, one of the main issues on the minds of attendees was the challenge of finding young people to sustain the U.S. manufacturing industry, both on the factory floor and on a management level as well.
At dinner on the first night of the conference, Jerry Eighmy, owner of American Turned Products and a former PMPA president in his 60s, told me I should write about the need for more young people in the manufacturing industry. People tell me this all the time, Today’s Machining World has discussed the topic for years. But it’s a huge issue and very worth discussing again, so I will.
The vast majority of people at the Management Update were were mid-40s and up. That seems logical as the conference is for managers and owners, who naturally have had to pay their dues over time. But still, I’m willing to bet that the same 50- or 60-year-olds on the 2013 PMPA board were attending PMPA meetings 20 years ago.
Walking to the hotel bar the first evening of the conference, I ran into Tim Shuell of Metric Machining (Ontario, California), a very sharp outspoken 39-year-old manager/engineer. He almost immediately began our conversation by confronting me about a feature article I had written for Today’s Machining World in 2011, in which I had interviewed him at the Management Update of that year. He complained that article contained some quotes from him taken out of context. I apologized about the article, and then he told me that I should start blogging more, rather than my father Lloyd writing so much, because we needed to relate better to the younger generation in the machining industry. Although he’s a fan of my father’s writing, Tim said my dad’s blogs were sometimes “too 1950s for him.” Whether I agreed with that or not, I appreciated his confidence in me and his passion for the machining industry. I quickly whipped out my iPhone to record him as he continued to speak his mind. “We (manufacturers) do [stuff] that people can’t do,” he proclaimed. “We make stuff people can’t make. This is the core of everything people hold in their pockets, that they drive on the road, that they put in their house. We make this stuff … there’s something visceral about making these parts. You can’t deny that.”
On the plane home from the conference I got to know David Knuepfer Jr. and his younger brother Bill from Dupage Machine Products, a large shop near Chicago with New Britains, INDEX multi-spindles and Euroturns, among other equipment. Dave Jr. and Bill, ages 30 and 24 respectively, are fourth generation at the company and came to the update without their father, the company owner, David Sr., a past PMPA president. I’m pretty sure they were the only two people at the conference younger than me, which was refreshing — I think. Dave Jr. told me about his experiences working at INDEX in Germany for two months, giving me some interesting insight into the way the Germans approach engineering and business. I had a particular interest in the topic because Graff-Pinkert sold two INDEX MS machines in the past two months. The INDEX MS machines seem to have emerged as the crème de la crème of CNC Multi-spindles worldwide. Dave Jr.’s younger brother Bill talked with me about Dupage’s experiences looking for new employees. He told me about the company’s use of careerbuilder.com and lamented that a great number of applicants “juiced” their resumés. The company’s longest tenured employee brought in from careerbuilder.com lasted nine months.
I was impressed with both brothers’ grasp of their company’s business. It sounds to me like they will successfully carry on their company’s legacy. They represent the future generation of leaders in the U.S. manufacturing business. But what about the children of the other 100 or so owners who came to the conference? Who will succeed them?
Questions: Would you be able to work well with a sibling in a business?
Would you able to work well with your spouse?