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A Salute to the People of Manufacturing

Posted By Chris Chiappinelli, February 26, 2013 at 8:23 AM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

In all the time I have spent at Manufacturing Executive and the Manufacturing Leadership Council, I have enjoyed most of all the hours devoted to the Manufacturing Leadership Awards and the Manufacturing Leadership Summit.

The two programs are closely aligned, and I enjoy them both for the same reason: They celebrate the human side of manufacturing.

This year I nominated several people for individual Manufacturing Leadership Awards, and I am happy to see them among the ML 100 Winners. I met Kerry O'Brien of Germane Systems, an honoree in the Manufacturing Entrepreneur category, on a tour of Virginia's manufacturing community last year. Kerry struck me from the outset as someone who believes strongly in the importance of manufacturing, who values her employees as people and challenges them to better themselves each day. She may be a minority today—a female CEO of a manufacturing company—but she's in good company, and the industry will benefit if more women choose the path that Kerry chose.

I was also pleased to see Ray Coombs of Westminster Tool, Jim Newton of TechShop, and Andra Rush of Detroit Manufacturing Systems on the winners list. They all deserve recognition as the pistons that help keep this manufacturing industry strong, and its future bright.

They remind me of someone else I nominated for a Manufacturing Leadership Award years ago: Jill O'Sullivan of Farmingdale State College. As a professor at Farmingdale, Jill serves as a vital link between the young people in her community and the manufacturing careers that offer them a prosperous way of life in the years ahead. Jill embodies many of the qualities that make the people of manufacturing so endearing: She is quick and decisive, eternally optimistic, with a wellspring of energy and dedication that never runs dry.

Jill has grown close to the organization over the years, serving on our Manufacturing Leadership Council, bringing her unflinching enthusiasm to the Summit each year, and contributing passionately to the Council's working group on workforce development and the skills gap. She is one of many who work doggedly for an industry that others take for granted.

In every age, corporate brands become embedded in our lives, sometimes subtly, other times in obvious ways. These days it's Facebook, Google, and Apple, and manufacturers (and ML100 winners) such as Alcoa, Ford, and Lockheed Martin. What we sometimes forget is that every brand, every company, is a collection of people. In my time in the manufacturing industry and around entities such as the Manufacturing Leadership Council and the Manufacturing Leadership Awards, I have found some of the best of them in manufacturing.

As I move on from Manufacturing Executive at the end of this month, it is those people, more than any data point or economic indicator, that give me great hope in the future of manufacturing.

Written by Chris Chiappinelli

Chris Chiappinelli is the online research manager for Manufacturing Leadership. He covers enterprise software, sustainability, economic trends, workforce issues, and emerging technologies.

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