From The Editor

Collecting the Kernels From FMA Annual Meeting

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MCN Editor Dan Markham One of my favorite parts of attending an information-intensive event such as the FMA Annual Meeting, held this year over the last three days of February, is the small pieces of wisdom I pick up along the way. 

Sure there are major forecasts from economists and others on the state of the manufacturing sector, which we cover in this issue. But the anecdotal insights from folks working in the supply chain on a daily basis are among the most useful for a dolt like me.
Here’s four that caught my ear last month:
  • During the Ask the Fabricators Panel hosted by the FMA’s Dan Davis, Brian Steel of Cadrex Manufacturing was asked what kind of questions he finds most helpful when he’s interviewing candidates for employment. The fortuitously named Steel said that before he even settles into the interview proper, he queries the prospective candidate with this: what’s the last thing you’ve learned? About any subject. And if the respondent doesn’t have a relatively ready answer for the question, Steel’s interest in the candidate is diminished. As an executive, Steel explains, he wants candidates who want to learn, to discover how things operate and apply that to their labor. Those who don’t possess that singular skill are not the perfect fit for Cadrex. 
  • A day later, Fabricator of the Year Todd Ludlow was describing a basic truth of all the employees of Ludlow Manufacturing. Everyone in the company, no matter what role occupied, is a salesman. He pointed to laser operator, not a supervisor, who was cornered by a potential customer and laid out the capabilities of the machine. The interaction didn’t just benefit the customer, but strengthened how the employee felt about his role in the company. 
  • Lobbyist Omar Nashashibi, who has become FMA’s most reliable voice on the goings on in the Beltway, revealed something particularly telling during his remarks. BYD, China’s primary electric vehicle manufacturer is looking to locate facilities inside Mexico within 25 kilometers of the United States, either to ship vehicles into the U.S. or take advantage of Mexico’s extensive list of free trade agreements and use it as an export hub. He likens China’s activities to the expansion of Toyota beyond its Japanese market in the 1970s and 1980s. “BYD could be that for South and Central America for generations to come.”
  • In his remarks on cybersecurity, Bryce Austin of TCE Strategy highlighted a little-discussed aspect of the space, the need to update your operating system before it reaches obsolescence, as Windows 10 soon will. He further cautions against unscrupulous vendors trying to sell you on safety upgrades on such older systems. “It cannot be made secure. They’re selling you asbestos wall panels. They’re selling you lead-based paint.”
Well, when you put it that way...