So I’m back in Charleston after the South Carolina Manufacturing Conference and Expo, and after letting things simmer down, I thought I’d write a followup to my pre-event blog post.

I’m still excited, pumped, and geared up (pun intended). There is such an amazing manufacturing community, and I’m even more so optimistic about the future and opportunities that lay ahead.

First things first: Greenville was awesome as always, and the networking was fantastic. Overall the event was really well put together and the TD Convention Center was amazing. It was great to see so many familiar faces, as well as meet new folks who share a passion about supporting and driving manufacturing in South Carolina. The job fair proved to be very valuable to many I spoke with, and it hit the main theme of the week for me and most others…

Workforce, Workforce, and What’s That Thing? Oh Yeah, WORKFORCE

It was mentioned in every single panel and discussion. The other buzz word seemed to be infrastructure. Overall, how are we (meaning South Carolina) going to support this exciting growth?

In my original post I mentioned several keynote speeches and no one disappointed…

Mark Fava’s Keynote Welcome

Mark talked about Boeing’s growth here in Charleston. Six years and 100 planes later: wow truly amazing and I didn’t know that the 787-10 will be exclusively made in SC. Not only are they making planes here but there is a robust research center where they sling blueberries to simulate the effect of bugs (I want that job), and an IT Hub. He gave an overview of where they were six years ago, where they are now, and where they are going to be locally (in terms of land, facilities, and growth potential). The future is bright.

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the Internet of Things

This was a great panel and eye opening to me. The IoT represents an enormous scale and impact within manufacturing. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 means cyber physical systems and compressed layers of technology to reveal information/data real time as they happen. Here it comes again, Data Analytics!

There I said it, but it will revolutionize how to improve operations and lower cost, bring about new product and business models, and also drive customer engagement and experience. There will be 25 Billion installed devices by 2020. It was really cool to hear how this is happening now with GE, IBM, and Hitachi.

The Salute to Auto Manufacturing Luncheon

Michael Balke (Mercedes-Benz Vans) and Katarina Fjording (Volvo) gave keynote speeches and talked about companies plans in the Lowcountry. Michael Balke showed how they will transform the current site to a 500 million dollar full-fledged manufacturing site. They are going to hire 1,300 people and he mentioned that we all need to work together to address the fact that 60-70% of people hired here are from out of state.

I really liked Katarina Fjording’s talk as she had a major focus on their core values, safety, and ultimately people. They are going to hire another 2,000 people and she pointed out that the multiplier effect in terms of supplier hiring could be 4x to 7x. Her message was that Volvo chose SC for all the right reasons, but we do need to work together to make it happen from a workforce standpoint. As a Volvo owner it was quite the statement hearing they wanted to have zero fatalities from a car made here in SC. I love the bold line in the sand.

The Workforce Gap

If you haven’t noticed there is a lot of talk about that thing that I mentioned up there called workforce! There is a gap. 60-70% of folks hired here are from outside the state, and roughly 50 people are moving to Charleston per day. There are initiatives currently happening, and plans in the works to develop and home- grow STEM based positions.

But as, FGP VP of BD Steve Hall pointed out we have two issues. One is 15 years from now (STEM) which is in the works with support of the state, and TWO is NOW. How do we fix the now? How do we support the exciting news from Volvo and Mercedes Benz, AND the supplier boom?

The baby boomers are aging out and there just isn’t a lot of interest in manufacturing jobs, especially the skilled trades. It’s not as sexy as tech but does impact the world as much, that won’t change.

The Overlooked Branding Gap?

My takeaway is that there is a manufacturing branding gap. We, as a manufacturing community, need to market and communicate like other industries. We also need to be progressive and use technology to capture millennials and retain them.

The panel on IoT and the industrial revolution was great, and reminded me that we need to take strides on the social media channel. How is your brand being seen, reviewed, and portrayed via social media? Do you have a strategy? A plan? How are you going to differentiate yourself? How are you retaining your talent and managing your managers that have a generations gap?

I said before going to the conference that the theme was “The Future”, but after coming back I think I’ll change it to “RIGHT NOW”. I’m in the game of talent attraction, recruiting, and employer branding, and I have my own ideas on how to help, what do you think?