uch like some companies in Michiana, manufacturers in the Puget Sound area south of Seattle, Wash., have struggled since the recession ended in December 2001, and now they are looking to a Center for Advanced Manufacturing to help solve lingering workforce woes.
Employers in Kent, Wash., have placed workforce troubles number one on a list of major concerns for addressing an all-encompassing issue for manufacturers everywhere—innovation. While a study found the Kent, Wash., region has a solid manufacturing foundation, several factors have been stifling growth by companies: lack of high quality, specifically trained personnel, which hurts innovation; a strained transportation infrastructure; and budensome taxes and regulations.
Organizers of the center surveyed 600 executives from a regional manufacturing community of 3,000 companies, and they developed 15 existing or emerging sub-sectors that offer potential for growth and innovation, the Center for Science, Technology and Economic Development of SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., said in a paper presented to the Workforce Innovations 2006 conference. The event was held July 11-13 in Anaheim, Calif. SRI is a nonprofit corporation that conducts client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses, foundations, and other organizations.
In the paper, SRI tagged several trends as driving a "complex, major trans-
formation" of manufacturing in the Puget Sound region. These trends include:
- outsourcing and offshoring;
- productivity increases;
- rise of services; and
Moreover, two forward-looking themes will be crucial for the future competitiveness of companies: innovation to deliver customer value; and linkages of supply chains and networks. In laying the groundwork for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, researchers and organizers identified five industry segments for in-depth analysis: information technology (IT) products; construction materials; processed foods; aerospace; and life sciences and health products (click the image at right for larger view).
Manufacturers have expressed interest in several specific workforce-strengthening services from the advanced manufacturing center in Kent. These include:
- developing an apprenticeship program for high school or community college graduates with job credits toward graduation requirements;
- promoting manufacturing as a career in the public schools;
- lobbying at the state level for better regulations and help with tax credits for job training; and
- technical skills, such as machining, electrical work, and advanced computer skills.
Based on comments from companies, the advanced manufacturing center may conduct research and development on additional topics, including:
- providing a clearinghouse of information for best practices, technologies, relevant industry research, hiring and retention strategies, and regulations;
- developing a preferred lender group that understands manufacturing and offers credit with better terms and conditions;
- marketing, niche marketing, market planning, and exporting;
- lean manufacturing (more output using less input); and
- business strategy, financial analysis, and competitiveness planning.
Additional information contacts: —Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Kent, Wash., web site, www.ci.kent.wa.us/economicdevelopment/manufacturing/cam.asp;
—Ben Wolters, economic development manager, city of Kent, phone 253-856-5703 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page was last updated on: Friday, February 12, 2010