Mfg. Day InsertBy Megan Tanel, AEM President —

If there’s one thing you can say about the equipment manufacturing industry, it’s that it’s always evolving and finding ways to do things faster and better than ever before.

Think about all the cutting-edge tools and technologies being utilized today on plant floors across the United States and around the world. Or, consider how much the industry has committed to adopting sustainable practices to help ensure a more viable world for us all. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve long admired and appreciated how our industry goes about fulfilling its mission to manufacture the products that build, feed and power the world. Because the bottom line is this – When it comes time for the industry to move forward and build upon its past successes, more often than not, equipment manufacturers don’t just manage to clear the bar, they find a way to vault it with ease.

And so, as we celebrate Manufacturing Month this October and commemorate our industry by recognizing Manufacturing Day tomorrow, Oct. 6., I want to take a moment and applaud equipment manufacturers for all the many ways they contribute to our economy and our society. The numbers help paint a picture of our industry’s contributions -- 11% of manufacturing jobs are supported by the equipment manufacturing industry, which represents 2.35 million men and women and contributes $316 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product annually.

Having spent nearly my entire career in the industry, I’ve been afforded so many opportunities to visit equipment manufacturers’ facilities and see the men and women of our industry up close, in person and on the job. They’re a talented and resilient bunch, and they’re always ready to do their part when there’s a challenge to overcome or an opportunity to embrace.

That’s the beauty of equipment manufacturing – it’s always rising to the occasion and changing for the better. For so long, we’ve heard misconceptions about our industry being dark, dirty and dangerous. We’ve been told career advancement and professional growth opportunities are limited, or the work isn’t fulfilling enough. None of it is true, though, at least from what I’ve seen during my time spent at AEM members’ facilities across the country and around the world. There’s natural light everywhere, the plant floors are clean and inviting, and the employees are friendly, happy and act as great ambassadors for equipment manufacturing.

I can’t help but be proud of what our industry has become today, and I feel so much credit is due to the concerted focus equipment manufacturing has placed on employee safety and well-being. Raising awareness of the importance of workplace safety and supporting our members’ efforts to develop a strong, talented workforce are top priorities for AEM, and both signify a major cultural shift we’ve seen play out in our industry in recent years. No longer is it just about the bottom line. It’s about people. Because, as organizational leaders across all industries are learning, no organization can survive – let alone thrive over the long term – without a unique, talented and diverse group of employees.

It’s why attracting, training and retaining its workforce remains a top concern for pretty much every equipment manufacturer today. Because, quite simply said, our industry doesn’t have enough workers to do the job. And while it’s long been a problem more easily stated than solved, we have to continue to try and address it. It’s why, at AEM, we’re steadfastly committed to helping build a positive perception of equipment manufacturing by not only supporting our members and listening to their needs, but also sharing our available resources and expertise to help close the skills gap once and for all.

It’s also why AEM continually shows up on Capitol Hill and makes its collective voice heard regarding important issues impacting equipment manufacturing. There’s no better and more recent example of that than our AEM Washington Fly-in, where our staff joined 55 CEOs and senior executives in Washington, D.C to  speak with lawmakers about passing a bipartisan farm bill, reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and addressing the industry’s growing labor shortage by finding common ground on immigration reform. Our fly-in not only helped elevate and amplify our industry’s policy priorities, it also impressed upon lawmakers that the decisions made in Congress have a very real impact on the people whose job it is to build, power and feed our country.

All that being said, I think our industry can – and should –  hold its collective head high. We have so much to be proud of, and I firmly believe our best days are ahead. Ten years from now, I have no doubt equipment manufacturing will be bigger, more vibrant and more important than it is today. And, as things continue to evolve for equipment manufacturing, the changing nature of what AEM does will inform the public as to where we’re headed as an association.

For now, though, the objectives are clear. We need to continue to tell the story of our industry, convey the impact equipment manufacturing has on society and economy, as well as urge lawmakers to support the policies and legislation that keeps our industry strong.

And while Manufacturing Month and Manufacturing Day serve as annual opportunities to do all those things and more, it’s critically important to remember that our work is never really finished. So, let’s recommit to doing our part to spread the message of our impact and accomplishments, engage and connect with the workforce of tomorrow, as well as continue to find new and innovative ways to take equipment manufacturing to the next level and ensure a bright future for our industry. 

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