After the initial dust settles from last week's tragedy against America and initial personal conclusions are dealt with, those of us in the manufacturing world are reminded that there is a greater purpose to our work. We are obligated to assist in advancing manufacturing in America.
Much has been said this year about the plight of U.S. manufacturing, global competition, and our nation's ability to build and run production tooling. In addition, many have been critical of our trade groups and societies. It seems many are quick to shake fists and cry foul, yet they are slow to raise a hand when asked to do something about it.
For example, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Global Business Council must go to great lengths to sell attendance to trade missions and various conferences, which describe methods of keeping control of key manufacturing segments to remain strong against global competitors. Those who have taken the time to learn the “mission of the Missions” have called it invaluable. However, I and SPI staff have heard global-awareness efforts described as un-American from those who do not understand the purpose. Ironically, it often is seen that those who work to expand their companies overseas tend to be the most appreciative of America's greatness and are the most dedicated to support the country's future.
The day before the attacks, the Society of Plastics Engineers' Mold Making & Mold Design Division gathered, and one of the key actions was to allocate $5,000 to educational organizations for equipment and software. It may be a small effort, but it is an encouraging initiative, given the need for recruitment and training has not received top airplay this year. However, programs such as these are tarnished by how difficult it is to fill volunteer board positions and to reach a quorum at industry meetings because of cuts in unnecessary travel.
On the day of the terrorist attacks, only a quarter of a mile from the Pentagon, SPI staff and board members were meeting. Some of those at that meeting were industry professionals volunteering time, while others were SPI staff who have dedicated their professional lives to assisting the American manufacturer. I've found SPI staff to be talented people who could likely earn much more in the private sector. Their persistence during a year of budget cuts and staffing reductions is commendable, considering blame for manufacturing's demise is sometimes directed their way.
There are few who do the majority of the good work within the SPI, SPE, and the American Mold Builders Association, and these individuals often put industry causes before their personal priorities. For those who are quick to comment on the current plight of American manufacturing, know that those who are actually doing the work share your interest. Concerned regarding the use of your dues? Good news, the books are open for scrutiny and the doors are open for volunteers.
Throughout the various branches of American manufacturing, we have received a reminder that we have an obligation to fulfill. Just paying our dues isn't truly paying our dues. A torch has been passed to us, and we are obligated to advance our industry, our companies, our staff and our trade groups.
After all, it is in the interest of the United States, and the world for that matter, to do whatever possible to assure that the most nimble and capable manufacturing in the world resides in the most peace-loving nation in history.
Starkey is president of Progressive Components Corp. of Wauconda, Ill.