Is manufacturing sexy? Was it ever? Can we make it appeal to young Americans? It is sexy and exciting in other countries such as Germany, so why not the US? These are questions haunting business leaders today.
I am a Material Science Engineer and when I was in college there were a few paths I could take – Research, Design, Manufacturing or Sales. I had done several internships in Research and although the work was interesting, I didn’t like working independently in a lab. Design was really not an option for me – again it is independent work, so that left Manufacturing or Sales. Sales seemed interesting, but there weren’t many entry level positions. So that left Manufacturing. As a Materials Engineer, specifically ceramics, I had many industries that I could have entered including refractories, glass and semi-conductors. I chose semi-conductors, because they were cool – I could work for top companies like Motorola or Intel. Motorola was one of the leaders in the cell phone market at the time and Intel was inside everything it seemed. I ended up at Motorola in Mesa, AZ as part of the Manufacturing Engineering Rotation Program. I worked in several different areas of manufacturing and rotated to a new manufacturing section every four months.
It was like a dream come true. I was working with graduates from all over the U.S. and I was working on the latest technology. Our chips not only went into cell phones, but we were also working on the latest chips for Apple Computers. I worked closely with the factory operators….we were all a part of the manufacturing team. The factory workers made good money, especially when they worked overtime, plus they had the same benefits that I did including tuition reimbursement and continuous training. Here I was working to pay off my student loans and they were going to school for free!
Semi-conductor production is global and I wanted to see the world. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t just engineers who traveled. Some of our operators would travel to new sites to train the local people on processes. It was an exciting adventure for all of us. It was sexy!
Is manufacturing sexy? It certainly can be. For me, sexy is the ability to travel the world as an expert, work on technology that no one even imagined existed and work with intelligent like-minded people. This isn’t your Grandfather’s 1960′s manufacturing any more. Today, manufacturing is extremely d