A record-setting crowd of 1,300-plus attendees at Wednesday’s Manufacturing First Expo & Conference at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay had the opportunity to see and hear about the latest trends in manufacturing, learn how to improve leadership skills and network with others in the industry.
Mike Staver, author of “Leadership Isn’t for Cowards” and one of the event’s keynote speakers, says whether businesses have five employees or 500, most face the same challenge: not having enough workers. One way to cure that is to have a solid culture in place and provide workers with purpose.
“When workers have a purpose, it drives the difference in performance and financial success,” Staver said.
As for making change, Staver said everyone has an excuse — or maybe multiple excuses — for why they won’t take the necessary steps to address and solve a problem.
“You need to lean in to what’s making you uncomfortable about what you need to do to address the issue,” he said. “There’s so much noise in the world, it can drain your energy. You need a plan of how you’re going to use the energy you have.”
The event’s other keynote speaker, David Kohler, president and CEO of Kohler Co., discussed his company’s long manufacturing history and its commitment to innovation. It’s an attribute that appears in all facets of Kohler from its bath and kitchen lines to its power division to its hospitality division.
Having enough employees is vital to keeping that innovation going, Kohler continued.
“It’s so important to invest in our future workforce,” he said. “We provide STEM tours to students and through the Kohler/Johnsonville Advanced Technology Center, we are helping to prepare students for careers in manufacturing and showing them what’s all out there.”
Sustainability and an appreciation for the arts — design is key in all of Kohler’s products — are other key company values, Kohler said.
“Our culture is that we’re hardworking, but we also believe in the power of design and the arts,” he said. “In regards to sustainability, we have taken multiple steps to reduce our footprint, developed innovative products that use less water and then are active in promoting sustainability to others.”
Kohler later spoke to about 500 high school students about his company and manufacturing and the variety of opportunities the industry provides. Students also visited with more than 200 exhibitors to discuss various career options.
In addition to the keynote addresses, Manufacturing First featured three special sessions and 12 breakout sessions. Attendees also had plenty of time for networking and the opportunity to visit the exhibit floor to learn about new products or services that may benefit their businesses.
Manufacturing First is presented by First Business Bank in partnership with the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and Insight Publications.
Watch for additional coverage of Manufacturing First in the November issue of Insight on Manufacturing.