The Next Generation Conversation
Bob Kill discusses the future of manufacturing in Minnesota with graduate students at the Carlson School of Management.
On November 8, Enterprise Minnesota president Bob Kill gave Carlson School of Management MBA students the inside scoop on Minnesota manufacturing's past, present and future.
While past perceptions of manufacturing have been unfavorable, Kill stated that tours of the state's manufacturing companies are helping legislators and others to realize manufacturing's value both as a career choice and as an economic driver in Minnesota.
"Part of the challenge is changing legislators' definition of 'manufacturer' by getting them inside of the business to see what's taking place there," Kill explained to students. "What we've seen in the last two years is that [legislators] are starting to realize the
value of manufacturing, transportation and agricultural jobs. Manufacturing does pay better than the typical, comparable jobs in other industries. It has become a term that's not a nasty term to talk about."
Today, manufacturing jobs represent 15 percent of Minnesota's working population, while accounting for 18 percent of wages. Kill told students the shift in public perception has also resulted from manufacturing's increasingly high-tech operations, and a more widespread
understanding of lean.
"Lean is not about eliminating jobs; it's about making people more productive to do more jobs. It's actually a job-sustaining environment. About 40 percent of our clients are union shops, and they used to frown upon bringing in [lean] consultants like ours to really improve
the processes. Now, they embrace it. I think it's a younger generation that realizes that we need to work together to preserve this pace of manufacturing," Kill said.
When asked what the manufacturing industry will look like in five years, Kill responded that its vitality will depend on spreading the word about manufacturing's great career opportunities, and training students in skills that the industry will demand.
"The number-one challenge is not the competition from outside; it's the competition to keep bringing young people into manufacturing as a career. That's the biggest issue facing us. But, I think it's on the rebound because people start to recognize the value of what it is,"