Written by Phil Mintz
Originally published at https://www.ies.ncsu.edu/blog/mfgcon-2016-what-we-learned-and-who-we-recognized/ 


The theme of mfgCON 2016 could easily have been “Modern Manufacturing Challenges and How to Meet Them.” In between sessions and during networking coffee breaks over October 18 and 19, I heard folks talking with their peers about pressing issues like employee retention, digital disruptors, and creating culture shift—mfgCON creates a unique space in which we can not only learn about the challenges facing our sector, but really bounce ideas off of one another and hear what has worked, and what hasn’t.

Here are just a couple of things that everyone learned from this year’s keynotes:

  • It costs a manufacturer, on average, $82,000 to recover from a cyberattack; a substantial portion of that amount could be from fines levied for disclosing personal information. That’s according to Pat Toth of NIST, who gave our keynote on cybersecurity.
    • Solution: Toth says that the key is robust employee training. Employees are gatekeepers, and they need to know how to recognize sophisticated phishing and spoofing attempts, and other tricks used by hackers trying to gain access to privileged information.
  • A person released from the NC prison system is given $40 with which to start a new life. That amount has been the same since the 70s, according to Karen Brown of NC Correction Enterprises.
    • Solution: Inmates who train in the PIE program get both the hard and soft skills they need to succeed in manufacturing careers after their terms are served. They accumulate wages into a savings account that is available upon their release, which affords them time to find a job where they can use their new skills; the program also helps participating manufacturers scale up capacity.

Here’s the big takeaway, for me: in spite of the challenges that small and mid-sized manufacturers face, we can find ways to not only address the problems, but to use those challenges as opportunities for improvement. We take the opportunity to give our employees more training and development opportunities, and to deliver higher value and better service to our customers. This is how manufacturing will continue to thrive in NC—by showing this kind of leadership.

On that note, we awarded the 2016 Leadership in Manufacturing Awards to five best-in-class manufacturers on the second day of mfgCON2016. Our NC Secretary of Commerce, John E. Skvarla, III presented the awards to these manufacturers in the following categories:

You can read more about each manufacturer and how they embody leadership in manufacturing, in our recent press release.

A big “thank you” to our partners, sponsors and attendees for making mfgCON2016 a huge success.