Aug. 25, 2021

Manufacturing Training in Massachusetts

Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. 

In episode 46 of the podcast, the topic is: Manufacturing Training in Massachusetts. Our guest is John Killam, President, MassMEP.

In this conversation, we talk about the important role of manufacturing in Massachusetts, fostering the next generation manufacturers, manufacturing workforce trends and actions, including how to recruit talent to the region and to our manufacturing firms.

Augmented is a podcast for leaders, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim (@trondau), presented by, the frontline operations platform, and associated with, the manufacturing upskilling community launched at the World Economic Forum. Each episode dives deep into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9 am US Eastern Time every Wednesday. Augmented--the industry 4.0 podcast.

After listening to this episode, check out MassMEP as well as John Killam's social profile.

Trond's takeaway: Manufacturing is surprisingly important in Massachusetts, which most people don't necessarily see as a manufacturing state because it is a high cost state that competes mostly in high-end, technology infused manufacturing of specialty parts. However, with industry 4.0 that kind of manufacturing is on the rise, so the issue will only become more and more key--and the workforce will need to grow to keep up with the demand. In that, there is opportunity for young people. And new manufacturing jobs can be exciting jobs, too. In fact, most of them are.

Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at or in your preferred podcast player, and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 27, Industry 4.0 Tools, episode 17, Smart Manufacturing for All, or episode 11, Empowering Workers to Innovate

Augmented--upskilling the workforce for industry 4.0 frontline operations.


#46 John Killam_Manufacturing Training in Massachusetts

[00:00:00] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:00:00] Augment, it reveals the stories behind a new era of industrial operations where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. In episode 46 of the podcast the topic is manufacturing training in Massachusetts. Our guest is John Killam president of MassMEP in this conversation, we talk about the important role of manufacturing in Massachusetts, fostering the next generation manufacturers, manufacturing, workforce trends and actions, and including how to recruit talent to the region and to our manufacturing firms.

[00:00:40] Augmented is a podcast for leaders hosted by futurists Trond Arne Undheim presented by the frontline operations platform and associated with , the manufacturing upskilling community launched at the World Economic for each episode, [00:01:00] dives deep into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9:00 AM us Eastern time every Wednesday.

[00:01:09] Augmented The industry 4.0 podcast. John, how are you today? Welcome. 

[00:01:16] John Killam: [00:01:16] Hi, doing great. Thanks. Thanks for having me. 

[00:01:20] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:01:20] Sure. I'm excited. Manufacturing and training is so important and you have that key role in Massachusetts. I, I'm going to jump into that, but I first John wanted to cover your background.

[00:01:30] It's interesting to hear from everybody how they got into manufacturing. I know a while back you, you have a business degree but that could lead you anywhere from Carthage college. And then you did go into plants. You were a plant manager actually, which I think is fascinating these days to how that experience now that factories and plants are poised to change so much.

[00:01:54] This kind of experience is just a crucial. So I want to talk to us a little bit about [00:02:00] that. And then now of course, with a leading mass MEP wood, which we'll cover in some detail, you have this wide responsibility for training, but just answer me this. How did you get into manufacturing and how do you explain how your background led you there?

[00:02:15]John Killam: [00:02:15] Okay. It's been a long time since I've thought about that, to be honest with you it was more accidental then intentional. When I graduated from high school there wasn't an intent to go to college at that point. Mostly because my family didn't have the kind of money we needed to pay for college.

[00:02:33] And so my intent was to go to work and hopefully find a company to work for who would help with my tuition. And so geographically, there was a company down the street from me. It was what we would call a job shop that was privately owned. And they were making components for the automotive.

[00:02:54] And so they tried me out in different positions and I showed some town [00:03:00] apparently because they moved me around quite a bit and train me on a number of different pieces of equipment. It really didn't excite me a whole lot. I did the technical piece of it, but I didn't really like the factory that much.

[00:03:13] It wasn't very clean. It was dirty. And I was on a night shift. I ended up strangely enough, going to a company called Snap-on tools you may know their product and purely because a friend of mine told me that they were hiring and they were paid really good wages. So what I saw at that company was an introduction into the numerical controlled machines or CNC machines, which was at that time, the real future.

[00:03:41] And so it got it, got me more interested in what was happening. Then quickly moved into engineering, into management seeing the whole picture of how a manufacturing system works and then transitioning that company from the way we always did things to a [00:04:00] more lean type company would say a culture of teamwork and and with a focus on flow.

[00:04:07] So I, I had a great education. The, when I, before I left Snap-on tools there, the I'm busy one of the founders of the Toyota production system taiichi Ohno, I believe is his name. He created a a consulting group with, from some of the market. The manufacturing engineers he had at the Toyota plant.

[00:04:29] And so while I was at Snap-on, we were fortunate enough to have them come in three of them to teach us how w how they define the, that production system and it was fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. And I learned so much in a week and just very appreciative of that and so that's one of my, I think one of my unique characteristics from manufacturing, because I know there's a lot of manufacturers that probably could [00:05:00] do 10 times better than I did, but I really liked the complexity of it the people side of it as well. 

[00:05:06]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:05:06] John, one of the really fascinating things that I thought about in preparation for our conversation was that you were at snap on tools from 1979 to 2007, that kind of tenure. At least in my conversations. And maybe it's because, I'm relatively young to interviewing people, on who have been on the shop floor in manufacturing, but it is such an impressive feat to me to have been, with the same employer in in that transitional period.

[00:05:35]W what, if anything, can you tell me about, 1979 to 2007, and then now reflecting on 2021. These are for young people, enormously formative years. What happened in the factory in  

[00:05:51] that time? 

[00:05:52]John Killam: [00:05:52] Every time I was fed up and I was ready to leave, and that was every four to five years Somebody would come back to me and say, [00:06:00] John, we need you here.

[00:06:01] And it would be a response with a greater responsibility. And as long as I was growing, taking on new things, I want it to be there. Over time there were circumstances too, right in 1979, not too long after that, we had a terrible economy, right? 1991, we had big layoffs. So it really wasn't a time to be jumping jobs.

[00:06:24]And frankly, snap on tools even back then was a much more progressive company in that. The benefits that they provided the structure wasn't overwhelming, there was a willingness to change and an appetite for creativity. And so it was a good environment to stay in. If you knew the other component you'd caught you, me even more, and that component is.

[00:06:46]We implemented change even though the our employees were members of the UAW. And at that time, when you said lean, all they heard was yeah leaning people [00:07:00] up. And so it was hard it was a hard transition to, to build trust and with each job of the union and the management to go down this path, Knowing that the goal is to do things more efficiently, safely, more productively, which can translate into not needing as many people.

[00:07:26] On the other side, the hard part was growth. How do we continue to grow and create new opportunities for those people that we freed up from those earlier operations? And so it was always a balance. It was a challenge, but we successfully did it as a manufacturing plant. And for that, I'm really proud and it, I think it demonstrates the foresight of that union.

[00:07:49]Now that local understanding at that time, the world of manufacturing is changing. Companies were going to Mexico at that time. That's all they were worried about. Nobody started, [00:08:00] nobody saw the transition to Eastern Europe. And it was a great company and I could live local. I could raise a family there just many benefits.

[00:08:10] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:08:10] It's so fascinating to hear you talk this way about manufacturing because you talk to others and they will have said, and some of them still say, and I guess that's partly the challenge we're w we're going to talk about now that, manufacturing is dirty, dangerous, and poorly paid unstable jobs.

[00:08:29] It's all going to get outsourced. It's a losing proposition and you speak in such different language terms. How is it that these two narratives can have co-existed and can still coexist? 

[00:08:44] John Killam: [00:08:44] Yeah. If w if I had the answer I think it's a silver bullet, but there, there are many factors, a generational factor.

[00:08:52]When I was growing up the next big town over to us had a general motors plant. And so there were many union workers [00:09:00] who were making great money and the downtown was vibrant, but the costs were too much. And so the union close and moved on. Those the company moved on though, the generation of workers who had children who were raising a family were saying, do not go into manufacturing. It's a dead end job. So out of the gate, we influence people, our children not to go that path. In our school system, we don't we have, and I should say we haven't promoted manufacturing in the new light. And that new light would be that not every shop is dirty dark and unsafe. There are operations where you will get greasy. It's just the nature of some jobs, but there are many jobs where you can be wearing a lab coat working in an air conditioned environment, being a technician the scope of opportunities for jobs in manufacturing [00:10:00] are just amazing.

[00:10:01] And there, you can almost define. Your job, if you know how to create value for that company. And most companies are looking for entry-level jobs. They're paying very well. What I think new potential employees and their parents should consider is I went back to school, to college because my company paid for it.

[00:10:25] The whole thing. And so I, I wasn't leaving that company, we were committed to each other. And so if people or employees see that there's a lot of manufacturing companies who are willing to at least share in that cost students who can go to a community college here in Massachusetts for far less money than a state university and certainly a private university.

[00:10:47] And so the first two years, Education will put you in a mid-level range in a management position or an engineering position in a manufacturing company. [00:11:00] So the path to the high paying jobs through education is two it's shorter and it's least expensive. The narrative has to change.

[00:11:10]And there's been many ways through try and do that. The challenges, at least from Massachusetts, that situates just wants to do it for everybody and organizations like us. We can only touch as many people as we can touch. And we do see a lot of people, but it's a fraction of who we need to touch.

[00:11:29]And I know the state has worked on ideas to promote Manufacturing. We've had a lot of celebration at manufacturing company. But they get manufacturing companies get all the exposure when they lay off. Nobody really wants to talk about the new plant opening, but as much, 

[00:11:47]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:11:47] It's a fascinating societal challenge and it's obviously. Each state has a different challenge. I wanted to go in a little bit, to [00:12:00] the specificity of Massachusetts in this regard, and you were touching on it. The fact that we want everyone on board here and that it's, it is really, so that's one part of the challenge.

[00:12:10] The other part is of course, that for a while here, Massachusetts has been successful at promoting it quite yet. Industry, we have promoted, around our universities high tech, but not high-tech as applied to manufacturing, even though that is actually arguably very much a Massachusetts stronghold as well.

[00:12:31]But we have promoted, our high-tech aspects. And then exported it, to other states and arguably and other things. What do you think the prospect is that the narrative can be, and actually is that a lot of the deep technology that's developed in Massachusetts is now increasingly going into manufacturing industry and can start not just changing the narrative, but it's actually the reality of it is.

[00:13:00] [00:13:00] That there is high technology, it may be dirty because, if you're working on engines, how much are you going to clean? Eventually it's going to be dirty but it could be, like you said, you could be wearing lab coats, you could be working with advanced technology.

[00:13:14] And there's just this combination of advanced technology and manufacturing jobs and the factories themselves that are changing. And places like MIT, are involved in these things. How do you see this thing? Because I don't think no one wants to oversell it either. Where are we now with manufacturing in Massachusetts?

[00:13:35]What proportion of the economy is manufacturing to things like the gross domestic product, the GDP, and how many jobs are there currently and how many will there be? In manufacturing in Massachusetts. So these are, these are big statistics, but I know you, you are on top of some of them because that's what you do.

[00:13:56] So I wanted to ask you the big question. 

[00:13:57]John Killam: [00:13:57] So it dynamic, right? It's always [00:14:00] changing the so here's how I see Massachusetts. For a small state our density is pretty good. In terms of manufacturing locations, we have just over 7,000 manufacturers in the state of Massachusetts, New Jersey in comparison would have somewhere around 12,000 manufacturers, but the sectors that they focus on there's differences, greater differences in Massachusetts.

[00:14:26]You asked about the GDP that's somewhere around $47 billion in gross domestic product for Massachusetts. Manufacturing GDP total employees it was just over 250,000. So it probably just under 250 right now because of COVID, but significant piece of the working population. The GDP represents about 10% of the states.

[00:14:56]The the manufacturing sector. [00:15:00] The best way for me to describe it is we have a lot of job shops, meaning that they're more tuned to making custom products or just a couple of parts for a customer versus a production shop that would have the same type of product that they would make over and over again in some type of assembly process where Massachusetts is more tuned towards the job shop.

[00:15:28]There are many job shops we have about 1100 machine shops that metal cutting that support the, the aerospace and the defense sector, which has been very strong. The rest of the manufacturing  factoring is really broken up into many different sectors. Food is a big sector and it's starting to get some attention because everything goes back to labor, the cost of labor the biosector has got unbelievable support from the state of Massachusetts in the tune of billions of dollars [00:16:00] in the last 10 years.

[00:16:01] And there's been investment in real estate and a real strong effort to open up those bio parks anchored by, a big OEM. And and that is because the education is right here. In in the very local area so Massachusetts has really good colleges very well-respected colleges.

[00:16:23] These companies, particularly the high tech companies want to be right near the universities. When you look around the MIT campus in the streets all around it, is it little innovation center? Working on flexible hybrid electronics or functional fibers that would go into your clothing and actually do something.

[00:16:45]The effort was for the war fighter to have them a uniform that could. He'll it could provide he cooling make the the war fighter invisible just so many different applications. [00:17:00] And they're working on that right here in Massachusetts. So there's been great innovation and turn translated into real manufacturing opportunities the electrical, the electronic industry, computer making electronic assembly. We still do some work around a lot of ceramic work. The work is diverse. We have of the 7,000 manufacturers probably we have maybe less than 40 companies over 2000 employees.

[00:17:34] And so when you think about that ratio, that dynamic is not what I grew up in. I grew up with a lot more OEMs right here in our backyard, working with our suppliers. And so the manufacturing dynamic makeup it's constantly changing, but we'll never be, Massachusetts is not tuned to be a high production manufacturer.

[00:18:00] [00:18:00] We're really accustomed a specialty manufacturer built or hot more high-tech stuff, lot of nuclear type work. 

[00:18:09] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:18:09] Fascinating and on the education side, you, we have covered a little bit, what's happening at MIT on the MIT side. And you have talked a little bit about community colleges, which is representing this broader education challenge.

[00:18:21] Where does the Massachusetts manufacturing extension partnership, the mass MEP, which you represent. W where do you fit in as an institution who utilizes your efforts and what exactly is it that you do? How and how do people and companies connect to you? 

[00:18:41] John Killam: [00:18:41] Yeah. So the the college system, particularly MIT we get connected through relationships within the manufacturing ecosystem that Massachusetts has created.

[00:18:56]First of all, so about eight years [00:19:00] ago, Massachusetts created an advanced manufacturing collaborative.  That is a membership, not membership, but it's a group of manufacturers colleges, universities, technical people, the MVP but all the workforce investment board. All the people that support that ecosystem.

[00:19:22] And so that ecosystem has been in place for a while now. And so when we have challenges that need to go across the board through our our government, through our administration, the state administration, they convene us and we work through those problems. That's unique. I think too probably a bunch of other stage, but that does help launch us and create these partnerships where we can all still work together.

[00:19:46] Even though there's not a crisis to work on. And so the MIT is certainly part of that. Like UMass Lowell, we get connected to the technical colleges and often it's not, our [00:20:00] role is not to be the experts in the technology that they may be exploring or trying to build. Our knowledge and our value is we connect those other organizations to the manufacturers who have the capability who have the knowledge who provide information back to MIT and the UMass Lowell. They wouldn't know how to make those connections. And and then from there were able to support those organizations by ongoing support with those manufacturers.

[00:20:35] I'll give you an example. The state of Massachusetts invested just most recently $16 million. In any company that could pivot their operation and make PPE for consumption here in Massachusetts. And so we were called in the very beginning and our job was to find those resources 500 Massachusetts companies we've vetted [00:21:00] through.

[00:21:00]It ended up at 16, excuse me just over 20 countries who shared $16 million in capital to build out their facility to make gowns surgical masks, face shields. Oh gosh, the breathing apparatus. I can't think of the name of it. A ventilator, I guess it is but it was just an amazing effort and very rewarding time when we were going through COVID, but we can get involved in things like that, where we connect the folks that aren't normally connected and don't know who to talk to.

[00:21:41] So that's we support the ecosystem.  More than maybe leading in certain technology endeavors, but it's the reality is we can't do it without them and they can't do it without us. And so it's a win-win. 

[00:21:54] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:21:54] So the mEP is also a training institution in it's in and of itself. Correct? 

[00:22:00] [00:22:00] John Killam: [00:22:00] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:22:02] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:22:02] And how do people, so you train manufacturers, so in, in Massachusetts, these other specialty manufacturers, mostly, but a new train them on various things. So you would train them on things like lean management, but also on digital practices. 

[00:22:17] John Killam: [00:22:17] Yeah. The so our primary objective, when we work with manufacturers is to help stabilize the operator.

[00:22:24]We many small manufacturers in Massachusetts have the 7,020 excuse me, 80% of those companies are under 20 employees. So when you have that numbers of that size, those small companies who, whoever the owner is, or the president probably has a great strength in the knowledge of the product. But maybe not so much about how to lay out a facility or how to optimize an operation.

[00:22:57] Or how to set up [00:23:00] systems for your people HR systems how to set ISO systems into place. There's so many different things that you don't learn when you're an engineer designing product. And so it's more than engineers but there, I use that as an example. There are many reasons that small manufacturers can't do everything.

[00:23:19] And so we support them with their, where they need help they do everything else. They are the technical expert. We do the work with them out of the gate to create stability and predictability in their operation they can't be running around day to day, putting out fires and grow a business. 

[00:23:40] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:23:40] So I understand that out of these 7,000 manufacturers in Massachusetts currently you have over the years, I guess since 1996 when this institution was founded, you've had some, 2000 clients that means you haven't covered everyone.

[00:24:00] [00:23:59] What is that kind of what are, what does everyone else do then? Do they not know about you or is it just that they can't find you or do you think that they just don't prioritize this training? So what about this discrepancy? Because 2000 clients, and then these are not the same 7,000, perhaps that existed in 1996, so that there is a bunch of companies that you just don't reach.

[00:24:22]How do you describe that group? 

[00:24:24]John Killam: [00:24:24] The ones that have been in business for years, not everybody. So it's not that mass MEP necessarily saves people from bankruptcy, but what we do is we turn the corner. From some companies actually in decline too, some companies just plateaued.

[00:24:42] And so the companies that are, think they're doing okay because they're getting a paycheck every week. We challenged that with growth in terms of top line, without investing into anything more than equipment or investing more into finding more business. [00:25:00] Because if you optimize your highest cost and for manufacturers, it's labor optimize that to produce more.

[00:25:09] You have a competitive advantage and so not everybody thinks that way naturally they, because when people start something and they create a process, that's the best process that you'll ever have until somebody new comes in and can convince them that there's a different way to look at it and so evolution of change.

[00:25:29]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:25:29] It's fascinating, right? If you have your own business and you're struggling, the moment you don't struggle, you of course naturally will consider that success. And so should you, and it is success, but it is taking it to the next level. I was curious. So on your website, I believe, or somewhere I read that clients get 35 to one rOI so return of investment. Now that's a big financial term and it can be measured in many ways. How do you measure it and communicated to your clients? Meaning manufacturers who might even listen to this [00:26:00] podcast here in Massachusetts? What does ROI mean? So you were just talking about it as optimizing.

[00:26:05]Is it as simple as that you can essentially prove to them that if you go through these courses on average, are, your clients essentially have optimized labor. They've been able to hire two for one or three for one. Just based on what exactly. 

[00:26:22] John Killam: [00:26:22] So the any and any organization, if they believed it and had money would want to invest right away.

[00:26:27]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:26:27] It 

[00:26:27] seems to see, seems like this is a good investment, right? 

[00:26:32] John Killam: [00:26:32] Yeah. The number is an economic. And it's based on what we measure. And so let me just back up a little bit the MVPs and the MEP system of which there is an MVP center and everything. Puerto Rico, Alaska 

[00:26:46] Hawaii. 

[00:26:47] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:26:47] And this was a state funded initiative.

[00:26:49]A nationally funded initiative way back when 

[00:26:53] John Killam: [00:26:53] national Institute of standards and technology MEP manufacturing, extension partnership [00:27:00] receives somewhere around $140 million a year in the budget to provide funding and operational expenses for the office but funding to each of the states MEP centers.

[00:27:15] And so we are in a 10 year cooperative agreement. It's a manufacturing, people would call that a ten-year PO, but we're putting as long as we do things the right way. We're guaranteed a certain amount of money every year for 10 years. And so because of that, there are requirements and NIS. When you think of NIST, the measurement people we are measured as well.

[00:27:36] The MVPs half have to produce impact, and the impact is measured in a couple of ways. And so for traditional manufacturing, We do measure cost savings and that information is given to us by the client. They don't actually give it to us they give it to a company that surveys. And then what we look at is did you have new sales?

[00:27:59]And what [00:28:00] were those? And there were calculations that will project things out. We asked them about investment in their people, capital, things like that. Then there are A couple other variables. Like I don't remember right now, but what did, what they are economic indicators and in the aggregate.

[00:28:17] And when you create the multipliers that are used in economics and the economic multiplier for manufacturing says for every manufacturing job you create two other jobs in the manufacturing eclipse and so that creates money. So it's an accumulation of all these different metrics that achieved the 34 to one.

[00:28:41] Now let me qualify it with this. The nest organization hires the people that do the survey, the people that do the survey, contact the manufacturers, do it with them over the phone and the data's put into the system. [00:29:00] And when it's completed, we see it. If it wasn't, if it was money, you and I both would be on this one, but this it's more of a directional indicator for me.

[00:29:10] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:29:10] I get it. I'm curious about another thing. So at the Emmy or the whole MEP system is about training and you train manufacturers, but how do you train the trainers? How do you know that the people you employ to come up with best practices and suggestions that are not just generic because they have to be tailored.

[00:29:29] I imagine too, to each situation and, you, you give some amount of guidance that is actually tailored to each individual business. And like we said earlier, this is a changing situation. How do you train your trainers and how do you recruit them and how does one get into your system that way?

[00:29:45]John Killam: [00:29:45] 80, 20, right? How do we say it? So our project managers who are the ones that are out working with our manufacturers, they're the 80%. Okay. And so what they deliver, what they train in it's really [00:30:00] around the continuous improvement suite. And the quality suite and so what we do is first of all, we look for qualified and we certainly get references. Secondly, when we bring people in, we run them through our programs and we have an onboarding program where you go through a series of learning through the books the videos. Moving on to a simulation where you get to watch and participate and then move into a mentor, delivery yourself, working with your professional.

[00:30:36] And so content is very important, but also in our organization, presentation is just as important because we have to gain the respect of our clients. And so knowing what you're talking about and presenting it in a professional way is very important. 

[00:30:54] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:30:54] We went into a little bit, the fact that the MSP system is national.

[00:30:59] So [00:31:00] there's, I imagine then one MEP in every state plus Puerto Rico, like you said, what can other states and regions learn from Massachusetts? What is it that you think you as an organization. Have done right and have done maybe somewhat better, or maybe there's just some fortuitous circumstances. Obviously not every state has a, has an MIT but of course there's other institutions and there's, education is a stronghold in Massachusetts.

[00:31:24] There's many educational institutions. And that I imagine has to matter when we come to this bigger challenge, which is not just teaching excellence, but actually teaching across the board and teaching these 7,000. Manufacturers, but also teaching the younger generation and getting into high schools and and to awareness.

[00:31:43] What are some of the things that you are proud of and want to share? And what are the, some of the challenges that are still remaining for you? 

[00:31:52] John Killam: [00:31:52] The many things I'm proud of when it comes to the MEP Massachusetts MEP we. We're a young organization. [00:32:00] Not too long ago our demographic was a little bit older.

[00:32:03]But we felt the need to maybe transition a little bit and create some diversity so that we could still bring the expertise of the folks that been there, done that. But also what we wanted to do is bring in the youth. Who were going to be like our future leaders. And I needed to know how our future leaders are thinking and what interests them and how to relate to them.

[00:32:28] And so we, we took a conscious effort to make that happen. I'm very happy with where we are right now. The the awareness of manufacturing, the awareness of MEP. We do put a lot of effort into marketing ourselves to the manufacturing community. And and we do that through a lot of the social media.

[00:32:50] I know it's not my thing, but I know we're in all the right social media. 

[00:32:54] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:32:54] I've spoken to Christie's are you sure? Yeah. 

[00:32:56]John Killam: [00:32:56] So I think that helps, but I [00:33:00] come from an old school where somebody I worked with when I first came here to MEP told me, you got to show up, meaning when they're there, there are opportunities to get together with others or go to companies you got to show up.

[00:33:16] And so it's effort. And that was a big part of it. The I think one of maybe it's unique to us maybe not. I don't know I've been asked the question, but where Madison BP is a nonprofit, we're a 5 0 1 C three. And so when we get this money, we have to spend all that NIST money, just MEP money. And so my budget is from the money they give us to zero and at the end of the year, you got to spend all your money.

[00:33:45] And when you look at your business that way, I think it oversimplifies what we're trying to accomplish because MassMEP wanted to do more and we wanted to grow. And so if we just looked at ourselves as spending down the money, we weren't [00:34:00] going to grow. And so in the last four years, we've taken on a mentality that we're in this for the profit.

[00:34:07] We don't make profit, but we look at it like a for-profit business. And so we talked that way we think that. And it creates really good dynamics and really good questions in a nonprofit. You wouldn't be talking about margin, but in our business, we may be thinking about that for some reason. 

[00:34:25] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:34:25] That's great to hear.

[00:34:26] What about internationally? I imagine that not every region has had the fortune of having such a program, although, there are other countries that are supporting their manufacturers in very handsome ways. What do you think internationally when you look about what are some of the lessons you think that.

[00:34:45] That any manufacturer or any ecosystem needs to take on board right now. And I guess, further to that, what are some of the trends that you see on the horizon? That's going to affect all of us where wherever we are producing. 

[00:34:58] John Killam: [00:34:58] Yeah. It's a tough [00:35:00] comparison internationally because you can't really compare yourself to the China, India, South Korea, where labor costs are much lower.

[00:35:10]And manufacturers can operate differently. German manufacturers they do good and they produce high priced product, but it's a premium product and there's still subsidy in Germany. A lot of the successful companies are countries that are Manufacturing. Are usually supported by a subsidy, a tax credit or something through their government.

[00:35:32]United States is we do it we call it different things, but it's not to the extent that at least I've seen with other countries right now. There's a there's a strong push in, in the political world to to make sure that in the future that all PPE  for the war fighter will be made here in the United States.

[00:35:58] And I think it's a great [00:36:00] effort, but what it does, it's going to create a bunch of small, some companies that will have to live off a subsidy and that's not sustainable. And I don't know what the answer is, but I, I do know future and and the, there are, I can't tell you where exactly, but there are some companies getting more involved into I'll call it the internet of things, which is far greater than I think most of us are astounding to realize, but the entry into the internet things is knowledge and understanding about your business and it begins with data.

[00:36:41] Without data, you can't, you're just operating in the blind. And so everybody will say yeah. But the quantum leap here is that even though computers have been around a long time, we haven't fully utilized the capability of the computer [00:37:00] and We, what we will see in the not too near future is a greater use of sensors in our manufacturing process, giving real-time feedback based on good manufacturing practices.

[00:37:14] If you want something measured five times an hour, it'll measure five times an hour. It will give you that kind of consistency. You will get warnings about things that we're about to go versus having something go down and shutting your whole production line down. That's the future of manufacturing.

[00:37:32] That's a huge cost that we can pull on to the system. And maybe at that point, labor is not such a big deal 

[00:37:41] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:37:41] to your point, John it's astonishing to me, how much time we have spent as a global society developed computers for individuals like me, who mostly sit behind a desk, which I regret because I don't really like sitting behind a desk.

[00:37:59] I'm actually [00:38:00] much more hands-on and I like using my hands, but in my professional life that has, unfortunately for now has been the case and I've been fortuitous to make use of computers, but it strikes me now that I'm working so much. Manufacturing that a lot of the things that you as a desk worker take for granted, things that are improving my life, those tools for the longest time were not adapted to someone who was standing up, someone who was moving about.

[00:38:30] And even when the mobile revolution came and you got cell phones, the apps that's that are showing up there were also not optimized for the worker. They were optimized for someone making use of their spare time sitting on a bus or something, but they were not optimized for someone in a work situation.

[00:38:47] So there's a lot of catch-up to do when it comes to augmenting the worker and augmenting work with real apps that make a difference. And that are simple enough that you can [00:39:00] use them without any significant amount of training. What do you think it's going to take? So you mentioned sensors, that's one aspect, then you can plug into those. But there are so many low hanging fruit. I imagine, on the shop floor, even in advanced manufacturing here in Massachusetts, where we're just not counting things at the moment we're not getting the data that lean needs to work. That we're just, yeah.

[00:39:24]We just don't have things that, that would enable us  to make an efficient process, 

[00:39:29] John Killam: [00:39:29] whether it's lean six Sigma, any program you want to lay over your production process. If your production process is broken, it's still going to be broken. So you gotta fix the foundation, right? You got to know what your starting point is.

[00:39:45] And then you can build from there and, implement and do a lot of these things. Something that came to my mind when you were talking. About the quality of work, right? The future of work. And so here's where we're catching up the the [00:40:00] game controls that the young people use to play video games and things like that.

[00:40:04]All that is, is coming to fruition within the manufacturing plants, and it's going to look different, but there's going to be a lot of digital interaction and a lot of ability to make suggestions. That to me is really starting to fulfill what this next generation is we'll be talking about, and that is the quality of work.

[00:40:26] Can I be in a, in an environment where I don't have to worry about breathing, breathing, poison air? Can I use my head? Can I work with the computers that I'm very comfortable with? Because I was born with one in my womb, they just, they get it. I got a three-year-old granddaughter who uses an iPhone, just as good as I do.

[00:40:47]It's scary. Those things come natural to them. And so we're, I hope we take advantage of it and I am back to your question about what the future holds it's it's certainly [00:41:00] not robotics necessarily, but more augmentation automation things like that. 

[00:41:07] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:41:07] To 

[00:41:07] your point though, John, I think the younger generation, I have kids they're young, but they're very sensitive to, they get to a situation where the computers and the tools that they're used to are not naturally part of the process.

[00:41:22] And then they tune out. So so we are faced with this challenge of implementing this fast enough, because if they see old school tools, If they see me try a new kind of a thread, something down there that isn't perceived as what they think is fun and entertaining or just productive, then they tune out.

[00:41:43] So I guess that is the challenge we're facing, right? We continuously have to, we have to be at the level where the younger generation is. So if the tools that we're using to teach to show them or indeed the work content still has [00:42:00] those old clunky things or, I guess sometimes no, no automation.

[00:42:04]Then they're frustrated. Because now they're, they have to adjust their expectations massively. Yep. 

[00:42:11] John Killam: [00:42:11] Yeah. Work content, providing value feedback. There's a lot of basic things are very important to people. But do we want to interest people to come back to Manufacturing? How do we do it?

[00:42:23] And so I think talking the way they talk, and giving them the window of, they can be who they are and still contribute. We when you were doing manufacturing 50 years ago, nobody anticipated somebody having a cell phone and having to deal with that. And we in manufacturing, dealt with the cell phone, it's a new.

[00:42:43] We didn't find a way to make it productive. 

[00:42:46] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:42:46] So an interruption right in the Workday or something to keep. 


[00:42:49]John I want to just let you finish with what you think is I guess the takeaway here, what. Wwhere is this going? Not necessarily, the long distant future, [00:43:00] what are you seeing that you are excited about in the next few years, even just for your organization?

[00:43:05] What do you think is Where are we headed with this? The grant in the grand scheme of things, you talked about data and making use of it. And we have talked about what that kind of has to mean in terms of the younger generation, getting more fascinated with this as a closing statement,  what do you think is something we should focus on, whether it is in the educational system, whether it is towards our kids or it could be more of a governmental challenge. What are some of the unsolved solvable that we should be investing more in focusing more on changing our approach to, 

[00:43:38] John Killam: [00:43:38] yeah. Yeah. So starting at the educational.

[00:43:41]There, there has to be more open communication about job opportunities, more transparency get through, we have to get through the noise of dark, dirty, unsafe truthfulness. What's out there. Where are the opportunities? And what does that mean? Because [00:44:00] hundreds thousands of great jobs here in Massachusetts, ready to go.

[00:44:04] And across the country we've got to have I'm not an educator, so I can't answer exactly, but I grew up in a town where I'd shop and I was introduced to metal cutting and wood. At least it allowed me to make an a who knows, somebody may love it. And and not necessarily go on to a business school for a degree, but we have to expose our those students to more of what those opportunities are.

[00:44:30] The work is not going away. We make stuff still. We make a lot here in this country and in order to make it, we're going to need engineers. All right, we're going to need good managers. We're going to need talented people who can do really the basic things around shop math, learn how to read a blueprint.

[00:44:51]His, the two toughest ones communicate and work as a team member. Those are behaviors that aren't taught really well [00:45:00] and need to be learned. We see new people coming into the workplace. But at the same time, managers have to learn how to communicate and talk to those new employees because they will be motivated differently.

[00:45:11] So we're going to continue through some cultural shifts. The so I'm hopeful that the education system will keep promoting that at the MEP level, the community colleges the universities in Massachusetts. Now we continue to hold big events and we celebrate manufacturing. So we have coming up in September an event at polar park where we will be celebrating manufacturing with the Manufacturing awards, ceremony, celebrating some 50 Manufacturing.

[00:45:41] For their manufacturing greatness on the work they do here in Massachusetts celebrating some of our political leaders who fight for us every day, fight for the MVP, fight for the manufacturers and give them an opportunity and a platform and celebrate the businesses, bring the manufacturers.

[00:45:57] And the, one of the best supply chains is [00:46:00] right around the corner. And you don't always know it. Get to meet who else here in Massachusetts is making things. And so we'll continue to do that. We'll continue to work with the school system. We work very closely with the we call them mass hire.

[00:46:15] They did the workforce boards and we worked very closely with them helping to bring technical training or bringing them to manufacturing companies so that they can present, but we're all connected in this ecosystem one way or the other. And and that's one of our strengths. We've learned how to do that.

[00:46:32]So I personally my son's an attorney. He works in manufacturing now. It's it's really about quality of life and quality of life that has changed a lot. I believe there's, there will continue to be growth in manufacturing here in Massachusetts. I see new companies coming in all the time.

[00:46:50] The biosector has a great headstart here in Massachusetts, but the east coast and the west coast right now are doing the best. There's [00:47:00] amazing manufacturing going on in, in the rust belt. Everybody's shut down and COVID whether it was auto manufacturers or the recreational vehicles. So they're struggling to get started up and that's what disrupted out supply chain, having all these shutdowns.

[00:47:16] But we're once we get out of that there's no reason to believe that we're not going to get back to pre pandemic levels where every manufacturer was just producing as much as they could. And trying to meet demand only with the struggles of trying to find good people to work within their organization.

[00:47:38] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:47:38] Wow, John. It just goes to show you it's about being prepared for the future and what the future through us last year was a surprise to many but it is about resilience. And like you have pointed out repeatedly in this conversation. There are so many exciting challenges to take on in manufacturing, and if you're ready for it, there's growth in the sector.

[00:47:59] And [00:48:00] that I think brings optimism. So I thank you for that. 

[00:48:03]John Killam: [00:48:03] You're welcome. Thank you. 

[00:48:06] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:48:06] Pleasure to speak with you. I hope I can check in with you. It seems like it's a, an evolving space and there are things that are opening up now, perhaps also because of COVID and other things that are leading us to even greater opportunities 

[00:48:20] cope.

[00:48:21] COVID raised the level of manufacturing more than it has in the last 20 years. Everybody saw. And thought about holy shit, we can't get it because it's made in that 

[00:48:37] scared people. So it's gotten a completely new awareness to the topic of who produces what we depend on for our 

[00:48:47] John Killam: [00:48:47] that's. That's the question.

[00:48:49] And what's the plan? How are we going to address. 

[00:48:52]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:48:52] I'll be exploring it on the podcast. If you have ideas, come back. Thank you so 

[00:48:58] John Killam: [00:48:58] much. All right. [00:49:00] Thank you. Bye now. Bye. 

[00:49:03] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:49:03] You have just listened to episode 46 of the Augmented podcast with host Trond Arne Undheim. The topic was Manufacturing training in Massachusetts and our guest was John Killam president of MassMEP in this conversation, we talked about the important role of manufacturing in Massachusetts, fostering the next generation manufacturers, manufacturing workforce trends. And actually my takeaway is that manufacturing is surprisingly important in Massachusetts, which most people don't necessarily see as a manufacturing state, because it is a.

[00:49:41] State that competes mostly in high-end technology infused manufacturing of specialty parks. However, with industry 4.0, that kind of manufacturing is on the rise. So the issue will only become more and more key and the workforce will need to grow to keep up with it. In [00:50:00] that there is opportunity for young people and new manufacturing jobs can be exciting jobs too.

[00:50:06] In fact, most of them are.  Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at Augmented or in your preferred podcast player and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 27 industry 4.0 tools, episode 17 smart manufacturing for all. Or episode 11 and powering workers to innovate Augmented skilling, the workforce for industry 4.0 frontline operations.


John Killam

President, MassMEP

John Killam is a multifaceted, innovative leader with extensive experience in operations management, manufacturing engineering and optimization, quality management, business development, manufacturing operations, R&D, cost analysis and strategic production planning. John has thirty years experience working for fortune 200 manufacturing companies and is certified in the Toyota Production system by a Shingijutsu Sensei.

John is the President/CEO for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) where he leads a team of professional consultants in the delivery of growth strategies to improve top line while reducing cost. In the past year alone his team has led manufactures to $55 million increase in new sales and add 490 new jobs. John holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management with a minor in marketing.