In April, U. S. Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, visited Mazak Corp. for a first-hand look at its manufacturing facility and a discussion with Mazak executives and local educational leaders. The goal was to discuss how partnerships between manufacturers and local community colleges can increase American manufacturing competitiveness.
Not long ago, an economic recession was devastating American manufacturing, causing many companies to re-evaluate their strategies for manufacturing, sourcing and survival. After a dramatic turnaround, economic improvement has occurred and in the first quarter of 2006, American production activity reached multi-year heights, with GDP at a 4.8% rate. Remedies such as accelerated depreciation helped spur investment in modern capital equipment, which in turn increased productivity and growth. “American manufacturing can compete with any country in the world, and American manufacturing is growing today in part because of past incentives to invest,” says Brian Papke, Mazak’s president.
The Mazak factory was selected to show Secretary Snow how a high-technology manufacturing plant and a technical college, such as Gateway Community and Technical College, Florence, KY, create a competitive synergy through continuous investments in factory, technology, and people. Since the early 1970’s, Mazak has completed 14 investment projects in Kentucky, totaling more than $170 million.
While innovative capital equipment is making American manufacturing more productive and competitive, Snow cited the increased pressure to develop technically skilled workers to keep manufacturing growing. Mazak has developed a positive partnership with Gateway Community and Technical College for filling the critical shortage of well-trained technical workers. Mazak provides instruction and equipment and has created a co-op program that allows students to earn their way to a rewarding career in manufacturing. In turn, many of those students become productive associates at Mazak.
“This type of progressive partnership between a private company and a public community college is at the heart of America’s ability to compete in a global economy,” Snow said. “Mazak contributes time and resources to the local community college and the college, in turn, supplies the well-trained employees Mazak needs.”
Many elements combine to deliver on the promise of global success. Products need to be designed with an eye toward manufacturability and simplicity, and at the same time, deliver higher productivity through technology. The Mazak Nexus line of CNC turning and machining centers manufactured in Mazak’s Florence, KY, plant exemplify this strategy.
|U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow (left) tours Mazak’s manufacturing facility with Mazak president Brian Papke (center) and Dr. Edward Hughes (right), president and CEO of Gateway Community and Technical College.|
The right equipment is also key to successful manufacturing, and Secretary Snow saw examples of Mazak’s multi-tasking equipment and machining centers with robotic and palletized automation at work. Together with multi-disciplined employees and software-based production tools, which Mazak refers to as its Production-On-Demand (POD) system, constitute a lean market leader.
“One thing this facility illustrates is that America has a strong future in manufacturing,” Snow said after his tour. “This is a great example of where major investments in modern equipment together with a well-trained workforce create jobs. Mazak, a privately held company based in Japan, illustrates that foreign investment is a positive thing, where significant investments are creating American jobs and high-tech equipment is increasing American manufacturing competitiveness.”
After the visit, Papke said, “it was an honor to host Secretary Snow and to demonstrate successful lean manufacturing based on continuous investment that allows us to be competitive with the entire world. Technology will continue to evolve and so will the need to invest and find qualified technical people.”