Last week, Chandis Digby, who serves as Global Director of Supply Chain and Customer Service for Milliken Chemical, shared her perspective on the Upstate’s manufacturing industry at the GSA Business Power Event. Chandis, along with five other manufacturing industry leaders from across the Upstate, shared insight about the industry’s successes and challenges in today’s climate.
Building off of this enlightening discussion, we explored our takeaways from the evening – expanding on how we as a committed company with hometown roots can continue to ‘do good’ within this growth industry.
Education is Key
Upstate South Carolina is home to roughly 5,400 manufacturers, employing workers of all skill levels. Manufacturing is a major industry for the area, but with significant growth comes a staffing shortage. Because of the breadth of companies offering competitive positions, the labor force in the area is not large enough to meet the collective demand.
Throughout the Power Event, manufacturing leaders emphasized the importance of a multi-pronged approach to boosting and training the area’s workforce. Partnerships with local technical colleges help provide the necessary training for many skilled manufacturing positions; companies are also reaching out to students throughout grade school to present manufacturing as a viable and successful career path, encouraging their exploration of the field. Finally, companies are utilizing internal training to advance their current team members, bolstering job satisfaction and furthering professional development.
Takeaway: Workforce is vital to the manufacturing industry, and through continued lifetime education, workforce development is an industry investment.
Constant Improvement isn’t Optional
There is very little resemblance between manufacturing today and manufacturing 50 years ago – technology and the capabilities that come with it have changed the face of the industry.
Take, for example, logistical considerations. Thirty years ago, supply chains and logistics rarely factored in to major decisions for manufacturing companies. Now it is a main driver in most decisions, and has a direct impact on where companies locate or relocate. The Upstate made, and continues to make, constant development decisions to improve the region’s attractiveness and viability as a major manufacturing hub.
Takeaway: Continual improvement allows both manufacturers and the region to remain on the cutting edge of the industry.
Out-of-the-Box Thinking Goes a Long Way
Through education and continual improvement, manufacturers are looking to grow their competitive advantages in their respective arenas. But, as Chandis alluded to, a third element in creating competitive advantages is thinking outside of the box.
Sometimes the best practice for a company might seem contradictory at first blush. Milliken Chemical’s use of “molecular tourism” is a great example. Milliken Chemical routinely sources and exports raw materials from all over the world to its headquarters in Spartanburg. They create the innovative compounds the division is known for in Spartanburg, and then turn around and export the finished compound back out globally.
This “molecular tourism” might at first appear to overuse shipping and sourcing resources; however, when considering the costs to locate production nearer to sources, or to use inferior raw materials, these costs are greatly diminished.
Takeaway: Creative problem solving enables unique resolutions for the manufacturing industry.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our take on the manufacturing industry, and look forward to inviting new and collaborative ways to advance our hometown’s industrial position. You can read more about the Power Event in this article.