Soaring Together at the MFG Meeting

Overall, the mood at the recent Manufacturing for Growth (MFG) meeting was buoyant; worries about health care costs, the federal budget and the skills shortage are creating significant headwinds for economic recovery. Compelling advice on maintaining a winning attitude from a former jet fighter pilot ended the meeting on a lofty tone.


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From left to right, John Walker, chairman, Oxford Economics; Johan Israelsson, president of Sandvik Coromant; and Ken Mayland, president, Clearview Economics answer questions during a Q&A session at the recent MFG meeting.


The recent Manufacturing for Growth (MFG) Meeting in Waikaloa, Hawaii, brought together more than 600 representatives of three key manufacturing industry groups. The joining of AMT -The Association For Manufacturing Technology, National Tooling & Machining Association (NTMA) and Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) for The MFG Meeting links the entire manufacturing chain, from OEMs to distribution to end-user shops and factories.

Overall, the mood among attendees was buoyant, although nagging uncertainty about health care costs, irksome budget wrangling in Washington and a persistent skills shortage are creating significant headwinds for economic recovery. The educational conference sessions were solid and insightful.

The parts of the conference I enjoyed the most were the precision machining breakout session and the leadership pep rally on the last day led by Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman. The breakout session was particularly lively. About two dozen job shops (mostly in aerospace) zeroed in topics related to either maintaining profit margins in the face of rising costs or acting on opportunities. These topics included: 

  • Social networking
  • Customer price reductions
  • Wellness programs 
  • Economic forecasting
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Cost of technology
  • New network security rules

Advice on how to handle persistent mandates from aerospace contractors for price reductions included some options such as firm, disciplined resistance (just say NO) and negotiated give-backs such as commitments to contract extensions or prepayment of material costs. Several shops shared their positive experiences with wellness programs that have proven to be effective at holding down healthcare costs. The general advice on additive manufacturing was to take this technology seriously, but recognize that it is still in its infancy. Overall, the strong consensus arising from this session is that this is a good time to invest boldly in new manufacturing technology.

Rob Waldman’s session, “Never Fly Solo! The Power of Partnership to Reach New Heights in Business,” was intense, emotional and engaging. I’m usually left a bit unmoved by “motivational” speakers, but found him to be rather compelling. What made this speaker memorable for me was encountering him in the hotel lobby a few days later. Rob and I chatted for over an hour. His account of how diligently and thoroughly he prepares for each presentation thoroughly impressed me. He tailors his remarks to connect with each audience’s special interests, based on his insights into the current challenges they face. He studies the conference program, meets the other speakers and gets to know a cross-section of attendees. Commitment to excellence and being mission-ready are two the tenets of success in battle that Rob emphasizes. Clearly, he applies them to his own goal to be a top-flight speaker.