053. Industrial Future Series – Manufacturing Perspective

Chris: 00:30

Today, we’re going to be walking through a fun idea of manufacturing perception and it’s time for some truth. And to to get through this topic with us, we have Linda Freeman who is an industry manager at Rockwell automation. Welcome Linda.

Linda: 00:43

Hey, how you doing?

Chris: 00:45

Doing very good. Very good. Excited about this topic and walking through it with you. So thank you for taking the time with us today.

Linda: 00:51

Me too. I am super excited to get this on the airwaves.

Chris: 00:54

We know there’s a lot of perceptions out there that people have when they think of manufacturing. So what are some common ones that you hear?

Linda: 01:02

It’s the old movies and they think about dirty dingy places. Dangerous places. Uncomfortable places. But I think what it is a lot of people just don’t know. They’re not exposed to how clean a food facility really is or how spotless manufacturing plant has to be when you’re producing pharmaceuticals and drugs.

And so those of us that work in the industry, I, I think it’s on us. We gotta educate everybody.

Chris: 01:27

That’s right, because I mean, the reality is they’re not all that way. depending on the type of environment or what they’re manufacturing, it can be some of the most awesome state of the art technology and facilities that you could possibly imagine.

Linda: 01:39

Yep. Totally agree.

Chris: 01:41

Cool. So,  people in manufacturing, if they want to promote the positive aspects of industry, what should they be talking about?

Linda: 01:48

I think that we need to talk to the world about what our impact is. So everybody that works in manufacturing, a challenge everyone listening today that when people ask you what you do, how do you introduce yourself?

Do you say, “Oh, I work in a dairy plant” or do you say “I bring safe and affordable milk to market?” When we talk about the impact of what manufacturing does, what you do in your daily job and how it impacts the world, that really catches people’s attention. And it opens up a conversation. And then you can talk about what manufacturing is like and what your day is like.

You never know the one person you share that with who they might go share it with. Someone else might share it with a high school kid. That person that ends up taking a career in manufacturing, just from your conversation.

Chris: 02:35

No doubt. I love how you said that can make an impact. I think back, there’s a story about walk up to the guy and ask him, “what are you doing?” “Well I’m building a wall.” And then right down the way a little bit, “what are you doing?” “I’m building a cathedral” or whatever it may be just, they see the purpose behind  what they’re doing with their work. It’s so important. I think you’re all over it there with that idea for sure.

So somebody that may be thinking about industry and their on the fense and they have all these perceptions out there and we’re trying to debunk those in this episode here. What would you tell them if they’re considering making that leap into manufacturing?

Linda: 03:11

So I think the one thing that’s not really known by people is all the different types of roles and the different types of backgrounds that are needed in manufacturing.

Those of us that are engineers, we spend a lot of time talking about, Oh, STEM degrees and getting an engineering degree and going to college and getting a college engineering degree and going and getting a job. But what we don’t spend a lot of time talking about is all the different types of roles and backgrounds.

That’s one thing I liked the most about manufacturing. Is that whether you decided after high school, that you didn’t want to go to school anymore. I just want to go get a job. I want to start my career. I want to start producing in the world there’s roles in manufacturing for that. There’s apprenticeship programs, there’s training programs that companies have that you can hire in right out of high school and build yourself a lifelong career working in that area.

Or you can go to a trade school and get a trade degree. Our industry’s really changing and we need a lot more technical people to run this machinery. Think about how our cell phones were 10 years ago versus how they are now. Just that shift in cell phone technology. That’s the shift that’s going on in machinery and manufacturing. So we need a lot more people to care for that equipment.

So there’s lots of different backgrounds. You don’t have to have a four year degree to go get a good job in manufacturing. I think that’s another one of the misconceptions is that there’s this big gap between I’m going to be Laverne and Shirley sitting there on a line stuffing stuff, or I’m going to be this college educated person sitting in an office.

There are so many different jobs in between there with so many different backgrounds. Then all the different types of roles, whether you want to go into operations, whether you want to go into quality, if you want to go into maintenance, into product development, there’s so many different types of jobs.

You could go work for a company and if you’re like me, where you like doing different stuff every day and having a different career every couple of years, you can find that within manufacturing. And so that’s what I would want people to know.

Chris: 05:15

So then also it sounds like to know that may need to explore yourself some and understand yourself and what makes you tick and what would bring you the most fulfillment in your career if you’re considering manufacturing.

Cause like you said, there’s so many different types of roles that are out there that can lead down to many different paths, but you just got to get started. You don’t have to have necessarily that extensive training to get in. Cause a lot of times these manufacturers will offer that up through apprenticeships and internships and co-ops and things like that you mentioned. Is that kind of a good summary?

Linda: 05:47

Yeah, no, I would totally agree with you on that. The other thing I would ask is you might know who you are today, but you also don’t know who you might be in three years from now or five years from now. Your interests might change. The things you want to work on might change. Your family situation might change. Where you need to live might change.

There’s so many different types of manufacturers all across North America, all across the world. I think the other reason it’s good to work in that field is whatever you find today, we know we’re going to be a different person tomorrow, there’ll be another type of role in another company, another location, another job that you can take the skills you’ve learned in one facility and go apply them in another facility. So it gives you a lot of flexibility in life to make changes down the road. If you want to.

Chris: 06:32

Yeah, no doubt. Those skills are really, they cross so many different industries once you’ve learned PLCs, for instance, that can apply to multiple different industries.

Linda: 06:41


Chris: 06:41

Great point. Great point. So yeah, hopefully a lot of listeners out there that are considering making the jump to manufacturing and, we’re trying to influence people to inspire them in their career choices. So to do that, people often like to know, what do I need to be studying?

Where do I need to be investing that time? So what do you tell somebody who’s sitting in that seat right now?

Linda: 07:00

We all like to watch television, right? So the first thing I would say is you want to watch a little television and there’s a TV show called How It’s Made. Have you ever seen it?

Chris: 07:10

Absolutely. Love it. Love it.

Linda: 07:12

Love that show. So for people who’ve never watched it’s a television series that documents how various everyday products are made. You can find it on Amazon Prime on Hulu or on the Science Channel, if you have regular cable subscription. And what’s really neat about that show is every episode they’ll usually focus on a couple different industries and they’ll show how the product’s made. Where the raw materials come from. What the manufacturing process looks like.

So it’s just a basic education.  If you watch that show and you walk away with, “Oh, wow. That was really cool. I wonder how these other things are made?” If you have that kind of curiosity. That’s like the first thing of manufacturing. To me manufacturing every day is like playing with Legos.

You get this raw materials in and you get to build something and have that something go used by somebody. And that’s the cool thing about manufacturing. So that’d be one thing I’d recommend. Watch that TV show. Second thing, there’s a publishing company that creates a lot of trade magazines.

They’re called Putman Media. So P U T M A N Media.com. They have a lot of trade magazines, like the food processing industry, the chemical industry, the life sciences industry, my company, Rockwell automation, our magazine, we publish through them of the journal. And then they also have a conference called Smart Industry and they produce a newsletter that goes out every week and they have a magazine Smart Industry.

And what I really think about that Smart Industry line of products that they do is they’re talking about how technology is changing in manufacturing. I think that’s another misconception is that people think that manufacturing plants were built 50 years ago and they’ve never changed.

And I’ll always come back to that cell phone. Look how much our computers and our cell phones have changed. The equipment we use in manufacturing is changing just as rapidly. Smart Industry really focuses on that. Especially focuses on the concept of internet of things. And in manufacturing, we call it industrial internet of things.

So just like the watch I wear on my arm, I used to wear just a regular Timex watch that just told me the time. Now I wear a Garmin watch and my Garmin watch tells me how well I sleep, what my stress is, how many steps I took that day, how much I exercised yesterday. It’s got a lot of intelligence in it.

That’s called internet of things. Devices that used to be simple, that now have lots of information and produce lots of data so that we can make data-driven decisions. Same thing’s happening in manufacturing. That’s called industrial IOT and that smart industry line of magazines, the conference, the newsletter talks all about that.

And to me, that’s one of the best, most exciting things going on in manufacturing today.

Chris: 09:51

Great advice there for our listeners. Thank you, Linda. And I think you had them all at watching TV, so good stuff there. It is a great show. So many different things. I’ve actually been in a couple of plants that have been featured on that in the Southeast here.

It’s just so cool to go. I remember one, it was a dry ice plant. And they were on How It’s Made. Then I remember going there afterwards and talking with them and just the glow that the people working there they had. Yeah. Hey, do you see the show? Yeah i saw it. You’re bad now. Remember us little guys, when you make it, that type of thing.

Linda: 10:22

That sense of pride, right?

Chris: 10:24


Linda: 10:24

They’re able to share what they did.

Chris: 10:26

That’s right. That’s right. I remember one of them talking to me about, Hey, I got to sit down with my son and watch this episode and like just the connection that it made with his family. Hey, this is what I do for a living. And it’s great content. It’s great stuff.

That’s definitely studying invest because you may find through an episode that that’s an industry that I see purpose in. That’s where I want to build and love that the piece about the magazines and looking through that, because if you’re interested in the chemical industry or the pharma or pulp and paper, they’re specific items out there through these media companies like Putman, that you can go invest some time and learn, and maybe even build your network from that.

I remember years ago to get off a little tangent, but. We were really big into reliability and we want to learn more about reliability and there was this magazine and they had an article and it was written by a company that was in Virginia. I’m like, I’m in Virginia. So just actually just rode by there.

And I walked into the office. I said, I want to know who wrote this, can I talk to him? And they were like, who are you? And I was, I told them I was with EECO and it started a great relationship with he and I, we actually didn’t do a few conferences together and just built, but it all, just because I picked up that magazine and I want to invest in, learn more about reliability and I’d opened that door.

So you never know if you’re listening to this right now. It’s a great advice Linda just gave you. Go study about that industry that you’re interested in and see what you can learn. Great tools out there. And as connected as we are as a world right now, to data and information. It’s really that your finger tips.

Linda: 12:02

Yep. Totally agree.

Chris: 12:04

Very cool. So once you get that and information and you know what you want to do yeah. Start working on your network. So what could you, what advice could you give to people from a networking standpoint?

Linda: 12:15

I love the story you just told about just walking in that place and asking to meet that guy.

We have the opportunity now with the internet and with the virtual worlds we’re living in that we can do that every day. We can virtually walk in a place and ask to meet somebody. And the place that I do that is LinkedIn. I have had so much fun, especially this year that now that we’ve been more in the stay at home COVID world. You get lonely during the day.

And I miss going out and meeting new people. I started reaching out to random people on LinkedIn. Finding someone that maybe works for a company that I want to learn a little bit more about that company, or I was curious about getting a new type of certification. And so I went on LinkedIn and I searched on people that had that type of certification and had my degree.

LinkedIn’s free. You can set up a profile, you can do searches for free. You send them an invite with a little message that says, Hey, could I just chat with you for 15 or 30 minutes, I’d love to learn more about what you do and your background and your company. Most people would love to chat.

And so I, I would encourage just like you walked in that place and said, Hey, I want to meet the guy that wrote this article. You can do the same thing on LinkedIn. And I actually did the same thing. I read an article in a magazine last year that I wanted to talk to the guy more about the article he wrote and I reached out to him on LinkedIn.

And then we ended up having a conversation and today with Microsoft teams or Zoom or Ring meetings, FaceTime, you can do video chats, it’s just like sitting down and chatting with someone. So I feel real fortunate. We live in a world today that we have those types of resources.

Chris: 13:50

No doubt. When you start that LinkedIn process for people that may be new, how do you suggest they do those initial searches?

Linda: 13:57

My first advice on LinkedIn was have good information up there about yourself, because when you go to reach out to someone to ask to speak to them, they’re going to want to know a little bit about you before they say yes.

So having a good picture. Having where you’re from, or maybe where you went to school, some of what some of your hobbies are, where you volunteer. People like to relate to folks. So I would encourage you to put some information up on your page, then when you’re doing the searches, the search tools in LinkedIn actually work pretty good.

I was searching on a particular cybersecurity certification. So I just put in, cybersecurity and then the word engineer, and it just went and it searched a bunch of people’s profiles and found people that had that certification that also somewhere in their page had the word engineer.

If someone was curious about, say you work in a town that has a local steel plant and you’re like, “wow. I’m curious what jobs are like at that steel plant.” You can go in and put the name of that plant and the city, and then it’ll bring up the company and it’ll say list all people on LinkedIn who worked there.

So then I’ll go click on that and look at people’s business titles and then reach out to them based upon “Oh, this guy works in quality. I’d love to go talk to him.” Or, “Oh, look at her. She works in industrial engineering. I would love to talk to her about optimization and process organization. “So there’s a wealth of info, and you said it earlier, it’s just time. These resources are all free. It’s taking the time for yourself to invest in your own education and to invest in growing your network. The resources are there.

Chris: 15:38

Linda, thank you for that great information and insight for our listeners who are maybe new to LinkedIn. And so I really appreciate you giving them those little tidbits to explore and to get better on that platform.

Linda: 15:49

And one thing I’ll also add about LinkedIn. When you first join, it is free to join. They also have a premium membership and one component that they’ve added into the website, and I don’t work for LinkedIn. I’m simply talking about this because I’ve used it and I’ve found it to be beneficial. So last year I wanted to get some more training around data analytics and just learn more about that.

So I paid for the LinkedIn premium membership. And when you pay for the premium membership that comes with what’s called LinkedIn learning. So it’s a different app that you put on your mobile device, and there are literally thousands and thousands of courses and hours of education that you can do for a very low price of that premium membership.

I probably did 10 to 20 hours of training material and paid. I don’t remember right now with the, the premium membership is, but if I had gone to a university or gone to a Conference, it would have cost me way more money. And I was literally able to do it in the comfort of my homes. Sitting home in my pajamas.

What’s nice about LinkedIn is as you complete the different curriculum maps, when you finish it, they then put a certificate on your LinkedIn website that shows you’ve completed this material. So I’ll give you an example. I was interviewing for an intern to work for me this summer and the intern I noticed on our LinkedIn page, she had gone in and had completed the sales engineer curriculum and learning on LinkedIn learning.

So during the interview, I asked her, I’m like, “Oh, I saw you took these courses and what did you learn?” And she was able to share with me what she learned in those courses. And it actually set her apart of some other people that I was interviewing.

So to your question of what can you do to learn and expand your learning? In an easy way, especially if you want to change careers or go work in a new space, LinkedIn learning’s a great place to do that. And then you get to advertise on your page, what learning you’ve completed, and then talk about it in your job interview.

Chris: 17:48

Absolutely. That’s great advice. And I hadn’t put those two together personally. So thank you for the tip for our listeners, and I’m sure they’re logging on right now. As soon as they finish the podcast, start that process,

Linda: 17:59

And reach out to me. If you’re listening to this podcast today, reach out to me, send me an invite.  And in the invite notes, say, “Hey, I listened to your podcast and thanks for the info. Connect with me online.”

Chris: 18:10

Absolutely. And for all our listeners in our show notes, we always put links to the LinkedIn bios. So you’ll, if you go to this episode and click in your notes, you’ll see Linda’s information.

We’ll put a hyperlink there to take you right to her LinkedIn profile. And then we’ll also try to ask them information in the notes about Putman Media. Some of the things that Linda referred you to. Earlier in this conversation and, Linda you’re, you’ve been in industry for quite a while, and you’ve seen some really cool things.

And so if we want to try to inspire people and talk to them about the cool things that you’ve seen and witnessed, what are some of the fun places that you’ve been?

Linda: 18:47

Oh man, I went to the first plant that made the first Doritos. And I know everybody loves Doritos right?

Chris: 18:56

Oh Yeah. You got me there.

Linda: 18:57

So that’s in Orlando. That’s so cool. It’s a Frito-Lay plant. And then also in South Orlando, down in Kissimmee is the very first plant that made Gatorade. And I don’t know if anyone knows the history of Gatorade, but it came from university of Florida and their football team, and they wanted to create an electrolyte drink. And so that was really cool to go to that plant.

The first plant I ever worked in was a Procter and gamble plant in Kansas city, Kansas, that was built in the 18 hundreds, like the late 18 hundreds and it may Dawn dishwashing liquid. So to see a plant that was over a hundred years old and how they had changed out the equipment and modified the equipment and kept it updated and still making great products and P&G has made all kinds of different products over a hundred years.

That was where I first got my intro to manufacturing, seeing all the raw materials come in on rail cars. And then a couple hours later, here pops out this Dawn dishwashing bottle. That was just amazing. Some of my other favorite plants. Seeing how ice cream is made. I expected an ice cream plant smell sweet and wonderful and it smells a little different.

It smells like refrigerant and cold and a freezer, but it was fascinating to see the process. Go into a milk plant. Bread plants. Oh my goodness. Bread, plants and cookie plants. Wait, I’m noticing a theme here. I’m mentioning all food places.

Chris: 20:15

That’s okay. That’s all good.

Linda: 20:17

Like food places. Let me think of an interesting food place. Okay.  Sugar cane processing. In the South of Florida, there’s large sugarcane fields and there’s these huge wineries, they’re these big, huge plants that process the sugarcane. And it’s amazing to see what a sugar cane, one pole of sugar cane goes through to result in granulated sugar. That was a fascinating process to see.

 Another fascinating process. I worked up in Seattle for a couple of years, and I was out on the Olympic peninsula where there’s a lot of forest products facilities. So anything you can do to a tree. Whether it’s a veneer mill, sawmill, pulp mill, but probably one of the most amazing things I ever saw as a veneer mill, where they’re bringing in an entire log of a tree.

And within a few seconds, it turns into thin sheets of the veneer. And that’s one of the most wonderful smells. I’ll always remember the smell of that plant, the fresh trees coming in. A real neat facility I saw was down in Miami. Miami has limited real estate for trash dump areas. They built a plant down in the Miami area that brings in all the trash in the local area has a massive sorting facility to sort that trash into different types of rubbage.

And then they have all these different ovens. That they put the trash into the oven based upon what type of material it is. They burn all that trash. And they produce power from burning trash. And to me, that was such a neat thing. To see something that had been considered a waste product, turned into a resource that we all need. That was a really cool facility.

Chris: 21:58

That’s very cool. There’s some awesome places. I’ve been to a veneer plant too. They’re really the way they suck those logs up onto the machine and just looks like just a big cheese grater. Up and down and how thin it is. Just blew me away the first time.

Very cool stuff. You definitely have experienced some wonderful industry out there, some manufacturing and the people in it. That’s what makes it important. And we call this EECO Asks Why, Linda. We’d love to get to the why and get to the purpose. If you had to boil this down, I know this was a topic that was very near and dear to your heart.

When we were talking prior to the recording, changing the perception of manufacturing, what would be the why?

Linda: 22:34

The why is because manufacturing feeds, clothes, transports, provides healthcare supplies for the world. Our world today cannot survive without manufacturing. And I don’t think a lot of people really think about how manufacturing provides for most of the items in their daily lives.

And if that manufacturing is not efficient, if it’s not safe, if it’s not productive, then our lives would not be as comfortable as they are today. And the world of manufacturing is changing. We need new thought leaders. We need innovators. We need to find ways to make more efficient packaging, to make more productive facilities.

So we need more thought leaders in the industry. We need more workers, we need more technicians. So the why for me, why this is important, is I want everybody, whether you work in the industry or not, to understand the importance of the industry, But then if you’re looking for a career change or looking for an area to go in to really consider manufacturing, because the flexibility, the breadth and the need for people is just so great. Especially here in the United States.

Chris: 23:50

Absolutely. Absolutely. Linda, you brought so much insight and wisdom for our listeners and things to consider. I’m sure you’ve changed a lot of minds and that perception of manufacturing. People are thinking a lot differently now through this conversation.

I just really thank you for being so open, honest, and truthful for our listeners and really appreciate all your insights. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Linda: 24:11

Awesome. Thank you too.