150. Hero – Jake Hall, The Manufacturing Millennial Transcript


00:00 Jake: 

I get a ton of enjoyment when I see people on LinkedIn comment or share something and say, “Wow, I learned something new. I never knew that’s how it was done before,” because for me that means I’m teaching them something that they’re going to hold on to and learn from down the road.

00:19 Chris: 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market, instead, we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world. 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero conversation and we’ll be talking to Jake Hall and you may know him better as the Manufacturing Millennial. And he does that at nighttime. He’s also a Business Development Manager at Feyen Zylstra and welcome Jake, how you doing, man? 

01:02 Jake: 

I’m doing wonderful, Chris. Thanks for having me on.

01:04 Chris: 

Oh, man was so excited to have you on this is a hero episode. I’ve just been on pins and needles. I couldn’t wait. I felt like it was Christmas morning when I woke up. I get to talk to Jake, get to hear his story and maybe tell us about, man, how did you come up with that idea of the Manufacturing Millennial? 

01:19 Jake: 

Absolutely. Well, besides I think it being a pretty, fun, catchy name with it going together. You know, it’s self-explanatory in a way. I’m a millennial who started and has a passion for manufacturing, but the idea of Manufacturing Millennial goes back to the days when I was in automation distribution. I was out there selling products. And that was a part of a really cool organization called AHTD, the Associate of High Technology Distribution.

And I was sitting at one of their fall events, Chris. And when I was sitting in the event in a room of 400, 500 people, I looked across this room, we were listening to one of these speakers about, you know, pushing the button and making change and making an impact in your industry. I looked down there and said, wait a second, this is ridiculous. I am one, maybe two people in this room who are under the age of 40 and are a millennial. And as said, millennials are completely underrepresented in the manufacturing industry from my point of view, after I walked away from that event Chris, I went and I started doing a bunch of research.

Why is this the case that millennials are so unrepresented? And I looked at it, I started doing research and said, holy cow, it’s not just, what’s in this room, it’s the industry as a whole. And for me, I never really recognized that because I grew up with a bunch of guys who graduated engineering school together, we all went for local companies here in west Michigan.

And I knew a bunch of people. I knew, you know, hundreds of people who are my age right in manufacturing, doing stuff because of the little hub that we have, but when you look at the bigger picture of manufacturing, it’s completely different in terms of the age group. And I said, “Okay, I’m a millennial. I love manufacturing. It’s such a great passion and great industry to be involved with. How can I get the next generation more involved with manufacturing to get them more excited about it? And what could I do to help companies become more attractive to younger generations?” 

We look at the age gap right now, and I think by 2024, 75% of the workforce is going to be in that millennial and gen Z range. That’s the size of how big this workforce is, but when you look at the scale of millennials and manufacturing and the overall age, the average age of people in manufacturing is like 45, 46 years old. So it’s a completely different demographic point of age group from the rest of the industry out there and manufacturing.

So I figured what is it that millennials don’t like about manufacturing? And I think, you know, we’ll go into more details later, but it’s dispelling the myth that manufacturing is this last-ditch resort in your career. You know, you don’t go to college unless you’re getting an engineering degree to go into manufacturing, you can go and do all of these other things that are out there besides manufacturing, or you need a four-year degree to, you know, provide for your family to, you know, be successful. You have to have this four-year degree. And I think for the longest time society and our parents above us and the teachers and guidance counselors, and just the industry in general, you go get a four-year degree, get a professional four-year degree and go out and find your profession.

Well, we’re finding out really quickly that all these people went out there and got a four-year degree says, well, wait a second. The degree I got doesn’t account for too much. I can’t get a job with this degree. And I think more and more people are realizing that society is moving back to saying, “Wow, graduating the average student graduating of $34,000 of student debt. After a four-year degree, doesn’t sound very attractive. What can I do out there besides getting a four-year degree?” And I think that’s where going back to dispelling the myth that manufacturing is this last choice. Now it can be your first choice as a professional career. And the fact that manufacturing is not a triple D, I call it the triple D dark dirty and dangerous environment.

That’s just not the case of what manufacturing is anymore. Manufacturing embraces some of the most advanced technology and solutions and ingenuity around technology than any other industry out there. So, I mean, that’s kind of how that manufacturer millennial brand an idea came about and what I’ve been doing Chris for the past year is taking those conversations and those ideas that there’s a lot more to manufacturing than what people think. And I take videos and content and discussions and podcasts on LinkedIn and other social media platforms to share with the audience to say, listen, there’s so much more to this industry than what you think is manufacturing and automation.

05:59 Chris: 

I mean, obviously, that’s done very well for you. 

06:01 Jake: 

What I think is really exciting is when you can go and talk with companies about attraction with the younger generation. And that it’s not just about the stereotypical idea of businesses have around millennials, right? Younger generations have the stereotype, an idea of what manufacturing is, where the professionals have this idea of around on what millennials are. And yeah, millennials are out there and yeah, some of them are lazy. Some of them want to pay a paycheck. Some of them feel very entitled, but there’s also a lot of millennials out there who want to drive purpose and opportunity and growth within companies. 

And I think there’s a lot of opportunities there within manufacturing companies to adopt new technologies, adopt digital tools and solutions in robotics and kind of the nine pillars of industry 4.0, that will attract a younger person to say, “Well, I can be super passionate about technology and modernization. And implement that passion I have within manufacturing.” And I think that’s where there’s a healthy balance of manufacturers bringing younger generations to the workforce. 

07:08 Chris: 

No doubt for sure, man. I am curious speaking to the manufacturing millennium, what it’s done for you because I mean, I’m sure there are listeners out there like, “I want to have that type of influence. I want to be able to help people like that.” You know, what has built that brand? What has that done for you from an opportunity standpoint? 

07:28 Jake: 

So I’ll take it as a two-part answer with the two different hats I wear. You know, daytime, a business development manager for Feyen Zylstra. We’ll start with that. That’s just opened up a lot of doors and conversation with new opportunities with companies, because I’m not out there like, you know, other companies are saying, “Hey, this is our datasheet. This is our product. This is our company line card.” That’s not what I’m doing. I’m not trying to shove products down your throat or solution or services that we have, but what I am trying to do is create awareness and conversation around manufacturing. And when that comes from authentic conversation, that’s what leads to new opportunities. So, I mean, that’s what, you know, the Manufacturing Millennial has helped me from a business development side.

Now from the other hat as a personal branding side, what it’s allowed me to have is just phenomenal conversations. And to build relationships and friendships with professionals in the industry that it would not have by just being a BDM for a systems integrator. And that’s where I feel like you can have so much more conversation because people do see my passion around manufacturing people do see my passion around industry 4.0 solutions and employee retention from the use of implementing new technology and employee retraction from that same solution. So I think that’s where the personal brand has just brought so much opportunity within meeting new people and relationships that I wouldn’t have had in another opportunity.

09:01 Chris: 

No doubt, man. I mean, thinking back through, you know, where you started, where you’ve come now and then what’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you because of the Manufacturing Millennial? 

09:10 Jake: 

Oh man. I would say the coolest thing is just the conversations that I get to have with all these different business leaders and CEOs and founders and head people within, you know, large manufacturing companies, but it’s also the fact that I could have a conversation one-on-one with the company that’s three people and talk to them about the same thing. So, I mean, it goes to the full scale of, yeah, I’m talking with some of the largest guys in the industry, but I’m also talking with that quote-unquote, small to medium-sized business about manufacturing and making a dramatic change for them just by having a simple conversation around automation.

09:51 Chris: 

Well man, you’re doing a great job. I mean, you’re a LinkedIn celebrity, my friend. I mean, people are connecting with you. I can only imagine there will be a day Wrigley field where there’ll be a Manufacturing Millennial Day and we’re talking manufacturing and we’re bringing people in. I can see you at home plate, throwing out the first pitch brother, it’s there. It’s going to happen. 

10:08 Jake: 

I’ll have to figure that maybe a Manufacturing Millennial meetup at Wrigley Field, that’d be fun. 

10:13 Chris: 

That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it? I can see the bobbleheads, man. Let’s make it happen. 

10:18 Jake: 

Absolutely. 

10:20 Chris: 

Very cool, man. So you’re out there. You’re supporting a lot of industries as a BDM as well. You know, what are you hearing? I mean, you’ve mentioned workforce attrition and the skills gap, but is that the biggest challenge that you’d see the industry has? Or there are others? 

10:35 Jake: 

You know, right now, in the current state of things, yeah. Manufacturers, warehouse distribution, that world is having really hard time finding labor right now and finding available workforces. I think that’s the biggest thing that companies are facing. And there’s a couple of reasons for that one is because your current environment is not attractive to the workforce.

Why would a person want to go work for a manufacturer that has this really outdated machine that’s 20 years old and they’re getting all these manual processes work versus go work for a large distribution company that’s going to pay you just about the same money, but you’re not having to put on, you know, safety glasses and wash up every time you get home from work.

So I think it’s forcing manufacturers to say, “Wow, I need to implement automation, not just to become more profitable and justify my ROI,” you know, my return on investment, “but really look at it from a return on opportunity that you’re presenting yourself.” And that’s where automation is really thriving in right now is it’s not to become more profitable or to have a 12 month or an 18-month payback or shorter. It’s I need automation because I can’t currently employ the current workforce that’s needed and I need the automation to make our manufacturing processes more attractive, to keep the people who are currently there working and staying at our company when there’s plenty of other industries that are popping up, that can be attracting them elsewhere. 

12:12 Chris: 

You know, and Jake, we usually, when I, talked to people and ask them about their advice, I’m asking about advice for the individuals themselves, but maybe for you, I’m curious, what advice would you offer to manufacturers on how to flip that? I mean, what should they start doing differently from a promotion or a social standpoint to really encourage people to come to the industry, to come to manufacturing to get the passion that you have behind it. So any advice for the actual manufacturers out there? 

12:38 Jake: 

Yeah. So I’m going to add on to that. So what can you do with your current employees? And I think let’s start with that. So what you can do with your current employees is continued growth and opportunity. Make them continue to learn and become more valuable to you. You have a guy who’s been working on your floor the entire time, and you guys split in your first robotic cell, why don’t you take him and send him to VANOC training or, you know, robot training for two weeks to make it more valuable, right? 

Because he feels like, “Wow, this company is investing in me to grow my own skills.” He is going to want to continue then to invest back in that because he feels the company’s investing in with him. He felt that the company is giving him more purpose rather than just trying to complete an eight-hour task every day. 

So the first thing is I think companies need to focus on internally, what can you do to make sure your current workforce that’s there, who has all the knowledge of your processes stays there. And how can you make those manufacturing processes simpler through the idea of collaborative robots or digital tools or automated data tracking instead of having to write down, you know, part counts every shift. Make that automated, you know, tie into your PLC and hook it up to a SCADA system. So you know what your OEE is on your machine instead of having to consistently write down the amount of scrap parts, you have every hour and calculate it that way. 

So that’s one thing I think now leaving outside the existing workforce and attracting the new workforce, I think companies need to do a better job projecting on what opportunity is within the company rather than just saying, this is your task that you’ll be doing 40 hours a week. but this is what we focus you on doing two years from now, or three years from now, or six months from now, we want to get you involved with these programs. We want to promote and hire within the company.

And I think manufacturing as a whole in the industry has some of the largest opportunities to be promoted within the company because of the scale of the size of the companies. There’s plenty of opportunities for you to continue to grow. So I would say that’s what manufacturers can do is communicate what opportunities are available for future workers, but also be able to say, “Hey, listen, we’re making your job and life easier by implementing automated solutions, industry 4.0 solutions. So you can focus more on the value that a human brings within their knowledge and skill, rather than just the manual labor of their hands.” 

15:06 Chris: 

Right. Perfect. I love it, man. How important though is it also to identify mentors and people who can help develop these groups as they come in? I mean, do you see any mentorship-type programs working in the manufacturing world? 

15:22 Jake: 

Absolutely. I mean, what I’m seeing is more companies leveraging local community colleges and skilled programs to go out there and teach them more. Yeah, there are companies that are doing it within, but what I am seeing more is of companies sending workers to community college, to get a mechatronics degree, to go out there and learn how to program a PLC that they haven’t programmed before or program a robot. That’s where I see value being added from manufacturers to continue to grow. 

15:53 Chris: 

Perfect. Last question on Manufacturing Millennial in the professional career, Jake, but when are you the happiest man? When do you get the most fulfillment and joy? 

16:03 Jake: 

I get a ton of enjoyment when I see people on LinkedIn comment or share something and say, “Wow, I learned something new. I never knew that’s how it was done before,” because for me that means I’m teaching them something that they’re going to hold on to and learn from down the road.

So I think when I can go out there and it’s not about when I close the sale. I mean, that’s great, but what I really love is when companies, when people say, “Wow, I learned something about manufacturing today,” because that just shows that manufacturing is a continued, evolving and growing industry.

16:39 Chris: 

It is man. It is. I mean, you’ve, put so many great videos out. I’ve learned so much about processes that just aren’t in my area, you know, I’ve been in the Southeast. So when you put some manufacturing videos out there just that are new to me, it’s just so fascinating. And so hats off to you, man. Love it.

So let’s talk outside of work. So let’s listen to what you enjoy doing for fun. So any hobbies? 

17:04 Jake: 

Well, man, I say my hobbies right now are running around with my three-year-old and one-year-old daughter and just, you know, managing them on a daily basis. So that keeps up a lot of my time.

But then other than that, you know, I love being outside. I love smoking a bunch of meats and barbecue and briskets and stuff. So you’ll find me on the weekends smoking some type of meat every Friday or Saturday. But right now it’s just, you know, spending time with friends and family. And now that the pandemic is shutting down, being able to get out some more watch or watch a lot of baseball, I’m a diehard Cubs fan. So catching any game I can on an afternoon or evening is as part of the enjoyment.

17:41 Chris: 

For sure. And do you get to go to a Wrigley often? 

17:44 Jake: 

The goal is to make it this year. I wasn’t able to make it to any games last year with it being shut down, but it was able to make it to the spring training games before they shut down the season, but yeah hopefully to make it do a couple of Wrigley games. 

17:57 Chris: 

All right, man. Hopefully, you make that happen for sure. For sure. So now you said you had a one-year-old and a three-year-old so both girls?

18:05 Jake: 

Yep, both girls.

18:06 Chris: 

I’m a girl dad, myself. So a brother, it gets really fun, man. Now they haven’t hit the teenage years yet. So I think that’s when the fun may shift a little bit, but right now when they’re younger, man, you’re the hero. 

18:19 Jake: 

It’s so much fun being a dad for sure.

18:22 Chris: 

What else would you like to share with us about your family, man? 

18:25 Jake: 

Oh man, I just. Oh, well, it just, the girls are just so much joy right now being able to go out and go to parks right now and getting involved in summer sports. So they get so much fun because the opportunity wasn’t there last year. So just being able to take them out, go to the zoo, go to the parks, do some adventure rides, I think is just as it’s the beginning to share experiences for the first time with your kids. There’s not much more enjoyment in life than that. 

18:53 Chris: 

No doubt. No doubt. It is the extended family, are they close by? Do you have a lot of family in the area? 

18:58 Jake: 

They’re kind of all over the place. My parents are here, but the wife’s parents are in Illinois and then my sister is in Utah, so we’re kind of all spread out across the US. 

19:08 Chris: 

Okay. Well, man, that sounds, it sounds like you got a great family and some fun times ahead of you for sure, man. So wish you the best there. How about things you enjoy doing for fun from my content standpoint, podcasts or YouTube, or any books? Anything that you enjoy that you’d like to share?

19:26 Jake: 

Yeah. I mean, for me, I have so much joy when it comes to the Manufacturing Millennial and growing that brand where it does not feel like a job. It does not feel like work. It’s just one of those things where having conversations around, you know, finding videos and content to share, produce and hopping on podcasts and doing, you know, Manufacturing Happy Hour events, drinking a beer, talking about manufacturing.

It’s fun. It’s fun to continue to learn. I think every time I hop on a podcast or having a discussion and I learn something new and continuing to learn is just something I’m all about. You know, that’s professional, man, what just is a lot of fun to do. 

20:05 Chris: 

You just love what you’re doing, man. People out there listening, they hope to find that passion that you have one day, man. So that’s great. Great stuff. Now, one thing we love to do, Jake, lightning round man, just random stuff. Throwing them out. And you fire back at will. I don’t even, I won’t even have to worry about the favorite sports team. We’ll just put that on the shelf cause we know where that answer’s going, right?

20:27 Jake: 

All right. Sounds good. 

20:30 Chris: 

All right. How about let’s just start it man, favorite food?

20:33 Jake: 

Smoked brisket. 

20:34 Chris: 

Smoked brisket. And now you did, you said you smoke a lot of that yourself on the weekends? 

20:38 Jake: 

And then I take it and turn it into brisket tacos.

20:41 Chris: 

Nice. Nice. Now, what type of grill you working with? I’m just curious here. 

20:46 Jake: 

The main one I go to is a Traeger 32 inch, pellet smoker. That’s, you know, it’s the man’s version of a Crock-Pot, you know, you put your meat out and you turn up the temperature, you set it and forget it. Come out six hours later, you wrap it and set out a little bit longer and you’re ready to go. 

21:03 Chris: 

Nice. Nice. Okay. How about, favorite adult beverage? 

21:07 Jake: 

Ooh, the Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin. 

21:12 Chris: 

Okay. I’ll have to, we’ll have to put a link out there on that one because I’m sure we have some listeners who want to check that one out. The spotted cow. Give me some more insight. What is it? What’s so special about that one? 

21:25 Jake: 

Well, you could actually only get it in Wisconsin. So every time I drive to Wisconsin, I bring back a couple of cases, but it’s just, it’s a very light, smooth beer that’s just really easy to drink and it’s got some great flavor.

21:37 Chris: 

All right. Fair enough. Fair enough. How about your all-time favorite movie? 

21:41 Jake: 

Ooh, all-time favorite movie, you know, Empire Strikes Back is going to be up there within that, but I would say for more modern all-time favorite movies, it’s probably going to be one of the Marvel Captain America ones. 

21:58 Chris: 

Nice. Love that stuff. That’s why I have Disney plus you know. 

22:01 Jake: 

Exactly. Oh 100%. 

22:04 Chris: 

How about music? 

22:06 Jake: 

Oh, you know, I enjoy my country music, but I would say, you know, country as genre is probably one of my favorites to listen to. And then also, you know, the typical modern hip-hop and stuff, as well is some great music to get into.

22:19 Chris: 

Very good. Very good. Who’s your favorite country artists? 

22:23 Jake: 

Probably Tim McGraw. 

22:24 Chris: 

All right. Going old school with Tim McGraw. Okay, nice. How about a destination somewhere you hadn’t been at you hoped to get to one day? 

22:34 Jake: 

New Zealand. 

22:35 Chris: 

How about somewhere? You have been that you just you’d love to go back? 

22:40 Jake: 

Cape Canaveral, Florida to watch some more Space X launches.

22:44 Chris: 

Oh, nice man. Nice. Very cool. Very cool. How about pets? Dogs or cats? 

22:52 Jake: 

I got two cats. I’ll be glad when the opportunity rises to get a dog. 

22:59 Chris: 

All right. You redeemed yourself. All right. All right. 

23:04 Jake: 

That selection was not my choice. 

23:07 Chris: 

I feel your brother. Well, this is great. You survived the lightning round. It was a lot of fun. I just like getting to know you, you shared with our guests so much insight, and then what you’re doing with the Manufacturing Millennial is amazing. We call it EECO Asks Why, we wrap it up with the why, Jake, and it just, it’s all about your passion.

So somebody wants to know what your personal, why is, but would that be? 

23:30 Jake: 

Oh, you know, I would say my personal, why is to share the opportunity that manufacturing has to offer with the upcoming generations and workforces. 

23:43 Chris: 

Very good. And you’re doing that better than anyone I’ve seen, man. It’s just hats off to you again, for those listening check out the show notes. We’ll have all the links to, to Jacob for his Manufacturing Millennial, as well as a Feyen Zylstra to the wonderful things they’re doing there. So you can check out all the cool resources he has. And Jake, thank you again for taking the time with us on EECO Asks Why. 

24:06 Jake: 

Appreciate it. Thanks for having me on Chris. 

24:11 Chris: 

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