Spotlight on Local Manufacturer Underlines the Importance of Manufacturing

Manufacturing is the cornerstone of American innovation, and is one of the most dynamic industries contributing “the most economic activity per dollar of production than any other business sector in the country.” (Source: National Association of Manufacturers). Despite its dominant role, manufacturers across the board are facing severe challenges that threaten to choke the future/growth of the industry.

Mick Augustin, manufacturing manager at Vulcan Machines is among the 13,000 manufacturers in Florida who share some of these concerns. Vulcan Machine Inc., located in Tampa, FL is a classic example of a home-grown manufacturer. The company was established in 1978, and manufactures parts for a diverse range of industries that include aerospace and aircraft manufacturers, sensor and electronics components, mining equipment, industrial dryers and presses, custom tooling, and semiconductor processing systems. Commitment to “Quality On-Time Performance” remains a firm tradition at Vulcan, and a secret to its long-term success.

Vulcan prides in its state-of-the art manufacturing facility that performs a number of modern manufacturing operations like CNC vertical and horizontal milling, CNC turning, and robotic production welding. In addition to these automated processes, manual machining and manual lathe work for turning are still performed at Vulcan. “Quality is built into each part we produce, and we are proud to say we have achieved ship-to-stock status with many of our valued customers” Augustin said. Vulcan Machine’s business structure is compliant with ISO 9002, and customers can be assured each of its procedures are targeted to meet customers’ specifications and needs.

Despite remarkable attributes of manufacturers like Vulcan, general misconception of manufacturing as a grease-soaked profession, lack of qualified, skilled workers, high corporate tax rates, and compliance costs are major challenges that Augustin and fellow U.S. manufacturers contend with on a continual basis. According to a report released by NAM in 2009 “only 17 percent of those surveyed listed manufacturing in their top two industries of choice to start a career, and only 30 percent of parents stated they would encourage their children to pursue jobs in manufacturing." Clearly, there exists a disconnect between reality and general conceptions about manufacturing.

Against mounting competition, Augustin points to education as one of the sharpest tools in any manufacturer’s tool-kit. He says theoretical knowledge alone is inadequate and students need to set standards that extend beyond a high school diploma. Fundamental knowledge of mathematics, physics, and soft skills that are transferable across different industries are essential in today’s high-tech workplace.

Manufacturers as well as educators play a critical role in changing perceptions and attracting students to pursue careers/educational pathways in manufacturing. Vulcan Machine, for example, is one of FLATE’s strategic partners in offering the “Made in Florida” industry tours that gives middle and high school students a first-hand overview of modern manufacturing operations. The company hires students and incumbent workers to work on projects that give them an opportunity to apply theoretical skills learned in the classroom. Vulcan also partners with Pinellas Tech Center on a number of student-related projects, and has hired two student interns, who took engineering technology degree courses at HCC, for summer employment. Besides theoretical knowledge and hands-on training, Mick Augustin believes the internet and the media are effective tools in raising awareness, and industry as well educators need to tap into these resources to promote manufacturing to current and prospective students.

For more information on Vulcan Machine Inc. visit www.vulcanmachine.com, or contact Mick Augustin at Mick1@vulcanmachine.com.