manufacturing

What I Did At School Today

Today was my rescheduled time to talk to Daniel’s class about my job. You might remember that my scheduled time last week was postponed due to vomitapalooza (my car still remembers and so do I when the air is just right).  Unfortunately, today didn’t start off well because there was a wreck on the interstate that caused major traffic issues.  Daniel and I were in the car for an hour and arrived 20 minutes late.

The teachers graciously let me have a few minutes, and I sat down in a minuscule chair with my props.  I had decided to focus more on what my organization does (works with manufacturers) and then talk a teeny tiny bit about what I do (market research & playing with data), capped off with Krispy Kreme doughnut holes…made in NC you know!

I started off by showing some of the products made in North Carolina I thought they might recognize: a can of Campbell soup (they don’t like tomato soup based on the chorus of “ewwwws” the can received), a hat with Cheerwine on it, deodorant, and last but not least a model of a school bus (Thomas Built Buses are made in the Triad).  Then I explained that my job was to talk to manufacturers and pass along that information to my coworkers so they could help them better. I figured that sounded better than “I stare at my monitor all day while I crunch data and attend a billion meetings.”

The teachers guided questions about what my hours were like, what I studied in college to do my job, who I work with, etc., but the kids’ questions were priceless as I had been warned.

One little girl asked my favorite question:

Do you get to eat candy at work?

She was on a candy kick, apparently, because her next few questions and comments all revolved around whether candy was available and how much of it she would eat!

Another little girl was very interested in where I eat lunch and whether I like the band that plays at the university’s sporting events.  A different little girl asked how old you had to be to work where I do.

The children, all 4 and 5-year-olds, were mostly well behaved and adorable.  They also had the attention span I expected them to have and made me laugh a lot.

There wasn’t time for me to give them the doughnut holes then, but I left them with the teachers for them to have after lunch.  I was thrilled to find a sweet card from the class in Daniel’s backpack today.

pre-K card

Card from D’s Pre-K Class

I hope my talk was a bit interesting.  At the very least, maybe I left them with an idea that we still make things in North Carolina. Daniel wouldn’t leave my side the entire time I was in his class, and I hope he was proud of me.

Who knew that speaking to a Pre-K class would be as nerve-wracking as it was?

***

PS Thank you all for the support on my wreck and the humiliation I felt (and still feel a bit). While I wish none of us suffered from this fear or have had similar situations, I’m glad to know I’m not alone. I’m going to start chanting, “You’re human. You’re human. Mistakes are a part of life.” I’m truly grateful for your support and commiseration.

Breaking Bad, Manufacturing and Meth

It probably won’t be a surprise that I have a Google news alert setup at work on “NC manufacturing.” Usually it gives me relevant news on manufacturing in the state, which I will then disseminate through the organization and possibly put on our website. Sometimes, though, the alerts include items on meth labs found and arrests made because the articles use the terminology of “manufacturing meth.” I giggle when I see the meth items because it seems so silly for them to show up in my news alert on manufacturing, but it’s technically accurate.

Meth is a manufactured drug. All drugs – legal or illegal – are the result of manufacturing because they fit the definition of taking a raw material and turning into a finished product that has value. The pharmaceutical industry is part of the manufacturing sector. If producing meth were legal, it would be categorized under NAICS code 325 (pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing). Heck, if meth production were legal, my organization would be chomping at the bit to help them make their processes more efficient, study their supply chain and even help them enter new markets because meth is a growth industry in NC. Then we could survey those companies to identify the economic impact of our work and make our federal funders happy.

This post has taken a strange turn.

Jimmy and I share slightly obsessive tendencies. When something interests us, we immerse ourselves in it, especially when it comes to entertainment (No, we are not cooking or taking meth. Promise). Last summer, we bought the entire series of The Office, a show we never watch in prime time, and watched every episode in order every night after Daniel was in bed and during nap times (we’re ignoring the post-Michael Scott era). Then it was Downton Abbey season 1 and season 2. Again, every night and nap time. Our new obsession is Breaking Bad (every night and nap time). THAT is why meth is on my mind.

I’m so fascinated by the premise of Breaking Bad and the process of making meth. I did not enjoy chemistry in high school and was frustrated by the math involved. I didn’t understand chapter 2 on mole/mole and mole/mass ratios and thought that would be ok. Little did I know those concepts formed the foundation for the rest of the class. Oops. I also told my chemistry teacher that I did not believe in atoms. I do, truly, but I still marvel how scientists could predict their existence and calculate them hundreds of years before they had the technology to see them. Chemistry might as well be magic as far as I’m concerned. My brain doesn’t work that way.

But I’m fascinated by Breaking Bad. While the chemistry Walter White teaches to his high school classes is boring and inaccessible, watching him make incredibly pure meth because he understands and can wield the chemistry behind it is sexy. He is sexy. His brain is sexy.

When I trained to teach high school English, I focused on trying to make literature and its lessons and meanings as relevant as possible for my students. I made note of Shakespeare film adaptations like Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet, O, and 10 Things I Hate About You and Jane Austen adaptations like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Clueless (dating myself here). I used a clip from Legends of the Fall to bring alive the horrors of WW1 and trench warfare depicted in All Quiet on the Western Front. I played “Imagine” during my unit on existentialism. And honestly, maybe that’s just how my brain works. Always trying to make connections. A wealth of useless knowledge you know.

Science struggles with the same issues of relevancy. So does manufacturing. At work we constantly try to find ways to illustrate the importance of manufacturing and its coolness through plant tours, blog posts and pictures. I’ve even created a Pinterest board. I wish that that high school students could watch Breaking Bad in their chemistry classes. Obviously making an illegal drug is not the message to impart to them, but watching the seductive, beautiful process of taking raw ingredients and making them into flawless meth could bring home the lesson that science and chemistry are relevant and important. Necessary. Required.

In high school I had friends who turned a princess telephone into a bong. That was an impressive feat of innovation and engineering, and I wished they had applied that same focus and ingenuity to their school work. They are willing to do that work to create a tool for an illegal drug; why can’t they see the connection to what they learn in school?

This post is clearly rambling. Breaking Bad is a good show. I’m not cooking , dealing or taking meth. I guess I wish that our educational system was a little more real. We have serious, serious issues in this country, and we’re going to need students to be engaged and connected to what they are learning in order to create the next generation of problem solvers. To understand that science is cool and is not abstract. That manufacturing is amazing and the bedrock of our economy and society. That books aren’t boring and dusty but contain truths as meaningful today as hundreds of years ago.

Have I worried you?

What TV show or movie do you find yourself oddly obsessed with?

Sucky Sickness & Sinuses

This week was busy & one of those in which you feel a step behind the entire time. Daniel brought home day care illness #5, 049, 221. He didn’t seem to feel bad other than a cough and a runny nose, but it hit me last Saturday and is still hanging around causing trouble. Who knew snot could be so…green? And copious? And…I’ll stop. I do vaguely remember a time when I didn’t get sick.

Don’t I look pitiful? Swollen eyes, throbbing head…good times.

Last Sunday, Daniel decided that sleeping at night was optional and after being awake from 1am until 1pm, fell asleep on his favorite pillow: me.

Apparently I make a really awesome pillow

Wednesday, my snot and I went to Lexington for a work event, and it was the highlight of the week and one of my favorite things to do at work. It is so inspiring to fill a room with manufacturers and hear their stories, especially in a plant that had been slated for closure until the plant manager began making improvements that turned around the plant. I wasn’t only an observer at this event: I presented on a grant-funded project I am part of. It was spectacularly awesome because we had technical difficulties. Apparently my years of theater paid off because I maintained a modicum of poise and soldiered on. Even better, my mother was in attendance because she works close by. As I attempted to present, I noticed her taking pictures as if it were my 4th grade play. All at once: awwwwwwww!!

Manufacturing Makes It Real Network Members

I’ve been popping sudafed all week, so hopefully my coworkers and anyone else have been enjoying my addled, occasionally manic state. This…plague is the never-ending illness and today Jimmy awoke with the all-too familiar symptoms of scratchy throat, fever & snot. Yay.

I got it together enough to cease my zombie-like shuffling around the house to take Daniel to a birthday party at a local museum this afternoon. A Daniel that had not napped in an environment with lots of kids and animals. We survived. Barely. No animals were hurt, and Daniel kept it together enough to add sugary icing and ice cream to his exhausted state.

Sugar! More sugar on top of exhaustion please!

Daniel just fell asleep. Time for us to med up, eat and watch Breaking Bad, our new addiction (ha ha).

May next week be calmer & healthier. The temperature today was unseasonably cool for August and if I pretended, I could almost believe it were Autumn. Autumn is when I feel like I come alive. Soon……

Friday Foolishness: Succubus

I cannot believe it is Friday, but oh, how glad I am it is. This week has been intense. If it were a person, I’d call it a succubus. A soul-killing, brain-stealing succubus.

My Week

  • We went out of town to visit my mother last weekend. A 24-hour visit necessitated packing like were going to be away for 24 days and managed to get all of us off our routines all week. No one slept well. Naps were boycotted. Meltdowns ensued. The suitcase has not been unpacked, and we haven’t gone to the grocery store all week.
  • I pitched a hissy fit at work on Monday.
  • I woke up with a scratchy throat yesterday that I hoped was due to allergies but I think is actually a cold. After falling asleep last night at 9pm (I party hard), I woke up at 1:30 AM. Willing myself back to sleep didn’t work, so I used the time profitably to plan my spring/summer wardrobe on eBay.
  • I’ve been slowly creeping out of my shell and meeting some awesome people. I had a lunch date 2 weeks ago, one next week, a play date next weekend and another lunch date in the works. Today I attended a Femfessionals connection lunch and met more people after finding out about it from Brandy. More to come on these efforts!
  • I’ve read only 40 pages this week.

Interesting Reads

  • NPR aired a 4-part series on surrogacy this week that was refreshingly free of sensation and well done: Making Babies: 21st Century Families
  • In the wee hours of the morning after I had planned my wardrobe, I came across this post on Twitter: 20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes. I have to admit that I was pretty humbled by some of the mistakes included because I have been guilty of making them without realizing it. What a blow to my English major ego!
  • Forget the Factories: Slate‘s article suggests that the government stop its silly focus on rebuilding the manufacturing sector. Given where I work, you can guess that I disagree vehemently with Mr. Yglesias. I include the article because it illustrates the common misconception that R&D can be effectively separated from manufacturing and that our ability to innovate is what provides our competitive edge. He’s wrong. Innovation and manufacturing go hand in hand. As well, not all companies are created equal when it comes to community impact. A manufacturing facility creates jobs in the community beyond those in the facility. An Amazon does not.
  • Law Momma posted a seven-part series on the break up of her marriage. It was raw, brutal and riveting, and I am in awe of her strength to be able to post something so personal as well as how she accepted her part of the break up.
  • So, you’ve heard of BDSM sensation Fifty Shades of Grey, right? Well, Katie Roiphe wrote “Working Women’s Fantasies” in Newsweek about how its success speaks to the current popularity of sexual domination. I read a few articles critical of Roiphe’s article and tweeted one of them. A professional dominatrix (!) replied to me and told me Roiphe’s piece was correct. This is why I love Twitter!
  • I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Mrs. Lusher yet, but the food she posts on her blog is amazing. She had a simple post about sauvignon blanc yesterday, and I smiled as I read it. I feel the same way about white wine and I, too, am glad white wine season is here.

I hope your week was free from drama and hissy fits!

A Passion for Making Things

Today’s prompt for NaBloPoMo:

What is your secret (or not-so-secret) passion?

I love how these prompts make me think.  What am I passionate about?  I discarded several ideas and almost concluded that I was a passionless person until finally…eureka!

I am passionate about manufacturing.  About making things in the United States and specifically in North Carolina.

Kind of bizarre, right?

I have worked for 11 years (my second real job after college) at an organization whose mission it is to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers stay in business by helping them with process improvements, regulatory compliance and growth strategies.  We are funded by the Feds and state government, so to say I’m nervous about all the budget cuts is an understatement.   We are fortunate, though, in that our client projects are surveyed by an independent third party, so we can quantify the impacts we help clients realize.  Humor me while I brag a bit: in 4 years we helped NC manufacturers realize $1 billion in economic impact for the state.  We don’t only work with manufacturers but also government, healthcare, and other sectors.  One of the hats that I wear is to oversee our reporting requirements for our stakeholders.

So that’s the background.  When I started this job, I had never been in a manufacturing facility.  I listened to all the news reports about manufacturing being a dying industry and assumed it was true, wondering if my organization’s days were numbered if we continued to (foolishly I thought) focus on manufacturers.  Over the years, though, as I matured and began to visit facilities and discover the truth about manufacturing’s importance to the economy, how it was changing from a low-skilled industry to one demanding technologically-savvy workers, my opinion towards manufacturing began to change: manufacturing is cool AND it’s vital for our economy.

Facts

  • Did you know that manufacturing contributes the greatest percentage to NC’s GDP?
  • Did you know that NC is 4th in the nation and first in the Southeast for manufacturing productivity?
  • Did you know that NC is 3rd in the nation for manufacturing efficiency?
  • Did you know that manufacturing wages tend to be higher than wages for other sectors?
  • Did you know that one manufacturing job creates many other jobs in the community?
  • And, did you know that contrary to popular opinion, many manufacturing jobs do exist in the state and the country; the problem is that employers are having a hard time finding skilled workers.

Passion

After that litany of facts, I guess my passion for manufacturing is clear.  Over the last few years, I’ve begun to wonder how this country has come to scorn the honest work of making something with your hands.  I can’t work a drill or a CNC machine, but the enjoyment I get from digging in the dirt with bare hands or mixing a homemade cake batter seems similar.  Making things is cool.

Last year, my organization held a bus tour.  For one giddy week we travelled around the state with a tractor trailer (made in NC!) acting as a rolling museum of some 300 items made in NC.  We had everything from tortilla chips to furniture to plastic deer to high-end servers.  It was awe-inspiring to see the variety of items made here.   Even better were the presentations of manufacturers.  Their pride was evident as they explained what they made, how many they employed, whether they were hiring.  The biggest cheers came if they exported to China or other countries.

The media likes to tell the story that manufacturing is dead or dying, but that’s not true.  As a matter of fact, manufacturing has grown each of the last 27 months and is the one bright spot in an otherwise grim economy.

This English lit geek loves going into plants now.  Each one has its own story to tell, and I’m proud of being part of an organization whose mission it is to help these companies thrive and prosper.  A country that doesn’t make things will not survive, and I’m proud of efforts to promote Made in NC items.  We’re even thinking of partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house entirely with items made in NC; amazingly, we think it’s possible from the Caterpillar machines digging the plot to cement for the foundation to carpet to windows to appliances to patio furniture.

Hopefully my passion is contagious.  The next time you hear someone declare manufacturing unimportant to this country’s economy, please set them straight.  Manufacturing has an image problem that we need to correct before it’s too late.

Incidentally, here are a few things made in NC:

  • Holly Aiken bags
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • EMC servers
  • Electrolux appliances
  • LED lights
  • Texas Pete
  • Spanx(!)
  • Brooks Brothers shirts
  • Pergo flooring
  • Various military gear
  • Prescription drugs
  • Campbell soup
  • Goodyear tires

See a slideshow of pics.

Wordless Wednesday: The President of the United States

Ticket for admittance to President Obama's speech at NC State today

Why yes, I did spend my lunch with President Obama. Only I was with about 13,000 other people, crammed into Reynolds Coliseum (which has no air conditioning by the way). Lunch was three tic-tacs. Obama’s speech was great, though, and it was even sweeter because a client of my company’s was the recipient of his plant visit and its CEO introduced President Obama. Definitely one for the memory book.