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Ned Blome is Missouri Enterprise’s Area Business Manager for metropolitan St. Louis and St. Charles county. With a large book of long-term clients, Ned’s knowledge, experience and observational skills make him a valued partner who knows how to listen and ask the right questions that will help drive solutions. He’s constantly meeting new manufacturers and has a finger on the pulse of the manufacturing community in Missouri.

Q: How’s manufacturing doing in 2018, Ned?
A: From my perspective, awesome. I believe the attitude among manufacturers has
changed dramatically for the better. Companies seem to believe again that they can continue to grow sustainably into the future. The trend is there…not fully there yet but things are much more positive and moving in the right direction. I’m excited about it.

Q: The ISO 9001:2015 deadline is coming up fast. Are ISO registered
companies ready to meet that challenge?
A: Some have heeded the call, and unfortunately some have not. We’ve helped dozens of manufacturers with their transition to the new ISO 9001:2015 in the last year alone, so we know a lot of manufacturers have taken this deadline seriously…they know how important their ISO certifications are and they’ve been proactive about keeping everything current. They know it could cost them some serious business if they miss the boat. But I know there are manufacturers out there who are still struggling to come up the curve and prepare for the new ISO standard. I get it. It’s tough to do, and many companies are running so thin it’s difficult to dedicate the internal resources to getting the job done. They really need to get someone like us in there to help them. The transition process to ISO 9001:2015 takes about 6 months start to finish for most companies, so manufacturers who haven’t gotten moving on this yet pretty much have three months left to do 6 months’ worth of work.

Q: What’s your take on the hottest topic out there for manufacturers right now?
A: Do you really even need to ask? Workforce. No question it’s the biggest thing on manufacturers’ minds these days. They are craving for people who are motivated enough to put in a solid day’s work, learn and grow with their company. It’s super tough for employers right now, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon, unfortunately. The other big topic is Lean and continuous improvement. With the workforce situation the way it is, manufacturers need to maximize their efficiencies and get as much as they can out of what they have. When the skilled people you need to grow are tough to come by, you’d better be maxing out your operational efficiencies at all levels.

Q: Any thoughts on what manufacturers should be doing about their workforce challenges?
A: Absolutely! Manufacturers needs to be better at promoting themselves and painting a better picture of the good careers they have to offer. They need to do more! They need to do it as individual companies, so they can attract good workers, and they need to join in a concerted effort to promote the manufacturing industry. I recently went on a tour at a fairly large, modern manufacturing facility who had invited a group of high school kids to come and learn about what they do. It was impressive. These young people were amazed at what they saw, and more importantly, they were engaged. They asked great questions and you could just see on their faces that they were interested and seeing manufacturing in a new light. They didn’t realize how high-tech things are in production facilities today, and they learned that maybe they might be more interested in a manufacturing career than they thought. When it’s promoted properly, the enthusiasm is there among the young people. They’re the future of manufacturing and we need to do a much better job of appealing to them. MFG Day 2018 is coming up in October. Manufacturers in Missouri need to engage in that and promote themselves and their industry.