Breaking the Stereotype: Millennials in Manufacturing

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Matties: It is, and to know that you are now part of it is incredible. Well done. That also relates to a topic our industry is talking more and more about, which is collaborative manufacturing. Today, you can’t throw a design over the wall and expect optimal results. The Mars project is a great example where they worked with you on what they needed, which made for a better product.

You started as a small business and grew from one person to numerous employees. You’ve diversified markets from hobby to aerospace. You’re also servicing the industrial sector as well as some of the recreational, and our readers may not realize how many applications where carbon products are used; they’re everywhere, kind of like PCBs. A lot of times, they’re hidden, and consumers may not even realize it.

Amelia Cook: If you look at almost any small-cabinet 3D printer, the printing arm runs along a carbon rod, which is just one example. Most people don’t even notice that it’s there, but every single one of them has one.

Matties: You’re 12 years in business, and the other thing that caught my attention is that you’re also millennials. As you know, there are some stereotypes about millennials out there. Are you an exception to the stereotypes?

Amelia Cook: We are millennials, and we employ many millennials.

Leland Holeman: And we all show up to work every day, all day.

Amelia Cook: One stereotype is that millennials feel entitled and that they’re not hardworking, but everyone here works hard. We’ve never felt that we would be at a disadvantage by hiring someone who’s young and starting out in manufacturing. Everybody wants to work hard, and they want to have value in what they’re doing. We can give them a purpose by showing them how to make something, send it out, and see what our customers are doing with it. We also treat people well and give them a stable, healthy place to work with a decent wage and some benefits.

Matties: They also look at leadership. They want to work somewhere where they feel valued and like their work has a purpose, as you mentioned. As a company that’s growing from selling parts to manufacturing, what were some of the challenges that you faced in the process?

Goodwinds-perspective.jpgLeland Holeman: Figuring out how to manufacture and create processes to make parts was challenging, such as what tools we needed to use. We’ve purchased a lot of different machines and rebuilt several in the process.

Amelia Cook: Again, 12 years ago, Leland and I ran every single aspect of the business. Leland cut the rods and tubes, and I did invoicing and purchasing. We went from just us two to having employees and helping them understand our vision. There’s a market here; we have the composites engineering expertise, and we’re good at it.

There’s a composite certificate program at the local community college, so we knew we could hire some knowledge in that arena. And I can’t rebuild machines, so we hired a production manager who loves to do that, he’s had to learn a lot on the job. We’ve been able to find the right people, figure out their strengths and passions, and encourage them to pursue those while simultaneously pursuing growth and opportunities for the business.

Everything that we have done in our expansion has been that way. We’ll say, “We think there is a market for micro-pultrusion.” We know that we want micro-pultruded rods, which is everything under 0.125 inches in diameter—tiny little pieces. We know we have customers for it, but we think there’s a bigger market, and we can’t get it anywhere else. So, how can we build a machine to do this?

We’ve had a lot of great buy-in from the company, but the machining aspect of it was driven from below. Our production manager and the other employees who worked for us said, “Our customers are asking for this, and we think we can do it. Here’s the kind of machine we would need to do it.” They have worked hard to figure it out. They have a lot of ownership, and we’ve worked hard to facilitate that.


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