A new documentary, Manufacturing the Future, explores challenges facing American manufacturing

Source: Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Mar 03, 2011

Is manufacturing dead in Wisconsin? It's a provocative question for any state, as local communities are finding they have to take more responsibility for their own longevity in today's global manufacturing environment. "Manufacturing the Future — A Documentary — Is manufacturing dead in Wisconsin?" premiered at the Green Bay Film Festival on Saturday, February 26, at 5:30 p.m. at the KI Convention Center, 333 Main Street, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The film was co-produced by award-winning filmmakers, Dean Thomas and Alex Zacarias, of Educational Television Productions of Northeast Wisconsin and took three years to produce. It includes over 1,983 video and audio clips of interview footage with experts throughout the state of Wisconsin responding to questions on how to solve today's manufacturing challenges if there is to be a tomorrow for this industry. "Manufacturing the Future" is scheduled to air on Wisconsin Public Television in June 2011 with an exact date to be announced.

The creative use of no narration in the program explores these hard issues by using a series of small stories that are interwoven and held together by comments shared by industry leaders and a modern day blacksmith as they share their thoughts on the future of manufacturing.

According to today's mass media reports on the closing of factories and paper mills one would think that Wisconsin's manufacturing is a thing of the past - or is it? The real questions are how and what is needed to solve the future of manufacturing in Wisconsin. Where are the jobs going to come from? What skills are needed by the next generation of manufacturers? How do you address the issues of clean energy? The answers are not all that simple.

One of the programs compelling stories looks at a small business owner's manufacturing specialty shop as he shares his personal story of fighting the conventional wisdom of education and his hopes for success for his daughter who will be next in line in running the business. Another story looks at the role of women in manufacturing since Rosie the Riveter to a present day CEO. Also, a story on the issue of sustainability and manufacturing is also explored as being vital to manufacturing's future. One of the main themes that run throughout these stories is the role of Wisconsin's educational institutions that have worked and continue to work with the manufacturing industry in ensuring its future.

These educational institutions, K-12 through college have evaluated and are mandating more stringent curriculum, beginning with the very young, and are introducing more challenging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum. The documentary's website shines a light on manufacturing and educational resources to help prepare young people and their parents

SME Education Foundation Director, Bart A. Aslin says, "We were pleased to provide funding for the "Manufacturing the Future" documentary website. The questions posed and the solutions offered are not specific to Wisconsin; they are applicable to states across the country whose economic stability will be affected by their ability to educate, innovate and re-invent themselves."

Aslin, his board of directors representing major industry, small business, educators and associations, are committed to changing public perception of manufacturing as an industry and influencing young people to use their different gifts to the best of their ability. To that end, the Foundation continues to provide financial support with awards and scholarships, and funds project-based curricula and activities designed to motivate learning for young people.