WRITTEN BY JOHN MORTON
WEDNESDAY, 05 JULY 2017 13:56
The art of the hire in the manufacturing world is an ongoing focal point with Molded Dimensions.
Roadside flags reading “now hiring” are commonplace at Port Washington’s Molded Dimensions on Sunset Road, but Mike Katz knows there’s more to recruiting a workforce than a little advertising flash.
Katz, co-owner of the custom molder of rubber and cast polyurethane components that serve a wide range of industries from medical to mining, has been hands-on in studying how to find the right manufacturing employees in what can be a challenging pursuit.
He joined a board that focuses on the trades, learned about the power of social media, entered into job fairs, and brought students and their families into his building during an annual high school Manufacturing Day.
As a result, the business that started in 1954 and now boasts about 100 workers is in the vanguard of maintaining an employee pipeline.
“Our hiring needs are mostly the result of growth. We’re going along at a nice clip,” said Katz, who noted his business has seen an increase beyond 20% compared to this time last year.
Today, he has about five job openings for all three shifts.
“But it’s also about succession planning — replacing those who have been here 25 or 30 years with people who will have already been here awhile. It’s not about urgency.”
What it’s about he said, is marketing and tackling the misconceptions surrounding the manufacturing world.
“Yeah, there are people who envision an assembly-line setting, like what they see in the movies. Everyone remembers Lucille Ball having to eat the chocolates because they just kept coming and coming,” Katz said with a laugh.
“Ten years ago I joined the MATC (Milwaukee Area Technical College) board because I wanted to better understand why people enter into a manufacturing career and why they don’t. What I learned is that we need more and better marketing.”
That started with promoting the growth and career potential in manufacturing.
“We know there are kids out there who like to use their hands — maybe they’re the type who change their own motor oil — but they had an uncle who was laid off from a plant. In the 1980s and 1990s, manufacturers were good at that and that hurt our reputation,” Katz said. “But they were trying to meet short-term quotas and we’ve learned to have a better long-term focus.
“So, we need to explain how there is longevity today and how other markets have become saturated. Ten years ago, if you wanted to work the MRI machine or be an X-ray technician, you got a job right away. Now, you don’t. There are 26-year-olds today doing that work part time and struggling. We hope that message ripples down to the 18-year-old. Today, jobs are market driven.”
Furthermore, Katz emphasizes that not all positions in manufacturing involve work on the factory floor.
“In our last round of hirings, two of them were engineers,” he said. “The kids who study math and science can have a career here.”
Meanwhile, he noted that nearly half his workforce is made up of women.
“People don’t always realize you don’t have to be a big, 200-pound guy to work in this setting,” Katz said.
In regard to job fairs, Katz has tried to keep things big picture.
“It’s less about the specific business and more about the manufacturing career,” he said. “You don’t need to know about rubber molding — we’re going to teach you that. We want to know that you want to be here.”
Is finding third-shift workers a challenge?
“It can be for some, but not for us,” Katz said. “We’ve attended job fairs where we’re exclusively looking for third shift to make sure it’s the right fit.”
Manufacturing Day is another tool Katz uses for showcasing the manufacturing life. This year, three businesses played host to students.
“We have a relationship with Port Washington High School where we bring about 100 kids through,” he said. “We rotated them between us, KMC Stamping and Construction Forms and had them here during the overlapping of second and third shifts. We wanted them and their parents to walk around and see the operation up close and personal.”
Finally, Molded Dimensions instituted a unique ownership structure that Katz feels creates a family setting.
“My wife Linda and I own two-thirds and the employees own the other third,” he said. “In our system, 20% of their wages can go toward retirement.
“They also have a vested interest in their co-workers, who they’ll want to see succeed and will work to teach those who are committed. If there’s one who isn’t a good fit, they’ll have a voice regarding that as well.
“It’s a really cool dynamic.”