Highlights from the 2015 MAPP Benchmarking Conference

Highlights from the 2015 MAPP Benchmarking Conference


The 2015 Manufacturers Association of Plastics Processors (MAPP) held its annual Benchmarking & Best Practices conference in Indianapolis last month.

The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) held its annual conference October 21 to 23 in Indianapolis, and I was fortunate to attend and represent PMT at the event. It was my first venture to the Benchmarking & Best Practices conference, and I was pleased to see the venue provided refreshing learning experiences, ample networking opportunities and conversations that sparked ideas for the year to come. After thinking over the events of the conference for the past couple weeks, I found that some continuous threads bound together much of the conference.

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. The importance of gratitude.

Taking time to express gratitude is one of the most simple, immediate and effective changes we can make to drastically improve the quality of our lives. After hearing MAPP executive director Troy Nix speak, I learned how the act of expressing gratitude does many things—it attracts what we want; improves relationships; helps us learn; reduces physical and mental stress; and addresses life’s purpose. This expression can be as simple as saying “thank you” or “I am grateful for you”, or as involved as writing a letter or giving a speech.

The bottom line comes from Nix, who said: “When we consciously practice being grateful for the people, situations and resources around us, we become better leaders, we uplift our own spirit and our own motivation, and our impact and inspiration on others.” Nix also pointed to the importance of not “closing the loop”—by leaving open continued opportunities for expressing gratitude, we can encourage ourselves and others to keep paying it forward.

2. The power of influence. 

As the namesake of the conference, this important theme came with many takeaways. Keynote speaker Joseph Grenny highlighted how decades of social science research informs a powerful model of influence. During his presentation, Grenny defined leadership as “intentional influence”, and showed how using influence in a leadership capacity can solve complex and profound challenges. “The most important capacity we possess is our ability to influence ourselves and others,” Grenny said.

3. The employment gap can be bridged. 

There is a disconnect between the millennial workforce who need (or will need) jobs and the manufacturers who provide the jobs—and there are people, right here in the plastics industry, pioneering solutions to bridge the gap.

Noel Ginsburg and his team at InterTech Plastics, Inc. in Colorado are transforming their state’s Workforce Development system with an industry-driven approach to education. His plan to connect theory with practice is modeled after the Swiss Vocational Education System, and presents a scalable framework for changing the pattern of investment in education as philanthropy to investment in education as a core business strategy. Driven by experiential learning, this approach has the potential to ensure a pipeline of trained apprentices will fill the oft-bemoaned and prevalent employment gaps in our industry.

4. America is what America makes.

Here’s some fun facts to mull over: The U.S. manufacturing sector is the 10th largest economy in the world. Manufacturing is the #2 contributor to GDP in America. The GDP of Texas is equivalent to the GDP of the entire country of Canada.

These are just a few of the fun snippets I heard during Dr. Chris Kuehl’s informative (and humorous) presentation on the current state of our economy. His discussion also ties into point #3 above, because the only way we can ensure America keeps making things is to have a trained workforce in action. The average age of manufacturing industry workers is on the rise (the average age of a skilled industrial welder is 65), and when skilled workers retire, they take their trade knowledge with them. The next generation needs jobs but has limited skills. Training, along with promoting the trades as a viable education path, can close that gap. We the makers must continue to reflect the real image of modern manufacturing, so it better tells the story of the fascinating hi-tech industry it has become today.

5. Embrace change. 

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” —Ben Franklin

This great quote came out of a presentation by Chris Gedwed of Cosmetic Specialties International. His presentation underlined the importance of embracing and adapting to change to stay competitive. This theme was carried through the conference, with several speakers hitting on the need to innovate to remain relevant. Investment in new technology—and especially in new equipment—is vital.

Plante Moran’s Jeff Mengel noted one necessary and overdue change is industry-wide investment in new equipment. According to Plante Moran’s 2015 North American Plastics Industry Study, the average age for injection molding presses across the industry is 11.6 years. PMT has been on a mission to upgrade equipment over the past 3 years, replacing dated hydraulic presses with all-electric efficient models. We recognize in our operations that innovation starts with machinery—and spreads through the entire operation, informing changes from the tool room to the front office.

Why is change so important?

According to Plante Moran: “As the economy has globalized, the domestic processors have had to innovate to compete at a global level…If your productivity paradigm is rooted in your experience from 10 years ago, you will be 17% behind your competition.”

Jennifer Perez, Marketing Communications 

To learn more about MAPP and the conference, click below.