July 2, 2020
8 insightful answers in less
than 8 minutes
Internet of Business’ IoB 8×8 Series is designed to reveal more about the people who have helped shape IoB’s live event and digital content over the years, picking the key industry brains who have dedicated
time to educating peers.
Allison Grealis, President, Women in Manufacturing shares advice on managing culture, and underlines why manufacturers’ diversity and inclusion efforts are so critical to maintaining competitiveness.
IoB: In one line, what is the main objective of Women in Manufacturing?
A: To support, promote and inspire women who have chosen a career in manufacturing.
IoB: How are new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) reshaping manufacturing?
A: New technology is undoubtedly changing the landscape of the manufacturing industry. This is, broadly, good news. Specifically, it’s good for recruiting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce attracted to high-tech, high skill jobs. Technology makes the industry more appealing – and more accessible – to the next generation of leaders who want to push the limits of the possible. At WiM, we see a lot of enthusiasm for manufacturing among young women who are eager to apply advanced manufacturing to solve large problems.
“Technology makes the industry more appealing – and more accessible – to the next generation of leaders who want to push the limits of the possible.“
IoB: And what can the industry still improve on when it comes to preparing for the smart manufacturing workforce?
A: Transition is not new for manufacturing. Since its very beginnings, our industry has been constantly evolving and adapting. We will approach the transition to smart manufacturing as we have other times of transition – with a commitment to advancement through training. One key is to cultivate and maintain strong collaboration between the industry and education institutions. First, it is critical that the next generation workforce brings the right skills for success in today’s industry. Secondly, rapid changes mean that our workforce has to be committed to lifetime learning. At WiM, we work with women at many different points in their careers to sharpen their skills through training. That constant challenge and opportunity for personal and professional growth is something our members like best about the manufacturing sector. Our industry thrives when we foster that drive for perpetual improvement.
“Transition is not new for manufacturing. Since its very beginnings, our industry has been constantly evolving and adapting. We will approach the transition to smart manufacturing as we have other times of transition – with a commitment to advancement through training.”
IoB: Managing culture change is never easy, especially when bringing previously disparate teams together, for example IT and OT. What three tips can you share with manufacturers for managing culture change?
A: Culture transformation takes commitment from all levels of the organization. Breakthroughs come when company leaders expand their focus beyond the basics of process, cost, quality and delivery. A more holistic – and people-first – approach is needed to effectuate change. My top three tips for managing through change are: (1) Be transparent. Clear and consistent communication with all employees is a must. (2) Be accountable. Create standards and apply them consistently to all employees at all levels of the organization. (3) Be empathetic. Change is hard – combat change fatigue by regularly checking in with employees and reminding them of their importance to the health and success of the company.
IoB: Why is it important for manufacturers and other companies to step up their diversity and inclusion efforts in order to fulfill their workforce needs?
A: Put simply, manufacturing in America can never reach maximum competitiveness if manufacturing companies do not actively recruit the widest possible range of candidates for open positions. As the economy continues to reopen, many manufacturing companies will be again hiring for open positions. Over a decade ago, I founded WiM on the premise that a successful manufacturing sector must be a sector that is truly an inclusive and safe environment for all workers. Today, we’re seeing many, many companies and leadership teams embrace that vision for manufacturing. That’s good for manufacturing and it’s good for all the different people who can and should find rewarding careers in the sector.
“Put simply, manufacturing in America can never reach maximum competitiveness if manufacturing companies do not actively recruit the widest possible range of candidates for open positions.”
IoB: In your view, why are manufacturers still struggling to implement D&I initiatives?
A: Across the board, WiM sees manufacturing companies committed to making their workforces diverse and their workplaces welcoming. Of course, there remains work to be done, but we are optimistic. One recent industry study found the vast majority of manufacturing CEOs are focused on talent diversity and inclusiveness. Our 125 – and growing – corporate members are examples of companies at the forefront of industry efforts to empower people from all backgrounds to obtain the skills and networks they need to find success in manufacturing.
IoB: And what best practice tips can you share?
A: If companies want to see real progress from diversity initiatives, they have to take authentic actions. A line in a corporate handbook or a statement on social media is not enough. Action can take many forms, but some ideas include: evaluating promotion and pay scale practices to identify and eliminate inequity, examining training programs to root out bias in candidate selection processes, and empowering all employees to share their experiences and have those experiences met with respect and response.
IoB: What is your advice for the US manufacturing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of the manufacturing sector, producing the essential products that keep Americans safe and comfortable. Manufacturers adapted quickly, getting goods out the door while keeping employees, their families and their communities safe. This industry is innovative and resilient. The challenge is far from over and I know manufacturers will continue to lead as our nation copes with the pandemic.
Allison Grealis is the founder and president of the Women in Manufacturing® Association (WiM), a national trade association focused on supporting, promoting and inspiring women in the manufacturing sector. She also is president of the WiM Education Foundation, the 501(c)(3) arm of WiM, which provides effective and affordable educational opportunities for women in manufacturing.
From 2001 until March 2020, Grealis also served as vice president of association services for the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), a full-service trade association representing the metalforming industry.
Grealis is a frequent speaker at industry events, including the Financial Times’ Future of Manufacturing Summit, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence conference, the North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit, the Generis American Manufacturing Summit, and more. She also regularly is featured on industry podcasts and in the media.