Manufacturing, Not Just a Man's World, Bylined Article in Industry Today magazine
Hiring women to work in manufacturing and on the production floor promotes diverse thinking, increased productivity, and profitability.
By Jean Voorhees, Vice President of Business Development
Historically, when people think of the manufacturing industry, it’s often one in which men are the dominant players. But today, women are increasingly finding roles at production facilities where they can make a living, grow successfully in their careers, and have a positive impact on U.S. manufacturers.
At WCCO Belting, a global business that manufactures rubber belting for the agricultural and light industrial industries, women make up an impressive 45 percent of the production team. Based in Wahpeton, ND, a small town outside of Fargo, the innovative company has created an environment where women who work on the manufacturing floor not only succeed, but thrive.
Women at WCCO Belting do everything that men do when it comes to production processes. They operate press equipment. They run forklifts. They package and load pallets. They lead teams. In fact, nearly two-thirds of WCCO Belting’s production supervisors are women.
Not only do the women on WCCO Belting’s production team add diversity to the workforce, but they also contribute fully to the manufacturer’s thought processes, strategies, and the way changes are implemented company-wide. For WCCO, located in a town with a nearly zero percent unemployment rate, women play an essential role in making sure the company continues to operate successfully.
Creating a Manufacturing Facility that Appeals to Women
Although specific numbers vary, women typically make up less than 30 percent of manufacturing workforce nationwide. But having a higher-than-average number of women in production is no accident at WCCO Belting. The company has a rich tradition of building a culture that is intentionally inclusive and appealing to a diverse workforce.
For starters, many manufacturing facilities institute rotating employee shifts, which can make childcare late at night or in the early morning hours challenging, especially in single-parent homes. The fact that there are no rotating shifts makes WCCO Belting’s manufacturing jobs substantially more appealing to women. While this strategy is not a new concept at WCCO Belting, it is one that the management team implemented purposefully many years ago to provide work-life balance and an increased quality of life for all employees working on the production floor.
Furthermore, WCCO Belting places considerable emphasis on training for all employees, which also lends to the company’s appeal for female team members. Currently, there are over 50 career development training opportunities available to employees within the company. WCCO Belting’s executives and managers actively encourage female employees to seek promotions, and support and help them achieve new roles through a wide variety of learning opportunities. As a result, the company employs a high percentage of women in supervisory roles on the production floor.
To further attract female employees, the company implements a wellness program that promotes five pillars of well-being to encourage employees to live a balanced life. The five areas include: financial, physical, spiritual, career, and community. Benefits that derive from this program include free gym access for all employees at the local college campus (physical pillar), money management education from local bankers (financial pillar), and numerous volunteer opportunities such as bell ringing for the Salvation Army and donations to the local food pantry (community pillar), among others.
How Having Women on the Production Floor is Mutually Beneficial
Advantages to the increasing percentage of women on WCCO Belting’s production floor abound. In fact, tapping into female team members to assess how the production facility operates often uncovers diverse and innovative ways to identify problems and create solutions.
WCCO Belting’s process improvement program is a popular way for women to submit feedback and play an active role in contributing ideas in the workplace. The program encourages employees company-wide to submit concepts for process improvements that could increase the company’s efficiencies. By submitting ideas in writing, the women of WCCO have been able to find a voice through a program that is open, accessible, and non-intimidating. As a result, female team members have helped contribute to the submission of over 2,000 new ideas to a large cross-functional team that meets weekly to review. Over 1,000 of these ideas have been implemented since 2014.
Why Women in Manufacturing is a Key Differentiator
While women constitute the manufacturing industry’s most significant segment of underutilized talent in the U.S., more and more manufacturers today are gradually turning the tables and making the hiring of female workers a priority.
WCCO Belting continues as a trailblazer by empowering women in their roles in the manufacturing space. With a wide range of employee benefits – and a priority to encourage a work-life balance for all employees – the company has not had to implement an intentional hiring strategy to increase the number of women on board.
At the end of the day, women on the manufacturing floor can be the differentiating factor between a successful business model and one that is destined to fail. The business case for increasing the number of females in the manufacturing workforce is a convincing one –especially when it can help drive substantial improvements to a company’s bottom line.
To view the article online visit: https://industrytoday.com/article/manufacturing-not-just-a-mans-world/