Automation is neither scapegoat nor savior when it comes to the number of manufacturing jobs available in Illinois, says Ron Phillips, Header Die & Tool. Automation can help boost productivity and improve quality and precision. “A quality product combined with just-in-time inventory management and delivery is boosting the number of customers who formerly purchased offshore but are returning stateside,” he said.

When a particular state or region loses manufacturing jobs, such as Illinois reporting earlier this year the loss of 800 such jobs, a number of factors contributes says Phillips. “Oil prices, the strength of the dollar and governmental policies all play a role,” he said. “But modernization in our manufacturing facility helps keep us competitive in a global environment.”

Illinois Manufacturer’s Association President Greg Baise, when interviewed by local station WTVO and as posted on mystateline.com, agreed. Baise said manufacturing is an industry that has its ups and downs, reacting to the cyclical nature of the national economy.

A greater concern for many manufacturers is finding employees with the right skills to perform the job, and there is a genuine skills gap within the manufacturing sector. “Proper training programs are key,” said Phillips, “and we emphasize training at our firm.”

In addition, students benefit from early exposure to the opportunities afforded by the manufacturing sector as a career option. “We take an active role in our community to help introduce students to the career potential within the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Finally, there are aspects of a job that never can be automated. “Someone who shows a willingness to learn, who is accountable for their actions, shows determination and has a helpful attitude—these are intangible qualities that provide a job candidate with the best potential.”