September 12, 2012 12:00AM
Pittsburg State University students got some insight into the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing Wednesday at a roundtable discussion featuring representatives from major local manufacturers.
The symposium, sponsored by the PSU MBA Association, was held in the Kelce College of Business. It featured Jesse Bechtold, CEO of MAMTC; John Bennett, vice president of defense systems for EaglePicher; Jim Eklund COO of Pitt Plastics; and Vance Washburn, general manager of Atkinson Industries.
The industry representatives talked about a wide range of issues and fielded questions from the standing-room-only crowd.
Asked about the challenges each faced, Bennett, of EaglePicher, said it was the “speed of the market” and the need to make strategic decisions based upon what company officials expected to happen in the future. As an example, he cited the company’s decision not to participate in the development of batteries for automobiles.
Eklund listed three challenges.
“How do we differentiate ourselves from others in the market?” he asked. “How can we reduce our cost and how do we get people to work on continuous improvement?”
Washburn said for Atkinson Industries, a big challenge was a wave of retirements among a generation of workers and the difficulties of finding new employees with a certain set of skills.
“There’s a tremendous retirement of the knowledge base of this industry,” Washburn said.
He added another challenge: deficiencies in infrastructure such as roadways and bridges that allow the company to ship its products to consumers.
Student organizers of the program said they sponsor several similar events each semester as a way to allow students to learn directly from people in business and industry.