By Rich Rovito

A capacity crowd of nearly 500 people attended the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Manufacturing Matters! conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee on Feb. 21.

The 21st annual conference, which had a theme of “Make it Happen,” featured a keynote address delivered by Bill Mitchell, an executive with Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwanese company that has pledged a major manufacturing investment in Southeast Wisconsin.

Mitchell is President and CEO of Aguila, a Foxconn distribution company. He’s also Vice President of Business Operations for Foxconn Technology Group. He is recognized for his success in helping develop organizations with value-based cultures. Over the past 25 years, he has worked with more than 500 corporations and organizations, helping develop best practices to provide long-term success.

Mitchell served as part of the site selection group that announced it would build a $10 billion LCD panel manufacturing facility in Racine Count.  Foxconn also has pledged to create as many as 13,00 jobs in the state.

Since the initial announcement in July 2017, the world of work has been evolving, Mitchell said.

“So much has changed about the way work gets done. You’ve got to be flexible,” he told attendees

Although he didn’t address the planned Foxconn facility or job creation, Mitchell spoke about “curating an ecosystem” in Wisconsin that goes beyond building a traditional supply chain.

“Basically, we’re working together with different people to help us get to where we need to go by borrowing their expertise.” he said. “You are only as effective as the partners and collaborators who can help you manage and anticipate what you don’t know.”

Mitchell touted the WMEP for its ability to help companies make strategic connections and implement best practices.

“You’ve got to be strategic by developing strategic partnerships,” Mitchell said.

The Manufacturing Matters! conference is designed to help companies respond to and take advantage of constant change within the industry, WMEP Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Tim Wiora said.

“Be flexible, be strategic and plan ahead,” Wiora told the crowd in summarizing the message from Mitchell.

WMEP board chairman Glenn Kennedy spoke about the organization’s deep expertise.

“These are people that are born in manufacturing,” Kennedy said. “They know what a shop floor is all about.”

Newly elected Gov. Tony Evers made his first appearance to a group of manufacturers since being sworn into office in January.

“If we truly care about making our state strong, I will need your help,” Gov. Evers told the group.

Evers said he’d push for fully funding education, which he says will benefit Wisconsin’s workforce.

“Workforce development and retention has always been and always will be about having a good education system,” Evers said.

The daylong conference featured 18 breakout sessions in the following conference tracks: Workforce Excellence; Improving Productivity; Leading for Success; Strategic Growth; Leveraging Sustainability; and Industry 4.0/Technology.

Keep informed at www.wmep.org for upcoming announcements about the 2020 Manufacturing Matters! conference.