On Jan. 30, Kathleen Edge, Southwire’s executive vice president (EVP) of operations, was the keynote speaker at the 2020 Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet.
According to its website, the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization of businesses and individuals who have joined to promote the economic well-being of their community. Businesses that are part of this organization range in size, but all are encouraged to take advantage of their business networking events, educational programs and valuable resources.
The 2020 kickoff event, fittingly themed as the Roaring 20’s, took place at the Coffee Middle School Auditorium in Douglas, Ga. and had more than 300 attendees. Edge was chosen to speak about her role in manufacturing and the future of the industry.
Edge spoke about the look of the manufacturing industry over the past fifty years and how it will change in the future. She explained that all industries have seen a shift from newer generations and the employees’ need to have a higher quality of life within their workplace and in their work-life balance. In the manufacturing industry, this change is shown with a shift into a better overall work experience for the employees – less about the physical side of manufacturing and more about lean concepts and automation, which will create a safer work environment and better end-products.
“We need to understand that it is not one piece that will get us to where we want to be,” Edge said. “It is a complexity of pieces the we have to put together to make this possible. It is our goal to create the best possible work environment for our employees so that we can drive continuous improvement for both our organization and our customers.”
Edge said this does not mean the workforce needed for manufacturing will decrease, rather it will change what operators look like and open up a talent pool that the industry has not been able to tap into. In the future of manufacturing, employees will be less reliant on the physicality of doing manual work and will shift into problem solving roles which will open up a new range of talent for organizations.
Dr. Morris Leis, superintendent of the Coffee County School System, said she specifically enjoyed hearing about the future of manufacturing and the roles it will offer.
“I enjoyed [Kathleen’s] message, as it was engaging and very relevant to our work in the Coffee County School,” Leis said. “She cited the relevance of preparing our young people for the future and the opportunities available for young people in manufacturing. I was excited to hear her talk about how modern manufacturing is inclusive for all people, including both women and men.”
If anything, Edge said she wants the community to be encouraged about the future generations of the industry and the talent it will need in order to be successful. In the next decade, there is an expected 4.9 million jobs in the manufacturing industry alone.
“I want people to change the image they have about manufacturing and know that this industry is shifting rapidly in a positive direction,” Edge said. “I wanted the audience to walk away and know that it’s an exciting time to be in this industry for both Southwire and the community.”