MFG DAY 2017 - L.S. Starrett Company

ATHOL — The L.S. Starrett Company joined in an industry-wide celebration of National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 6, highlighting the vast spectrum of high-skill careers available within the 500,000-square-foot facility and in the profession at large. The metrology manufacturer offered employee-led tours spanning 13 product departments and company functions, welcoming students from four local high schools, Congressman James McGovern (MA-02) and State Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Town Manager Shaun Suhoski and Selectboard Vice-Chair William Caldwell, and other dignitaries. With a turnout in excess of 200 people, L.S. Starrett provided an overview of its administrative operations along with such divisions as special gauge, drafting, 3-D printing, laser marking, screw machine, tumbling, and methods engineering. Approximately 1,800 facilities across the country held similar observances of this annual event, which was conceived in 2012 as a form of public outreach aimed partially at dispelling antiquated notions of manufacturing. “Modern manufacturing… is a sleek, technology-driven industry that offers secure, rewarding, and good-paying jobs,” said President and CEO Douglas Starrett, whose business has been creating precision metalworking and metrology products since 1880. In the midst of company expansion to six U.S. and seven international facilities, L.S. Starrett’s Athol corporate headquarters are still home to the highest concentration of employees, and its staff of more than 500 hails almost exclusively from the immediate area. The increasingly technical focus of modern manufacturing was evident throughout the tour, with the widespread embrace of new methodologies driven by a desire to remain competitive, Starrett said. “Since modern manufacturing is an evolutionary thing, technology has moved quickly. We are trying to pivot the company upstream [in that respect]. Modern manufacturing is a buzz word, but it’s reality.” Although the company has evolved its practices in accordance with industry trends, Starrett prefaced the first tour by saying, “We are the last company doing what we do left in the U.S. for the breadth and scope of product. We have competitors in certain product segments, but not doing the breadth that we do.” In keeping with the theme of Manufacturing Day, Starrett said he emphasized to visiting high school students that professionals within the field are not limited in their career pursuits by a lack of possibilities. As reinforced by the large number of necessary stops on the tour, manufacturing encompasses the disciplines of information technology, marketing, and engineering, among others, Starrett said. “I’ve done [manufacturing] all my life, but I think it’s a pretty cool profession. There are interesting things going on and opportunities for people to have a good life for themselves and a good living and really become productive citizens in the country,” Starrett said. In an alliance of the manufacturing and educational sectors, L.S. Starrett recently helped facilitate Athol High School’s adoption of vocational curriculum, with students now trained and certified in the use of precision measuring instruments. In addition to AHS, whose new program reflects the instructional leadership of teacher Carl Seppala, school districts attending Manufacturing Day included Franklin County Technical School, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, and the Center for Technical Education Innovation in Leominster. By raising continued awareness as to the L.S. Starrett brand and scope of services, the company’s president hopes to meet the growing demand for skilled workers by consistently selecting from a local pool of candidates. “I think the more they understand what we do, it will be a benefit for us and for them,” said Starrett, who noted that the impending retirement of seasoned trade employees will “create a bigger void in the talent gap.” Some of these anticipated openings are likely to be filled via the ascension of multiple-generation staff members, several of whom were singled out by Starrett during the tour. McGovern made a point of asking L.S. Starrett personnel how long they have been continuously employed by the company, discovering that many fall within the range of 10 and 20 years of service. In reflecting on his interactions with the company’s workforce, McGovern said, “Most of them grew up in this community and are very proud of their work, as they should be.” McGovern described himself as a staunch supporter of “the concept of ‘make it in America,’” saying, “We’re so lucky that [Starrett] is here in this community. This company is not only a great asset to the region, but to the country.” Prior to completing his walk-through of the facility, McGovern participated alongside members of his tour group in the hands-on assembly of a micrometer, a task that requires both efficiency and the use of fine motor skills. Starrett said he also met privately with McGovern to stress that Massachusetts’ highest-in-the-nation health care costs, coupled with government regulations and needed tax relief for small businesses, “impedes us from being as successful as we might be. It’s hard to compete [in this state].” Manufacturing Day in Massachusetts was supported by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership. NAM, which counts Starrett among its board members, was represented at the Oct. 6 event by Alyssa Shooshan, Assistant Vice President of Member and Board Relations.