The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 18, 2013

Tour showcases manufacturing

Area industries to open doors to visitors

DANVILLE — Two businesses on Vermilion Advantage’s Tour of Industries have seen a lot of technological changes since they started local operations in the 1940s.

Robotics and other computerized systems have assisted companies, such as in the automotive industry, with preciseness, said Danville Metal Stamping human resources manager Megan Hale.

On Saturday, the public can see what today’s manufacturing plants look like and gain more insight into what is produced locally and about career opportunities.

The first annual Tour of Industries is being sponsored by Vermilion Advantage.

“We’re the first one in Illinois to do this,” said Vermilion Advantage president and CEO Vicki Haugen. “We think it will be very well received.”

Reservations aren’t required. Participants have to drive to each of the five participating businesses and take a tour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The last tours will start at 2:30 p.m.

There also will be giveaways to participants after visitors fill out survey cards about the tours.

The participating businesses are Danville Metal Stamping, Watchfire Signs, Fiberteq, ThyssenKrupp Crankshaft Co. and ThyssenKrupp Presta.

Haugen said the day will showcase the businesses that employ about 2,000 employees in total, what they do and highlight job qualifications and opportunities.

The theme is “Prepare to Be Amazed.” This term applies to the technology, global penetration and the people.

“We hope for a good turnout ...,” Haugen said.

Haugen said this event was about two years in the making.

“Manufacturing (today) is not your grandfather’s workplace,” Haugen said.

Until one actually sees it, it’s hard to fully grasp.

That’s when Vermilion Advantage started looking at how to open up businesses to the public.

There have been similar business tours in two Minnesota cities. Local officials touched base with those organizers to see what worked and what didn’t. Vermilion Advantage then worked to get businesses on board.

Haugen said five businesses were chosen because they didn’t want to have too many businesses, but just enough for a day’s worth of tours.

“This is a first. It’s a nice variation of products and processes,” Haugen said.

National Manufacturing Day is in October, but Haugen said the August date was chosen because football and other busy school-time schedules won’t fully under way.

She said they wanted to capitalize on the decent weather, too.

The goals of the tour include informing the public about today’s manufacturing, what is made locally and what job openings are available or could be in the future and what their qualifications are.

The tours also highlight the workforce that has made the businesses successful.

There may be 10-15 persons per tour group. Each tour will leave about every 30 minutes.

As participants visit each business, they will be given a postcard to give their feedback on the tour, what they learned, what they liked about the tour, if they’d consider a career or refer someone for a career at the business.

There will be a drawing for three prizes from the postcard surveys.

There are some restrictions for the tours. No small children are allowed at any location.

Participants must be at least 10 years old and those age 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Haugen said they don’t want to discourage middle- and high-school students from attending.

There will be safety orientations and participants might be asked to wear safety goggles, ear plugs, etc.

No open-toed shoes or high heels are allowed, participants shouldn’t wear shorts and cameras aren’t allowed.

“We really are excited about this,” Haugen said.

They hope to have this be an annual event for a while. Next year could involve distribution facilities.

If people aren’t able to attend the tour, there will be videotaped segments on the website.

Hale said living in Danville, she didn’t know what Danville Metal Stamping did.

“We make the parts that go into the engines of major commercial and military aircraft,” she said.

By participating in the Tour of Industries, more community members can see what Danville Metal Stamping does and see that “manufacturing is not what it used to be,” Hale said.

The business started in 1946 and today has about 450 employees in three locations — two off Oakwood Avenue near Ellsworth Park and the other on Martin Street.

The business is still family-owned by the Beck family. Judd Peck is president of the business.

Hale said tour participants will be able to see how products flow into the plant at receiving to the final inspection progress. Operations won’t be in production that day, but the machines will be programmed to run through the motions.

Employees, including the vice president of manufacturing and sales manager, will be leading the tours.

Hale describes the production process as “more job shop,” with the manufacturing system to make the products.

There is milling with Computer Numerical Control machining and computer programs and computer-controlled machines to make the parts very exact, she said.

The programs are written in to operate the machinery.

“There’s basically a little robot inside the machine telling it what to do,” she added.

Technology has impacted how more precise the work can be, when it was manual before, Hale said.

The products are shipped throughout the world.

“I hope we get a good turnout,” Hale said about the tour.

She said maybe the tour will point someone down a career path.

Haugen added that area colleges have been made aware of the tour.

Hale said Danville Area Community College is a great local resource, such as with the industrial technology program.

“We’re always looking for tool and die makers and machinists,” Hale said about Danville Metal Stamping.

Retirements will be coming with the business’ senior workforce.

There are entry-level positions and others that require basic math skills and an aptitude to learn if someone is interested in investing the time. Tuition reimbursement also is available, Hale said.

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