ebm-papst Fans, Blowers and Technology

Manufacturing’s biggest challenge

Posted on Thu, Aug 14, 2014
describe the imageBy Bob Sobolewski - President and CEO at ebm-papst Inc.

“There are only three ways that a country builds wealth – you make things, you mine things and you grow things. Everything else is ancillary to that.”
– Pat Lee, Fabricators & Manufacturers Association

U.S. manufacturers contributed $2.08 trillion to the economy in 2013. For each dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.32 is added to our economy, the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. (National Association of Manufacturers).

Here in Connecticut, 4,826 companies employ 167,900 manufacturing workers who earned $12.4 billion in wages and salaries last year. Every $1 million in manufacturing output in our state translates to $2 million in sales in other industries, 8.3 new jobs and $700,000 in new personal income (CBIA).

With a resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S. — including companies that are insourcing jobs and facilities — you’d think we’d be riding high with no complaints.

Not yet.

National Metal Fabricators President Tom Bonine lists seven of manufacturing’s biggest challenges. To strengthen companies that make quality products and pay good wages, the National Association of Manufacturers urges our elected leaders to choose policies that make this country a better place to invest, a better place to innovate and a better place from which to export.

Having managed growth at ebm-papst Inc. for nearly three decades, I share the views of my fellow Connecticut manufacturers. Federal and state regulation, taxes, reduced demand, raw material prices, overhead costs and competition keep us up at night.

My view? There’s no production without education. As highly experienced employees begin to retire, I worry about preparing new generations for careers within our advanced manufacturing facilities. 

There are solutions we should support, including innovation and training hubs nationally and locally. The National Network of Manufacturing Institutes has four of their 45 projected hubs up and running in in Youngstown Ohio (additive manufacturing), Chicago (digital manufacturing and design), Detroit (lightweight metals, and Raleigh, North Carolina (power electronics).

Here in Connecticut, three manufacturing centers offer a certificate in advanced manufacturing machine technology, while Connecticut’s colleges and universities offer some of the most competitive engineering programs in the country. 

Our most important challenge? Convincing more than half of U.S. teenagers that their perceptions of manufacturing are false. What this means is that promoting manufacturing careers to high school kids isn’t enough. We have to start much earlier.

Is your company struggling to find qualified and enthusiastic people to help you innovate? Partner with your region’s engineering programs, technical training programs and centers. But also go deeper by supporting programs that help our young children embrace the excitement, fun and challenge of inventing and building things.

About Bob Sobolewski
Robert (Bob) Sobolewski
is President and CEO of ebm-papst Inc. A member of many community and industry trade organizations and associations, Bob has been recognized for his support of educational programs, especially those that bring schools and the workplace closer together. He serves as President and Chairman of ingenuityNE and NE FIRST, Chair of the Connecticut Executive Advisory Board of FIRST, a member of the Fairfield University School of Engineering Executive Advisory Board, Vice Chair of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association Board, a Director of Okay Industries, Inc., and a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Component Industry Association (ECIA) Foundation.

Tags: Bob Sobolewski, Manufacturing, CBIA, ebm-papst Inc.

Putting the ‘advanced’ in manufacturing part 2 of 2

Posted on Thu, Oct 10, 2013

describe the imageHow is Connecticut developing tomorrow’s advanced manufacturing workforce?

By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO, ebm-papst Inc.

In my last post, I encouraged us to discard old ideas about how we used to make things in the U.S., and to be open to careers with today’s advanced manufacturing companies.

President Obama’s National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing aims to increase investments in advanced manufacturing technologies, expand the number of workers with advanced manufacturing skills, make our training and education systems more responsive and support partnerships to create new manufacturing technologies.

As part of our country's manufacturing strategy, a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and advanced manufacturing institutes at the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy are looking at how we can improve our use of materials and our production methods.

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s focusing on helping train and connect workers to fill open positions. What have we done so far?

Manufacturers have expressed their needs.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s High Growth Job Training Initiative grant, in The Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Education Foundation created certificate programs (college credit and noncredit) in lean manufacturing and supply chain management.

Educators are responding.

The CBIA Foundation’s lean manufacturing and supply chain management certificate programs were so successful that the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (part of the Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology) and CBIA members continue to build on this training curriculum for both students and teachers.

We’re creating pathways to high tech manufacturing careers.

Connecticut’s Technical High School System and the Connecticut Community Colleges (COC) work together to offer our state’s technical high school students a College to Career Pathways program. The program allows students to earn up to 14 college credits at the same time they’re in high school, while benefiting from college-level counseling, career fairs, job shadowing and internships. It’s a great way to help our technical high school students jump start a 2 or 4-year degree and begin plotting their career options.

We’re supporting our teachers.

As part of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and in affiliation with the New England Association of Technology Teachers, the CT Technology and Engineering Education Association (CTEEA) offers training and education for all teachers who want to present the latest advances in manufacturing to their students.  If you’re a tech teacher, don’t miss CTEEA’s annual conference November 8 at Central Connecticut State University.

We’re beginning to connect job seekers with employers.

Earlier this year, U.S. Representative John Larson introduced the Connecticut Manufacturing Job Match Initiative, an effort to link employers with qualified employees. Read the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ here.

We’re calling upon UConn.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Next Generation Connecticut initiative aims to leverage the University of Connecticut’s resources to build Connecticut’s future workforce, create jobs, and bring new life to our state’s economy.

Some of Connecticut’s initiatives have just begun, while others have already trained and placed skilled employees. Our challenge is to keep up the momentum, translating job requirements to relevant education and training programs.

Most importantly, we must continue to demonstrate how advanced manufacturing will help fuel our economic recovery, and why careers in this sector are both challenging and fulfilling.  

Tags: Education, Bob Sobolewski, Manufacturing

Putting the ‘Advanced’ in Manufacturing, Part 1 of 2

Posted on Mon, Oct 07, 2013

describe the imageWhat parents and students must know about today’s manufacturing jobs

By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO, ebm-papst Inc.

During the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s (CBIA) Connecticut Creates! Manufacturing Forum this past January, representatives of our state’s manufacturing community discussed their challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled people.

During the forum, Dave Tuttle, manufacturing department head at Platt Technical High School (part of Connecticut’s Technical High School System) shared a story that made the audience groan with frustration.

A young man that Dave taught had just obtained his advanced manufacturing certificate. He was on the verge of accepting a highly skilled, good-paying position. Before he could accept, however, his parents nixed the deal and forced him to continue his schooling at a four-year college.

What happened? Rather than envision their son’s productive (and profitable) career in a clean, modern facility that makes innovative products, they imagined him in a dead-end position hammering widgets on a dirty, hazardous and dimly lit shop floor.

Our young people want to make a difference. To be on the cutting edge. Their families want them to have secure jobs with growth potential in modern and stimulating work environments.

Here’s why today’s advanced manufacturing jobs offer both.

1. Manufacturing’s renaissance is gaining steam. According to this recent U.S. Treasury infographic, private investment in U.S. manufacturing is high, and the products we produce are increasing our exports.

2. Jobs anxiously await. According to a recent report from Deloitte, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled in the United States simply because employers cannot find people with the skills they need. Last year, Connecticut manufacturers had 22,000 openings for manufacturing jobs. Many went unfilled.

3. It’s no longer the factory your dad, mom (or grandparent) worked in. As Cisco’s recent blog points out, the business of making stuff no longer requires hard manual labor by many. With technology improvements, today’s manufacturing jobs do require intelligence, training and a willingness to continually push the efficiency envelope. In stark contrast to factories of the past, today’s production floors are bright, open, organized, clean and safe.

4. The pay’s better than the job you (might) find after a four-year degree. With manufacturing jobs going unfulfilled and office jobs scarce, surveys are revealing that increasingly, it’s the two-year technical degree that’s creating income and security.

CollegeMeasures.org recently found that students who receive an occupational and technical associate’s degree could earn $10,000 per year more than those with a non-occupational associate’s degree.

Reinforcing this new reality, more than half of Connecticut’s manufacturers are hiring graduates of Connecticut’s technical high schools, more students than from any other educational institutions, according to the 2011 Survey of Connecticut’s Manufacturing Workforce conducted by CBIA’s Education Foundation.

5. There are few obstacles to advancement. Factories of the past focused on repetitive, mindless assembly tasks. Today’s manufacturers understand that flexible, adaptive workers who demonstrate initiative on the floor and strive to learn new technology are critical to the company’s success, and reward them accordingly.

In next week’s post, I’ll explore how government, industry and education are working together to begin to address our manufacturing skills gap, nationally and in Connecticut.

Tags: Education, Bob Sobolewski, Manufacturing

Reflecting on the "In the Pocket" Video

Posted on Tue, Oct 09, 2012
by Bob Sobolewski, President & CEO of ebm-papst Inc.

In The Pita Group'sIn the Pocket” video interview, I had the chance to speak about trending topics that affect business in terms of customer needs and communication.   

So how has ebm-papst evolved to meet customers’ needs?  In one simple word, innovation.  Innovation can help discover what opportunities exist now, or are likely to emerge in the future. Our teams collaborate with the feedback given from our customers based on market trends, to redesign and develop new products that are the leading-edge technology, ahead of our competition.   Customers look to us for the newest solutions and know they can present new air moving challenges for us to solve.  Innovation is not only about designing a new product or service to sell, but can also focus on existing business processes and practices to improve efficiency.  Recently, ebm-papst published the philosophy of GreenTech.   This idea reflects a simple but clear philosophy that goes back to our company principle: "Each new product that we develop has to be better than its predecessor in terms of economy and ecology."  It is extremely important to us that with innovation, comes the responsibility of eco-friendly practices to preserve our environment.  Not only are we producing new efficient technology to benefit our customers, but we are also ensuring that every product carries along with it the assurance of sustainability in our production practices. In addition to various enhancements, 50kW of solar panels were installed on the roof of our engineering office in Farmington, CT, in June 2011. This past June, another 50kW array was installed to supplement the original installation.

Another evolution in the way business is done. Everyone wants things instantaneously.  So at the tip of our fingers, we have the ability to instantly communicate and search for information. We must adapt to the changing business practices and stay ahead of the curve!  

Bob Sobolewski filming the "In the Pocket" video.
bob interview resized 600

Tags: ebm-papst, GreenTech, Bob Sobolewski, Energy Efficiency

Every Day is a Green Day at ebm-papst

Posted on Fri, Jun 08, 2012
By Bob Sobolewski

To demonstrate that everybody can do something for a more environmentally friendly world, this year employees at ebm-papst offices around the globe are organizing Every Day is a Green Day campaigns, developing unique ways to demonstrate our shared GreenTech philosophy.

Next week (June 11-16) is our time to celebrate Every Day is a Green Day with a special week at ebm-papst’s U.S. headquarters. We’ve got a full lineup of activities, including the kickoff of our Every Day is a Green Day Video Contest. Students 13-18 years of age who live in Hartford County can enter the contest by submitting a brief video showing the creative ways they incorporate green practices into their lives at home and school. Deadline to submit videos is August 11; winners will be announced on August 27.


EBM Contest V2 resized 600

The student who submits the most compelling green video will receive a grand prize of an iPad 3 (16GB WiFi model). The second prizewinner will win a family trip for four to the Connecticut Science Center, including lunch for four at the museum’s Café and four tickets to a performance at the IMAX Theater. The third prizewinner will receive a ‘green’ basket of environmentally friendly products.

Check our Faceboook page regularly to view students’ ‘green’ videos!

We’ve launched a “How are You Green?” contest for employees, who are submitting their green living practices and tips, and a Green Trivia contest. Employee winners will be announced for both contests on June 15.

An adventurous team of seven ebm-papst employees will scour the fields around our facility on June 12 or 13 and remove trash wherever they find it.

During a green luncheon and employee social at our facility on June 13 we’ll be using locally sourced burgers and hot dogs from Saint’s in Southington. The Super Natural Market and Deli will deliver locally sourced ingredients for strawberry shortcake! Employees will bring their personal documents for shredding by Cintas, which will have a truck on site between 3 and 4 p.m.

Also on June 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., employees will be able to purchase energy efficient lighting from Collinsville-based TechniArt, Inc. during a Lighting Fair, with displays in our café and at the receiving/loading dock.


Here’s wishing you a summer of exploration, relaxation and green living!

Tags: ebm-papst, GreenTech, Bob Sobolewski, Energy Efficiency

ebm-papst at the FIRST® Championship: Three days of Gracious Professionalism®

Posted on Tue, Jun 05, 2012
By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO at ebm-papst Inc.

FIRST® Championship

CTFirst resized 600What keeps ebm papst’s team – our engineering, production and marketing people – fresh and energized? Observing the creativity and fun that 30,000 motivated young people can generate over three days during a riveting robotics event that’s called “The Olympics of the Mind.”

Continuing our support of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and FIRST teams in Connecticut, from April 26-28 we travelled to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, where students, fans, families, educators and company leaders from all over the world gathered for the annual FIRST ® Championship.

More than 600 teams from 32 countries demonstrated Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition® (that means competing AND working with your opponent) in the three levels of FIRST: FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL); FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) while 40 teams of 6 to 9-year-olds showcased their smarts during the Junior FIRST® LEGO® League World Festival Expo.

In addition to serving on FIRST®’s regional planning committee and chairing Connecticut FIRST®’s executive advisory board, I’ve been honored to serve as an FRC judge at both regional and national competitions for almost 15 years. Every year, the teams get better and the judging gets tougher!

ebm-papst’s booth at the championship helped students and mentors learn not only about the small ebm-papst tubeaxial fans that cool their teams’ robots, but also how our larger radial and axial fans are employed across dozens of industries and hundreds of applications.

Bill the enforcers resized 600
Bill Aston, Team 178 mentor and ebm-papst Inc. Operations Manager with the Enforcers at the CT Regional's.

Tags: ebm-papst, Bob Sobolewski, CT, FIRST Robotics

ebm-papst: Robot teams and Connecticut’s future workforce

Posted on Tue, Mar 27, 2012

By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO at ebm-papst USA

Two weeks ago, after CBIA’s Business Day at the Capitol, Don Beckwith posted here about the challenges that Connecticut manufacturers have in attracting new employees. While cost of living and wages have a big impact on our efforts to remain competitive, there’s another piece of the puzzle that’s equally important: helping new generations become adept, capable and confident employees of the future.

Our state’s business community has a responsibility to enhance our children’s education in ways that build their critical thinking and technical skills. We can help them aspire to be team members and leaders, regardless of the professions they choose, by showing them what we do every day and helping them visualize themselves within our companies.

In 1989, ebm-papst Inc. began its journey to support a fledgling organization called FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Founded by inventor Dean Kaman, FIRST is now an international program that inspires nearly 300,000 young people from kindergarten to 12th grade to get involved with science, engineering, math and technology and helps them develop self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills. ebm-papst began to supply our air-moving products to FIRST competitions, as well as engineering expertise and manufacturing support to teams. That support continues to this day.

Being involved in FIRST is a labor of love…and belief. Just ask Electrical Engineering Manager Hogan Eng, who devotes nights and weekends to helping Woodbury’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team #2836, Team Beta. Or Operations Manager Bill Aston, who has mentored Farminton’s FRC Team #178, the 2nd Law Enforcers, for nine years. Or everyone in the company who has gone the extra mile to help manufacture parts for these teams’ robots and support their transportation, logistics and community outreach efforts.

Are our efforts working?

Brandeis University recently surveyed young people in FIRST Robotics Competitions around the country and compared them to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences, including math and science. The survey revealed that FIRST students are:

  • More than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post-graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly four times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.
  • More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.

Connecticut FIRST’s big event – the FIRST Robotics Competition Northeast Utilities Connecticut Regionals – will take place Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31 at the Connecticut Convention Center. This year’s regionals will bring more than 2400 high school students on 64 elite robot teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Texas who both compete and cooperate in this year’s game, Rebound Rumble. The event is free and open to the public.

If you’ve already been to Connecticut’s FIRST Regional robotics competition, you know how exciting and inspiring they are. If you haven’t, I invite you to bring your children, your neighbors’ children and their teachers. We’re going to have a blast!

Tags: ebm-papst, Bob Sobolewski, CT, CT Business Day, FIRST Robotics, CBIA