What is Manufacturing Day? Could this be another one of those not-so-well-known days on the calendar like Pi Day or National High Five Day? Or how about International No Diet Day, that’s every day for me!

I first heard about Manufacturing Day when I began supporting its coordination in Fremont, as a new member of the City’s Economic Development team. This national event was established in 2012 to celebrate modern manufacturing. Every year since then, members of the public (students, educators, business people, politicians, and the media) have walked through the open doors of manufacturing companies to learn about career opportunities in the industry.

When I thought of manufacturing in the past, I visualized long production lines with conveyor belts running through a factory with products passing by or welders covered from head to toe with leather to protect themselves from the sparks flying around them. On October 5, when I had the opportunity to tour Evolve, Elringklinger, and Steri-Tek, my image of manufacturing disintegrated. What I saw was advanced and highly technical, giving me and undoubtedly others, a real-world understanding of advanced manufacturing.

My first tour of the day was at Evolve. Rather than visiting a warehouse with metal siding, I found myself parking next to a commercial building with textured concrete siding and glass windows. Upon entering, I was surprised to see the open plan of the building. Behind the walls of a spacious lobby was a magical wonderland. There were clean rooms behind illuminated glass walls. Highly productive and motivated staff dressed in white smocks were attaching, cleaning, and packing medical devices, military, and automated equipment. They looked up from the job they were doing through the glass windows to smile welcomingly. If workforce productivity is one of the main ingredients of a successful manufacturing company, then Evolve has mastered it.

My next tour was at Elringklinger, “a worldwide development partner and original equipment supplier to almost all of the world’s vehicle and engine manufacturers.” Because I knew beforehand that Elringklinger manufactured car parts, I was expecting to see smoke billowing out of smoke stacks. Instead, within a sleek R&D building, I saw automation in full swing. The racks of molded automobile parts produced through a hydroforming process solidified the reality of machinery working alongside people. Robots take care of the repetitive work, freeing the employees to be more efficient and analytical.

The last tour I took was at Steri-Tek, one of the most state-of-the art E-beam and X-ray sterilization facilities in the United States. The company emphasizes the wellbeing of the employees by closely monitoring conditions and taking all of the necessary safety precautions. The highlight of the tour was what looked like a “concrete oven,” housing two X-rays that sterilize the products Steri-Tek receives from other companies. The product to be sterilized rides on a belt made of steel rollers like the tracks of a rollercoaster and enters one side of the oven. A computer monitors the product while it winds its way through strategically placed turns within the concrete walls. Through the monitor’s camera, I could watch as the boxes of products entered and exited the oven. Once the boxes exited the sterilizing process, they were safely wrapped up and prepared to be shipped back to the customer.

Each company’s unique products and processes show the manufacturing diversity that exists in Fremont. The term manufacturing means so much more than conventional industrial production. I encourage everyone to sign up for a tour next year. We base our future on experiences we have today. Let Manufacturing Day be the opportunity for you or your kids to discover a potential path to tomorrow.