In the last two months, I have had my first two encounters with the manufacturing industry. You might find this strange considering I am from Cleveland – once a manufacturing powerhouse. I know I do.

If you’ve read my past Adventures of a Cultural Tourist posts it might make a little more sense. But still, I kind of feel ashamed that this was my first encounter with such a large part of my city’s heritage, maybe one I never fully understood until immersing myself in it recently.

Because Legacy Business Cultures is located in Cleveland and because of that heritage, we do a fair amount of our business with manufacturing organizations, as you would expect. What you might not expect is the reason for this.

These organizations are going through major changes as the economy shifts and dips. A lot of them, including the ones we work with, have realized the only way to stay relevant is to swap what some may consider an outdated business structure. A model traditionally centered around making things has now shifted to focus on empowering the people that make those things.

So, what’s my role in this?

I am documenting these successes and part of that entails not only talking with these leaders on the forefront of change but also visiting their sites to see first hand the amazing work they are doing and how our processes have contributed to this.

My first stop was a small organization in the outer suburbs of the city. I won’t bore you with the details of what they manufacture, because well, I am still a little hazy on that myself!

What matters most is that I was thrust into an environment in which I had no previous reference to relate to. Out on the shop floor, I was like the proverbial fish out of water with my black pants and high heeled boots. The only exception was my pair of required safety glasses.

My tour guides were the most patient and understanding guys, as I was constantly asking questions because there was a constant ‘huh?’ in my mind the entire time. I was thinking about how fascinating and technical all of it was. Maybe thinking too much because when I got closer to inspect one of the machines I slipped and fell on my butt!

When the guys helped me up, they asked if I had hurt anything to which I replied, “only my pride!.” It was true. I felt completely out of my element and this just proved it.

Another day, another manufacturing plant

By my next client visit, I had learned a thing or two about how to dress appropriately in a manufacturing environment. This time the high heeled boots were gone and replaced with soft soled loafers.

I would definitely need those, because I was going to a forge located in Cleveland proper on a typical Northeast Ohio weather kind of day that was cold, dreary and drizzly. What better setting, I thought, to experience this historic manufacturing hub!

Like my previous experience, this one also started out in the corporate offices – something I am little more familiar with – then was followed by a tour of the forge. Even as we sat and talked before the tour, I could feel the ground and building shake as metal was being shaped so close by.

In preparation for my tour, I was outfitted with an over-sized lab coat that went over my winter coat, steel toe slip-ons, safety goggles, and of course industrial ear plugs. My guide took me outside and into a building that was as cold as outside but illuminated with roaring fires.

I was fascinated as I watched the heated metal get shaped and formed. The whole thing was like a scene out of a movie and something I’d never experienced before. As silly as it may sound, I actually felt like I GOT Cleveland and it’s industrial past after 20+ plus years of living here.