Lionville’s USSC Group adapting to the times
USSC Group in Lionville says manufacturers in the region can thrive by adapting to the times
“Manufacturing technology is the most exciting sector in the next generation’s workforce.” – Frank Rzeznikiewicz, chief operating officer at USSC
A township maker of seats for public transportation and the military is taking the lead this week in trying to attract millennials in the region into the manufacturing field.
USSC Group will open its doors to the public on Friday and hopes to convince some visitors that manufacturing has changed for the better — and is a viable career option.
It is part of “Manufacturing Day” — an annual national event observed at thousands of manufacturers hoping to show potential workers a sleek, technology-driven industry.
“Manufacturing technology is the most exciting sector in the next generation’s workforce,” said Frank Rzeznikiewicz, chief operating officer at USSC. “The demand for skilled labor, engineers, programmers, and operations management is in high demand and all forecasts indicate phenomenal growth. Salaries within these areas are also predicted to outpace all other career paths. Joining the new industrial revolution is a guarantee to a successful future.”
Rzeznikiewicz started at USSC in February and is in the process of transitioning the operation from a traditional factory to one where lean manufacturing is practiced.
“You can’t get kids to come into a dirty manufacturing plant,” said the manufacturing booster who has worked in the industry for 42 years. “This will be totally lean and clean” when the transition is complete next year.
Privately held, USSC Group is headquartered on Gordon Drive, has 112 employees working there and has 12 locations throughout the world. It has four lines: public transit seating, in which it designs and
makes heavy duty passenger seats for city bus, motor coach and rail markets; operator seating, in which it provides seating for the extreme and heavy-duty transportation markets; military seating, in which it develops and manufactures high technology, high strength military seating and restraint systems; and FMNA, which makes environmentally friendly water mist fire suppression systems for engine compartments and enclosed spaces.
Rzeznikiewicz acknowledged manufacturing is often not a career consideration for today’s students but said that is because they believe the industry is dead in the U.S. Companies like his, meanwhile, have trouble finding people with the basic math skills and blueprint reading abilities required in today’s manufacturing plant, he said.
USSC provides hands-on training in lean manufacturing and college tuition reimbursements. The company wants workers who are cross-trained in a number of manufacturing skills and who are “self directed” so they can manage themselves, Rzeznikiewicz said. Changing the manufacturing atmosphere isn’t just a move to attract talent, the COO said. U.S. manufacturers today need to be nimble in order to survive.
“You can no longer take five weeks to build a seat,” he said. “You have to be able to do it in a week. We can do it in half the time as our competition.”
Nationally, there is a shortage of welders and machinists.
Much of the work of machinists is now done via computerized machines, meaning most of today’s younger workers don’t know the craft when custom work is needed, said Facilities Manager Jim McGough.
“You cannot find a true machinist” who is not at, near or above retirement age, McGough lamented. “That’s scary.”
It is a situation the Chester County Economic Development Council hopes to address with students in the area. Last year, high school students made videos of manufacturing operations in the area in a “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” contest.
This year, the competition is being moved down to the middle school level, said Marybeth DiVincenzo, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the council.
Thirteen middle schools will take part this year.
“Get them early,” is the philosophy, DiVincenzo said. “The goal is to get the kids interested in manufacturing.”
Those interested can visit USSC on Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information on the company visit www. usscgroup.com.
Visit www.dailylocal.com to view a photo gallery of USSC Group’s Lionville operation.
To contact Business Editor Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deanna Erdman, marketing specialist, holds a custom designed seat cover at the USSC Group in Lionville, which manufactures custom seats for buses, firetrucks and the military.
Frank Rzeznikiewicz, chief operating officer of USSC Group in Lionville, shows off a firetruck seat the company manufactures.
Bob Robinson performs milling work at USSC Group in Lionville, which manufactures custom seats for buses, firetrucks and the military.
Kareem Smith assembles an air ride seat at USSC Group in Lionville.