Math in Manufacturing: Holland Nameplate’s Student Outreach

Math in Manufacturing

BY:  Bob Glenn, Editor and Publisher

All photos courtesy of Holland Nameplate

Much has been said about the “skills gap” in trades and manufacturing, and the challenges of gaining more awareness among youth with the goal of attracting more of them toward career paths in these fields. And over time, we have written about a number of initiatives intended to expose students to a variety of activities and careers.

We recently learned about a program that not only includes internships for high school students, but also a “Math in Manufacturing” program for Fifth Graders! Holland Nameplate, part of Holland 1916, provides guided tours for groups of students visiting their North Kansas City, MO manufacturing facility.

The company had encountered these common challenges, and leadership felt compelled to get directly involved in addressing them. “Business is the primary consumer of what educators are producing — students, so we need to be involved in the process, and we have for too long been silent,” Said Holland 1916 CEO Mike Stradinger to Flatland (a community news weblog operated by Kansas City PBS). “Manufacturing, like most businesses, is a people game,” he continued in that 2018 interview, “and if we don’t have great people, we are not going to be a great company.”

In the Factory

Following the manufacturing process – and the making of their own nameplate –through each of the company’s departments, students are asked to identify all of the different applications of math they are able to see in each department before moving on to the next. That may include anything from adding and subtracting time, volume, temperature, area, thickness, as well as various ratios used to manage the process, and much more.

Brad Farmer, Controller/Scheduler at Holland Nameplate outlines a typical visit.

“The visit starts with a short introduction to Holland and to whoever is kicking off the tour.  We have kits setup with pens/clipboards/safety glasses/sample parts, the next thing we do is open up the kits and get everyone squared away with the supplies they are going to need for the tour.  The get a chance to look at the sample parts and see what we manufacture before going out on the door.  The next step is a short safety briefing, explaining the reason for safety glasses and things they can and can’t interact with on the tour.  They are then split into groups, introduced to their tour guides, and head out on the tour.”

Visiting students identify applications of math at every stage of production.

From there, the program proceeds stepwise by company department like this:


Here, the students get to do some hands-on screen-printing, including something to take with them at the end of the tour.  Math here includes addition to count flats, multiplying X by Y to determine the number of parts per flat, and application of ratios to mix ink correctly.

Etch, Paint, Cleanoff (EPC):

Applied math here includes greater than/less than relationships to properly monitor etch chemicals, ratios and fractions to mix water and paint, and calculating time and temperature for the batch oven.


In Fabrication, students take measurements with calipers to be certain parts are the correct size, and perform a number of calculations to program lasers to cut parts correctly. From there, they calculate the size of a job and the time that job will take to complete, as follows:

  • Count the number of parts per column and row: 5 by 10
  • Multiply that to get the total parts per flat: 5 x 10 = 50
  • Multiply cut time per part (14.4 seconds) by the number of parts per flat to get cut time per flat: 4 x 50 = 720 seconds
  • How long will a job with 10 flats take?: 720 x 7200 seconds
  • How long is that? Let’s convert that to minutes or hours:
    • 7200 seconds/60 seconds per minute = 120 minutes
    • 120 minutes / 60 minutes per hour = 2 hours.


Here, students count while stacking to add up parts, determine weight of the packages and multiply to determine how many packages go in a box:

  • 1,000-part order, 100 parts per bundle: 1,000 / 100 = 10 bundles
  • Constraints: capacity 25lbs per box, weight 5lbs per bundle
    • 25lb capacity / 5lb = 5 bundles per box; 10 bundles/5 per box = 2 boxes
Showing young people how concepts, formulas, and functions of math are applied helps them understand why they are learning it.

Having seen their own nameplate move through the company, they wrap up seeing how the Holland team uses math to quote products to customers, and running some example calculations structed like the “word problems” you might typically find in a textbook. They learn how material and labor costs are calculated, and are challenged to calculate whether or not the company is profitable. This exercise reiterates all the processes they saw as they moved through the plant giving them a well-rounded sense of just how critical math is in manufacturing.

Math is the common denominator for this program – it’s a core subject in primary education, and as the students are shown, it is absolutely essential to design and manage every aspect of any manufacturing process. Understanding and using math in manufacturing is the most important skill a future employee can use to be successful.

Teaching AND showing young people the concepts, formulas, and functions of all math helps them understand why they are learning it, and how they can actually apply that knowledge in the real world. Learning from a book or a teacher is sufficient but seeing it in action is the key to full comprehension of its importance.

And how do the students react?

Chris Bray, Estimator/Compliance Manager shares a few of the students’ responses. “When I’m going over the math problems with them, their eyes get pretty big when I start talking about the yearly numbers, such as the number of parts we produced last year, our revenue and net profit in dollars, the cost of equipment like lasers, and so on.” He adds that they also “ask questions about what it takes to get a job at Holland (‘how old do you have to be?’). They think it’s pretty cool that we’ve been in business for over 100 years.”

In fact, this 5th Grade program was launched on the company’s 100th anniversary in 2016. In the just-completed school year, 32 tours with approximately 1,400 students were conducted. Since inception, the program has reached nearly 10,000 students. The company initiated the program

to give something back to the community in the form of educating the future workforce – Giving Back is one of Holland 1916’s five core values.

A Tradition of Excellence

Holland 1916 traces its roots back to 1902, when Lou Holland moved to Kansas City from Rochester, NY to take a job with an engraving company. He formed Holland Name Plant and Engraving Company, striking out on his own, in 1916.

He raised money for the startup from advertising agencies by “passing the hat,” and produced printing plates for Western Auto catalogs and other national publications.

According to the company, “Mr. Holland was very active in public service. He served as president of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World. Mr. Holland was a close friend of Harry Truman, and during World War II was appointed Deputy Chairman of the War Production Board and chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation.”

Holland initiated the program as a way of giving something back to their community.

The business was led by family members until its 1982 acquisition by Bill Schumacher, whose expertise in metallurgy helped reestablish the company’s leadership as a major identification product manufacturer. Later, Jay Michael Stradinger acquired the business, and focused on building a team of highly knowledgeable professionals who broadened the product line and improved operating systems. In 2002, the company attained ISO 9001:2000 DNV certification, and moved to a new facility in North Kansas City, MO. The state-of-the-art facility and equipment enabled the company to increase capacity, improve quality and tighten delivery time.

Today, the company leverages a global pool of partners to support a broader array of solutions for its customers. Holland offers membrane switches, overlays, domed decals, elastomeric switches, labels, decals, and diecast metal on top of etched and screen-printed metal. The name Holland 1916 recognizes a tradition of excellence rather than emphasizing a specific product.

In addition to Giving Back, the company’s core values are respect for the individual, continuous improvement, accountability, and openness.

Getting Started

Interested in starting a similar initiative for your business? The place to start is your local school district – their administration will likely welcome opportunities to have students make educational field trips free of charge. Holland is also eager to share everything they’ve done – materials and insight – to other manufacturers. Perhaps even see a tour in action when the new school year kicks off.

There are also a variety of organizations that support these efforts.  PREP-KC, with whom Holland has partnered locally, states that it exists, “to create and implement strategies that help students attending Kansas City’s urban school districts succeed in college and their careers.”  Holland can work with them to identify resources in your area to support your interest.

High School Interns at Holland

In addition to the Fifth-Grade program, Holland also supports more common internships for high school age students.  Their most recent Intern, Andrew McClure, shared his perspective on the experience:

“Next year I am going to be studying architecture at the University of Kansas, and I was an intern under Jarrett Lowe (Systems Engineer) and the Engineering department here. I think the main takeaway I got from this experience is learning how to fail for the first time.

“Throughout my 12 years in high school, I have never had a class that helped me pick up information more quickly than this internship. In school you are constantly held to a standard of trying to get a certain number of points or a certain grade on an assignment or test. This sets up the schooling system to be very afraid or failure. This internship gave me the opportunity to see that in the real world it’s not as much about getting the highest grade you can on the first draft, but more about experimenting and improving that draft over time when you figure out where your problems are coming from.

“Instantly, I learned that at first it wasn’t about making a perfect design on the very first go, you had to learn to make your mistakes, then improve your design, then repeat. The Northland CAPs (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) program is extremely beneficial because even though schools have programs to teach hard skills such as learning the software and the math behind the engineering, no school will ever offer you this experience and this opportunity to learn the soft skills. Skills such as how to meet new people and make new connections, and so much more are all taught by NCAPS and is a major reason why it is such a valuable experience. I had multiple conversations with (Holland 1916 CEO) Mike Stradinger who stressed the importance of Holland always improving, and I think that helped change the way I thought of my work as being more about always improving design rather than one big test.”


Privileged to serve a global base of 1000+ happy customers for the last 100 years, Holland Nameplate – part of Holland 1916 Inc., a Veteran owned and operated business – is a certified manufacturer of nameplates and panels. They are ISO 9001 accredited and a UL authorized supplier. Based out of Kansas City, Missouri, all their metal offerings are manufactured in USA!

This article appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Wire Rope Exchange

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