Friday, November 21, 2014

Additive Manufacturing and the Future of our Industry


Additive manufacturing is becoming a “hot topic”. The manufacturing process was actually developed in the 1980’s, but hasn’t really picked up interest until the last few years or so. Since then, it’s sometimes more commonly referred to as “3D printing.” 

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, additive manufacturing is the term that covers any and all processes involved in printing a 3-dimensional product. Historically, additive manufacturing technology has been expensive and typically used by the “bigger fish” in the field. However, recent advancements have enabled additive manufacturing to become more affordable. Ultimately, it will become a more common option for small manufacturers.

What does Additive Manufacturing Actually Do?

3D Printing and the manufacturing industry
Additive manufacturing can be complex. Traditional manufacturing calls for subtracting material from a larger block, think stamping parts out of steel or molding parts from melted plastic. Conversely, to try and describe it as simply as possible, additive manufacturing creates the part by building materials layer by layer through the control of a computer. The end result is a high precision replica of the original digital design. So long as there is a CAD file for the computer to process, nearly any object can be created in a 3D printer.

The technology is more than just “cool.” Its very nature reduces the amount of material required to produce a part. In fact, a recent article from Purdue University reports that new 3D printing algorithms have been shown to significantly reduce the time and material needed to produce objects. STEM education anyone? There are lots of opportunities for mathematically inclined and computer savvy individuals to excel in these new innovative design jobs for manufacturing. 

The Implications for Small Manufacturers

When additive manufacturing was first invented, the machines were very bulky and expensive. As interest increases, particularly from 2010 to 2013, we’ve seen the price of a basic 3D printer drop from $20,000 to $1,000.  This is a significantly more palatable price tag, depending on the nature of your products and services. The smaller price tag is particularly helpful for small manufacturing businesses looking to get a leg up on bigger manufacturing conglomerates.  Additive manufacturing systems exist with nearly any quality or complexity preference in design, which means that there is a printer perfect for any business’ need.

When used for a business, additive manufacturing can very quickly pay back its worth in production.

Current Trends: Additive Manufacturing in Action

Additive manufacturing seems to be booming in the aeronautical industry, as well as for other large manufacturers.  Lockheed Martin recently developed a new Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAMM) machine that will be capable of printing objects of over 100 feet, which will be extremely beneficial and lucrative to aerospace designs.  Whole sections of machines can be created by one product, reducing the amount of time and cost it requires to assemble otherwise costly tools.

Additionally, there has been big growth with additive manufacturing programs for motors and generators.  Many generators and motors often require small, very specific parts, and by owning an additive manufacturing printer, it is possible to print the exact motor or gear needed to keep your generator running.

What’s Next?

At the moment, the possibilities are endless for additive manufacturing.  There have been developments made for apparel, defense, construction, medical, jewelry design and even a variety of art. While we’re still years away from the mass production of 3D printed parts, the process is gaining more and more traction. Industry analysts estimate it at $3 billion dollars a year and growing. Any manufacturing business will soon be able to find an additive manufacturing program for them.

Keep your eye out for more advancements in this area!

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Michigan Holiday Shopping Guide: Buy Local


 In an article published last year, the American Independent Business Alliance highlighted a shift in consumer behavior. More and more frequently, consumers choose to shop at local and independent shops, i.e. buy locally.

There are some great reasons to buy locally, and not just because we believe Michigan makes the best items around (though we do!)  First, let’s do the math. 

For every $100 spent at a local and independent business, $68 stays in the local economy*. This is what economists call the multiplier effect – meaning the money is then re-spent by the owners and employees of the first shop at other restaurants, clothing stores, bars, spas, gift stores, dentists, auto mechanics, and more. By contrast that same $100 spent at big national chain retailers recirculates, at best, only $43. That means the difference between shopping locally and at a chain store is a 58% increase in the multiplier.
*This stat and the others are according to the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics.
Build and Strengthen Your Community – Neighborhood businesses and the surrounding spaces are some of the ultimate social networking sites. Local businesses often purchase their own services from local area businesses, thus helping with the above multiplier effect.
Enhance Choices and Shape Character – This applies both to you and your community. Even a Gap sweater pales if your co-worker has the same one. Supporting local and independent businesses allow for more unique gifts and diverse choices. Michigan has some amazing one of a kind shops and your community stores can help you find the perfect gift for that hard to shop for family member. 
While it’s no secret that we LOVE Michigan companies and that we have a great listing of companies on our website, you may be surprised at what can be found. . . .We encourage you to take a spin around the PTMIM website and check it out. In advance of Black Friday and the Holiday shopping rush, we thought we’d take a moment and highlight a few items for your review. 
Food and Household Items
Michigan is the home of some great craft brews, delicious homemade baked goods, and even some great make at home goodies like PopDaddy Popcorn and Polar Ventures, Whippy Pops frozen treats. There are also wonderful home accents from decorative candles (see North Star or Holly Candle Shoppe) to hand crafted wood products (see Cento Anni and our featured company this week, PegandRail).
Personal Care Items
Tucked away in random places you can locate fun bath time Bizzy Fizz or organic products from Brittanie’s Thyme. Irwin Industries sells its Red Ball Bidet, designed especially to reach those hard to reach areas. From ear plugs to trash receptacles to stainless steel work stations, we really do have a little something for everyone.
One of a Kind Items
For those one of a kind or novelty items, Michigan does not disappoint. You can commission art from Craig Mitchell Smith, collect elegant stemware with a chalkboard base, purchase camp camo’s and delight hunters everywhere. . . for the nature lover in you, check out future oxygen; buy a gift and plant a tree.  
This is just a tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to Innovative design, unique to you products and quality craftsmanship. Get ahead of the Christmas rush and go shopping at a locally owned and operated merchant (or website) near you.
Do you have a favorite hidden gem you want to share? Sound off in the comments.
Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org

Friday, November 7, 2014

LinkedIn: 6 Tips for Michigan’s Manufacturers

linkedin tips for manufacturers
So you’re trying to network with new contacts, exchange business cards and generate more leads for your business. Your target audience members create a big networking group, and very conveniently for you, they decide to have their meetings at a restaurant that’s right next door to your office! Even better, they don’t charge any fees to join their networking group. You would be a fool to completely ignore these meetings and never attend, right?

Well, if you’re not an active member of LinkedIn right now, it’s time to start feeling a little foolish. Don't worry though – it’s never too late to join! LinkedIn is the premiere social media site dedicated to business networking and currently boasts 332 million members.

If you’re not connecting with new leads on LinkedIn, it may be because of your strategy. You have to approach LinkedIn as if you were participating in a real-life networking organization. The more active you are, the better chance you have at making connections and driving business. Here are 6 tips on how you can improve your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Picture: You wouldn’t go to a networking group with a mask on your face… same thinking applies for LinkedIn. Upload a professional looking headshot!

  2. Summary: LinkedIn guides you through creating your profile as if it were an online resume. That’s great if you’re looking for a job, but most of us are looking for more leads. Instead of writing your summary as a resume, use it as an opportunity to appeal to your target audience. Your first sentences should connect with your prospects and address their business challenges. Then, the rest of your summary should demonstrate your personal credibility and how your company can address your prospects’ business needs.

  3. Recommendations: The words of others matter. Reach out to your clients and customers and ask them to provide recommendations to display on your profile. To make it easier for them, you can suggest words or sentences you would like them to include. Ask them to quantify your accomplishments. “Ricky’s products boosted our performance by 50%” holds more merit than “Ricky’s products are great.”

  4. Education, Honors and Personal Interests: Don’t overlook these critical areas to personalize your profile. You may have been in the same fraternity / sorority as a prospect, or may be able to bond over your mutual love of boating! However, avoid controversial topics like politics unless it’s explicitly relevant to your job. Is it really worth missing out on business and alienating customers because you felt the need to post about [insert hot button issue]?

  5. Group Participation: Now that your profile is set, it’s time to get cracking on networking. Research LinkedIn groups that your prospects would be interested in joining. On the group discussion board, start interesting and valuable conversations. Please note: your sales pitch isn’t an interesting conversation! You wouldn’t walk into a networking group and then start immediately shouting out your sales pitch… you need to make connections with people first. Try posting industry updates or tips for your target audience. That way, they’ll look at you as a credible expert and will come to you when they’re ready.

  6. News Feed: When your LinkedIn connections make changes to their profiles or participate on the site, that information is reflected in your news feed. By evaluating your news feed, you can see when your prospects change companies, get promoted or start conversations. This information can be valuable to your future sales pitch!

Remember, a new member joins LinkedIn every 2 seconds. Now is the time to use this networking site to your advantage. And if you haven’t joined it already, MMTC has a Proud to Manufacture in Michigan LinkedIn group! It’s a great place to connect with other local professionals. Click here to visit the group!

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.