Friday, December 21, 2012

The Top Manufacturing Themes of 2012

2012 has been a pivotal year for our country's manufacturing sector. A sector which is integral part of any sustained economic recovery. We’ve seen a renewed focus from media, legislators and the general public to sustain and assist the industry. Media outlets provide continuous coverage on many high profile questions like exporting, wage vs. skills gaps, access to capital and the pros and cons of tax incentives for the sector. This year, MEP with the help of many friends, held our first Annual Manufacturing Day on October 5th, to help increase visibility into the variety of skilled jobs and technology at work in today’s manufacturing facility. Here, from our perspective, were some of the most buzzed about and intriguing themes related to manufacturing in 2012:

  1.  Innovation – Innovation is the process used to generate opportunities for growth. Manufacturers are able to improve productivity and profitability when they use innovation to develop creative solutions. (Note: MMTC offers an Innovation Leadership Program, a step-by-step approach to learning how to create, communicate and commercialize new ideas and opportunities.)
  2. Re-Shoring  - Re-Shoring is the opposite of Off-Shoring, and one step removed form insourcing. Rather than sending a portion of a company’s business operations overseas, companies are shifting all or a portion of their business back to America. According to a recent survey conducted in April by Forbes contributor Vivek Wadhwa, "40% of companies indicated that they have won new manufacturing business this year that had been previously offshored." Manufacturers are seeing the benefits of conducting their operations right from home, and consumers are as well – resulting in the “Made in America” movement.
  3. Made in America – There is an increased awareness among consumers to purchase products that were made in America rather than products that were imported from other countries. Purchasing homemade goods supports business and job growth in America. If Americans purchased all of their holiday gifts right here, we would create 4.6 million jobs. For a holiday gift guide for Michigan-made products, visit the Buy Michigan Now Holiday Gift Guide and Grocery Guide. There is no need to search high and low for the perfect gifts - they are right here in our backyard!    
  4. Additive Manufacturing – In 2012, a $30 million grant was created to transform America into a premiere high tech manufacturing area. The grant established the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio. Additive manufacturing is also known as 3D printing and is the process of making three dimensional, solid objects from a digital model. Watch for advancements in this field next year.

These are just a few of the most important themes in the manufacturing sector. One thing for sure – MMTC will be here to experience all of the manufacturing trends occurring here in Michigan for years to come. To find out more information about MMTC’s programs and services, contact us today.

Have you seen a different manufacturing trend or important topic this year? Leave a comment below and tell us what you’ve experienced!

Image by Industrial Packaging Corp.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Manufacturing Tips: The Value of Collaboration

Manufacturing Tips: The Value of Collaboration

If there’s one thing to be learned from the impending zombie apocalypse (think Walking Dead), it’s the need for someone to have your back. You can be strong, resilient, and powerful, but at some point - you need to sleep. That’s when you want to know that someone is looking out for you.

In manufacturing, there’s no time for snoozing, but sometimes it helps to have another set of eyes to reveal opportunities or an extra set of hands to accelerate improvements. By tapping into outside resources, manufacturers can benefit from the expertise of others to, improve efficiencies, increase production, and support growth. Typical assistance can be for things as basic as regulatory and compliance issues, operational improvements and workforce development initiatives. They can also be as significant as succession or financial planning, new product development, and business expansion.

Studies show that organizations improve with the assistance of industry associations, consulting firms and state manufacturing associations. According to the Next Generation Manufacturing (NGM) Study, 824 manufacturers were asked about the outside resources they have used and if they have positively impacted their organizations:

Industry Association
State manufacturing associations (including MEPs)
Consulting firms
National manufacturing associations
Local/municipal manufacturing associations
No positive impact

Over half of the manufacturers surveyed in the NGM Survey have utilized and benefitted from state manufacturing associations across the nation. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP, works with small and mid-sized manufacturers in the US. MEP helps manufacturers create jobs, increase profits and save time and money.  MEP field staff is located in every state across the country and are focused on solving manufacturers’ challenges and identifying opportunities for growth.

Michigan has a wealth of support for manufacturers. As part of the MEP network, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) is mandated to provide Michigan’s small and medium sized manufacturers with operational assessments, process improvement training, mentoring services, website technical assistance and market diversification tactics. Because our desire is to help improve manufacturing, we stand ready to do much more.

MMTC is committed to help manufacturers innovate and transfer our industry knowledge to our clients. We’re always adding to our suite of services, either creating new tools, new delivery methods, or partnering with many of the great organizations across the state. Our list of partners include our community colleges, economic development agencies, Michigan Works!, the Small Business & Technology Development Centers (SBTDC), the Michigan Economic Development Center (MEDC), and Business Accelerator Services like Ann Arbor Spark.

No one person, company or organization can do it alone, but together; we can improve our processes, strengthen our economy, and change the future for the next generation. Zombies aren’t real, at least not yet, but the challenges are. In Michigan, manufacturers have options. Let’s collaborate!

For more information on the manufacturing services offered to small and mid-sized companies in the state of Michigan, our partners and regional offices, click here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Why I became a Family Business Advisor….

The numbers are staggering:

  • 24,000,000 small businesses in the U.S. today
  • 95% are family-owned or closely-held
  • 85% of business owners’ state: “I want to pass this business on to the next generation”
  • 65% will transition ownership or leadership within the next 5 years, but most have no formal succession plan in place.
  • 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation
Of all the numbers and comments, the one that hit home the most is this one: “Most of the discussions in regards to succession planning happen in the funeral home parking lot.”

As a consultant, I work with many, many family owned businesses in Michigan. When I start to relate the numbers to not only my clients, but my friends, I realize the incredible importance of having a succession plan. Imagine the impact on a company, a family, the employees, and a community without one. So if this is so important, why don’t more family owned businesses do it? This is what I hear:

      No time to deal with the issue
      Too early to plan for succession
      Can’t find adequate advice/tools to start
      Too complex and costs too much 
      Don’t want to think about leaving
      Might create conflict with family or employees

What I tell people is, “There will always be a reason not to do it.” You need to have a plan that will make the difference between whether your business will endure, or succumb. Keeping it simple, you need to:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Top Twelve Reasons we’re thankful in 2012

12.   Manufacturing has received a lot of positive attention in the Media spotlight this year, just ask your politicians

11.    Bloomberg’s Michigan Manufacturing Group Index is up for the year.

10.   While the nation added 225,000 manufacturing jobs last year, one of every ten of them were in Michigan. In the most current data available, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 5.5% increase in Michigan Manufacturing jobs from Mar 2011 to Mar 2012.

9.      The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is #2 on the US News Industrial / Manufacturing College Ranking list. Industrial / Manufacturing engineering involves improved productivity and efficiency. For more,

8.       A successful National Manufacturing Day on October 5th – kicking off the first of an annual event highlighting skilled jobs and innovation in today’s manufacturing facilities. For more information, see the website at and get ready now for Manufacturing Day 2013 on October 4th

7.       Overall, 15 of 22 industry groups contributed to the increase in real GDP. Durable goods manufacturing—reflecting strong growth in motor vehicle manufacturing, and professional, scientific and technical services were the leading contributors to growth. Durable–goods manufacturing contributed 1.17 percentage points to growth in Michigan. See the report here – released Nov 13, 2012.

6.        Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped for the 2nd straight month in data released by the Department of Technology, management and Budget on November 14th. The largest job advances were posted in professional and business services, and manufacturing, both up 15,000

5.        Detroit is one of the  10 metropolitan statistical areas where the most job growth from 2010 to 2012 -

4.        MMTC is part of the new Innovation Center focused on helping small and midsize manufacturers innovate quickly and spur growth and new product creation. Be watching for more information coming soon. Read the Crain’s article here -

3.        We’re Proud to Manufacture in Michigan and so are many of you. In the first 3 months of the program, 93 companies have elected to join the Proud to Manufacture in Michigan program and 15 companies have been featured as our Manufacturer of the Week. For more on the program, visit our website at

2.        Almost half of the Michigan 50 companies to watch are manufacturers.

1.       America’s Thanksgiving Parade, now in its 86th year, is a fantastic “Made in Detroit” tradition put together by the Parade Company out of Detroit. For more information on the Parade, check out the Guide in today’s CBS local news

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Ways to Achieve Customer-Focused Innovation

There are three elements necessary to achieve world class customer-focused innovation.
Defining innovation should be easy, unfortunately, it’s not. Is it a process? Is it the end game? Is it merely a new way of doing an existing thing or is it only something completely different? Is collaboration a tool that allows innovation to take place or is collaboration itself the innovation? At least we can agree on this - manufacturing innovation includes the introduction of new processes and practices, new technology and equipment and/or new materials to a company. Innovation is an integral part of the continued successes of Michigan's manufacturing sector. Innovation is necessary because of the competitive edge that it brings and it’s essential to develop, make and market new products and services that meet customer needs at a pace faster than the competition, especially in today’s economic environment.

According to the Next Generation Manufacturing Survey, approximately 43% of manufacturers self-report that they are near or at world-class customer-focused innovation. Merely 5% of manufacturers report no progress toward world-class status. The implication, if you aren’t at least moving in this direction, you are falling behind the competition.

There are three elements necessary to achieve world-class customer-focused innovation: strategy, talent / talent-development and capable business systems and equipment:

  • Strategy – 72 percent of manufacturing companies have a company-specific strategy, which guides innovation. Only seven percent of firms have no innovation strategy in place.
  • Talent / development programs – Talent and development programs drive customer-focused innovation into the next generation. Talent development is also important to close the skills gap that manufacturers are experiencing. The majority of manufacturers have either adequate talent or a talent development program. Only 17 percent of manufacturing companies do not have either talent or a development program. This is relevant for areas beyond innovation, including succession planning and business sustainability.
  • Business systems and equipment – A majority of manufacturers host systems and equipment, which meet current requirements. 18 percent report that they have state-of-the-art tools, while an equal 18 percent have inadequate systems and equipment or none at all.

Manufacturers that are near or at world-class customer-focused innovation emphasize communication and collaboration to address the requirements of their customers. Manufacturers cite some best practices to achieve world-class status: 

  •  Active study of customer requirements
  • Business focused Research & Development
  • No fear of failure
  • Fully integrated services, from development through distribution
  • Routine innovation training
  • Flat organizational structure which allows for ease of communication between sales and customer service – leading to employee empowerment.

Leadership is the cornerstone of any successful change effort and implementing a successful innovation initiative at your manufacturing facility is no different. Research shows that without leadership, improvement efforts are not sustainable and have a high failure rate. MMTC offers a 3 Day Executive Level hands-on workshop focused on leading change. Led by experienced MMTC team members, the workshop focuses on organizational performance and creating a culture of improvement and innovation.

In addition, MMTC has just been named in a partnership with the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, the Detroit regional Chamber, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences to connect local manufacturers with the capability and capacity to support low-volume, custom projects with new global contracts, including R & D and other intellectual property developed in Michigan. The innovation Center, slated to open in early 2013, will allow manufacturers easy access to digital modeling and other simulation tools to optimize speed, reliability and efficiency.

For more information about MMTC's Leadership-in-Action, the innovation center pilot or other programs, contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at

Image by Kelly Waters.