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.