Friday, September 27, 2013

PTMIM II Recap: Warm Fuzzies and Commendations

Another successful Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference is behind us and we’re already anticipating the next time we can get together and celebrate manufacturing. Before we get too caught up in future events, we wanted to take a moment to thank this year’s wonderful sponsors. We appreciate their partnership and in honor of our great lakes, we’d like to recognize this year’s conference sponsors:

Lake Huron sponsor: The Right Place and MMTC-West Michigan Manufacturers Council (WMMC). The Manufacturers Council is a volunteer collaborative of West Michigan manufacturing owners and top executives representing a diverse assortment of local industries.
Lake Michigan sponsors: Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA), Manufacturing Focused. Member Driven, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Making the future. Together. and PNC Bank, Advantage for Manufacturers.
Lake Erie sponsors: SAMSA, Flagstar Bank, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter, PC, Yeo & Yeo, Jackson Area Manufacturers Association (JAMA), Ferris State University (FSU), and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).
Lake Ontario sponsor: Huntington Bank

We would also like to extend a special thank you to our student sponsors —Northwestern Michigan College (NMC), and the Manufacturing Technology Academy (MTA), part of the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District Career Tech Center — who made it possible for over 40 students from local area high schools, colleges, and tech centers, to attend the conference and participate in networking and breakout sessions, and get excited about careers in manufacturing.

We also had some great Michigan companies sharing their successes. Covering the broad brush strokes of Innovation, Exporting, Leadership, Supply Chain Management, Family Business, Succession Planning and Employee Development, conference attendees, sponsors and students were delighted with our keynotes and breakouts, stating that they were both informative and relevant for the industry.

We were honored to kick off our speaking with Sara Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of inventor Thomas Edison. Ms. Caldicott shared the five steps to ‘Innovate like Edison’. Proud to Manufacture in Michigan program attendees received copies of her book, Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success.

Some of our other main session speakers included James Foley Director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, Mike Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, and WMMC’s Workforce Development Champion, Jay Dunwell, from Wolverine Coil Spring Co., provided our final keynote highlighting the Discover Manufacturing Today videos and winners. These 3 minute videos were created and produced by west Michigan students asked to demonstrate why “Manufacturing is Cool.” 

Our Speed Networking sessions continue to be well received. As one attendee put it, “Speed networking is great for those of us that are not natural networkers.”  Other ‘quotables’ included:

“Excellent Conference! The facilities, food, location and content made it very well worth the time & expense.” Thomas Armstong, VP of Sales, Superior Fabrication [and we agreed – so a shout out to the Hagerty Center, a great facility and wonderful location for any conference or meeting.]

“This conference really showed me how management thinks which was insightful and was a wonderful experience.” Logan Furhman, student

“I found it interesting, the word ‘engagement’ was used throughout the conference & workshops, excellent!” Rich Meachum, VP Sales & Engineering, RLM Industries

Another highlight for us, new Proud to Manufacture in Michigan member companies and friends of manufacturing joined our PTMIM program. New members and friends include: Protomatic Inc., American Label & Tag Inc., Vintech Industries Inc., Superior Fabrication, Quality Tool & Stamping Inc., TentCraft, Lunar Industries Inc., HTE Inc., Antrim Machine Products Inc., Royal Engineering Inc., Tellurex, D.A.W. Consulting Solutions, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter, PC, and 3TG Consulting.

From the first musical notes, (special shout out to Marie Laird, our exceptional national anthem singer and 2013 Mel Larimer Memorial scholarship award winner) to the final strains [Kudos to our three plant tour hosts, Skilled Manufacturing Inc., (SMI), Electro-Optics Technology, Inc. (EOT), and Hayes Manufacturing], PTMIM II was a success.

As guest John E. Hill, President and CEO from Midwest Mold said, “Great Conference . . . . Again. Look forward to next year.”

Thanks, John. We couldn’t agree more.

Look for information on next year’s conference, held in conjunction with SME’s The Big M Manufacturing Convergence at Detroit’s newly remodeled Cobo Center, June 9-12, 2014. To add your name to the email updates, join the Proud to Manufacture in Michigan (PTMIM) Program.

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Importance of Business Continuity Planning (Part 1 of 2)

Have you ever heard of Aesop’s Fables? If you’re unfamiliar, Aesop was a Greek story-teller, credited with sharing a number of short stories containing moral lessons for the listeners. There’s actually a famous fable that applies to manufacturing. It’s called, The Ant and the Grasshopper.

To summarize the fable, there are two animals featured in the plot... and you guessed it…one is an ant, the other, a grasshopper. During summertime, the ant works diligently to prepare for the winter. He spends his time hunting, gathering, storing food, etc.

On the other hand, the grasshopper spends summertime having fun. The grasshopper lounges around, sings and dances with his friends and goes about his days carefree. When winter comes around, the grasshopper is left cold and starving while the ant enjoys his food and shelter.

Moral of the story: plan ahead.

Like any good boy scout, being prepared gives you the ability to respond well in any given circumstance. In business, there are events that are out of control. Disasters or crises unexpectedly occur and negatively impact our business. While a loss of revenue or damage of some sort may be inevitable, we can minimize the impact if we plan ahead. This is why business continuity planning is so important.

Business continuity planning outlines the actions a manufacturer takes when operations are threatened by crises. The plan gives your team an organized path on how to move forward both internally and externally.

Look, we like to be optimistic and celebrate the successes of manufacturers. However, we also need to prepare for the worst. Think about the following scenarios:

  • How would you communicate with your clients if a natural disaster knocked your electricity out for a week? Who’s responsible for contacting clients? For contacting employees? What about vendors? Deliveries?
  • Do you have a statement prepared for the public in the case of a product recall?
  • Do you have internal standard operations in place to manage a recall of equipment or parts?
  • Do you have alternatives in place in the event of a supplier disruption?
  • What is the “chain of command” if there was a disaster preventing your team from coming into work?
  • Does everyone on the team know their responsibilities in the case of a crisis? When did you last update the plan? Practice it? Do key team members still work here?

There are many benefits to planning ahead. Foremost, it helps keep your team safe. When everyone is organized and on the same page, it limits panic and hysteria. This is of the utmost importance. Internally, giving team members their specific role, and then implementing the plan with annual drills, brings confidence in a crisis that also enables them to feel like they are a part of the solution, building teamwork and morale.

You may have to “eat some costs” during a disaster, but effective business continuity planning and implementation also helps you avoid or minimize a major loss in revenue. Wasted time and resources attempting to recover in hysterics = a waste of money.

How you handle unfortunate circumstances also influences how the public and your customers perceive your organization. To this day, colleges and universities still use the Tylenol disaster in the 1980’s as a case study for effective crisis planning. In the 1980’s, someone had poisoned Tylenol pill tablets resulting in customer deaths. This was a horrible tragedy and something out of their control. However, Johnson & Johnson had such an effective plan in place that they were able to rapidly recall their products and introduce new safety features immediately into the market. The company quickly regained the public’s trust and their safety features are used as the standard today.

Don’t be the grasshopper of manufacturing. Business continuity is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. If you would like assistance, please contact us at

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 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Lost Art of Employee Development

Technology is a wonderful thing . . . or it can be, especially as it relates to medical advancement, gadgetry, and the like. With all technology, it can also displace or supplant something else, creating a lost skill or product. Perhaps somewhere in the middle of the ocean is an island for misfit technology. 8-track and vinyl records, anyone?

One of the many things that has become a specialty niche is film development. With the onset of digital photography and the quality and abundance of cell phone cameras, etc. the one-hour photo shops and  photography studios no longer need to actually create a temperature appropriate chemical bath in a darkroom to develop pictures. . . . and yet, there’s something to be said about a non-digitized, no-touch up, honest to goodness darkroom developed photograph on quality paper, that captures a memory you can hold in your hand.

In a recent Facebook MMTC TIP OF THE WEEK entry, we tackle the idea of Employee development. Like the darkroom, the idea of engaging employees and professional development is a lost art . . . or an outmoded, underappreciated art. It’s appears to be an often ignored aspect of business. Many companies seem to view training and development as optional rather than essential. Engaged employees are more productive. The development of an employee is an important factor for the prosperity and growth of any business as employees are the main determining factor for the success of the business. A few simple questions can help you recognize if your employees are engaged.
  • Are your employees making suggestions and helping to improve your business?
  • Are your employees growing and becoming better at what they do and creating more opportunities for your business?
  • Do your employees see themselves as partners in the planning and improvement process?
  • Do you have a company full of initiators or reactors?
It’s not just us. . . . This topic has been in the news for at least the last 6 months. Here’s a collection of some articles that present an overview of this issue. It appears that poor employee engagement can be quite costly.

This June interview with the Gallop Workplace Jedi, published by Fast Company reveals the latest numbers of disengaged employees . . . and explains how what we’re doing just isn’t working.

Communication appears to be a key ingredient, but if you think you’ve got this covered, you might want to think again. This article from S.T.A.R. Resources identifies a 10 step implementation plan to better communication. 

And Focal Point from Cornerstone Advisory Services offered this advice earlier this month, the 5 ingredients necessary to create an excellent team in your business.
As the workforce ages, there is concern that there will be a dearth of leadership as well as skilled labor. This cool infographic, courtesy of the University of Denver and posted by Industry Week, speaks to the building blocks needed to develop the next generation of leadership.

This change in approach applies to employee training as well. This Industry Week article looks at the changing face of training to help make it more engaging.

This short interview from Manufacturing Business Technology, with top global recruitment specialist, Brian Binke, reveals some good advice to help manufacturers find qualified workers.

For an opportunity to meet the future workforce, consider attending next week’s Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference in Traverse City. There will be 50 students looking forward to interacting with you and learning more about the technologies and opportunities in manufacturing.

For an opportunity to review your leadership style, poll your workforce, and identify potential improvement areas in your company’s employee collaborations, check out MMTC’s next Leadership-in-Action Innovative Strategic Planning scheduled in November.  

 You may be surprised at what could develop.
 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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why Manufacturing Day Matters to Michigan


On Friday, October 4th, companies nationwide will join together and celebrate National Manufacturing Day! The holiday was established to raise awareness about manufacturing’s impact on the economy and change the perception of manufacturing careers for future generations.

With manufacturing back in the spotlight in our state and nation, it’s important that the business community and our legislative representatives (and of course the general public) understand how vital the manufacturing sector is to economic growth. 

An article from January 2013 titled, “Is Manufacturing Cool Again?” appeared in Project Syndicate. In it, the authors referenced the need for software programmers, engineers, designers, robotics experts, data analysis, and a myriad of other professional and service-type positions that will be required in the manufacturing renaissance going on today. It’s in part due to the wave of innovation in materials and manufacturing processes, aided by information technology.

In particular, manufacturers and academic institutions, among others, are encouraged to open their doors on National Manufacturing Day to students, educators, parents and the media so that the public can understand the processes of local manufacturers and the types of careers available in the field.

Why is this so important for Michigan’s manufacturers?
As some of you may have experienced, we are witnessing a skilled labor gap in the industry. Simply put, there are open positions in manufacturing, but not enough skilled workers to fill those jobs.

One clear driver is perception. Many younger professionals envision manufacturing as “old school” workers getting dirty on an assembly line. They don’t see the high-tech careers often associated with manufacturing today. They also don’t realize the wide-range of positions in manufacturing facilities such as sales, marketing, administration, accounting, etc.
Stats from an infographic by NIST MEP in partnership with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International, best capture the story:

  • Only 30 percent of parents encourage their kids to join the field and only 17 percent of people view manufacturing as a top career choice.
  • However, manufacturing jobs pay well. 77k is the annual salary of manufacturing workers and manufacturing professionals have the highest level of job tenure in the private sector.
  • Now, 67 percent of U.S. manufacturers are experiencing a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers and 56 percent of American manufacturers believe this issue will get worse.
  • Baby boomers, a group that currently makes up much of the manufacturing workforce, are expected to be out of the field by 2030. 
The result: 83 percent of manufacturers report that the lack of skilled workers is negatively impacting their business. We need to change this perception!

Events like National Manufacturing Day and Michigan’s own Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference raise awareness about these types of issues. We can come together and help cultivate the next generation of manufacturing leaders!

Useful Links:
·      Infographic
·      Share your Story

If you’re a manufacturer who is looking to become more efficient, productive and globally competitive, MMTC can help. Click here for a list of our services or contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at

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