Friday, June 27, 2014

Recent Study Cites Competition as Top Concern for Michigan Manufacturers

BDO USA, LLP, in a press release dated June 17th, highlighted results from the 2014 Manufacturing RiskFactor Report.* 100% of the publicly traded U.S. manufacturers HQ in Michigan cited Industry competition, consolidation, and pressure on pricing as the #1 risk factor keeping them up at night. This puts it ahead of all other identified risk factors, including general economic conditions, U.S. and foreign supplier/vendor concerns and a commonly recurring cited risk of Federal, State and/or local regulations.

There are some pretty interesting comments from the original press release including a clear focus on rebuilding the U. S. manufacturing industry, making it well worth reading. "As the manufacturing industry undergoes a renaissance in the U.S., Michigan continues to be a state poised to benefit from the growth," said Fred Rozelle, Detroit-based regional managing partner and member of the BDO Manufacturing & Distribution practice. "But that is not without its challenges. Manufacturers will contend with strong competition as well as regulatory and labor challenges."

2014 Rank
Risk Factor Cited in 10-K Filing
Competition and consolidation in manufacturing
General economic conditions
Federal, State and/or local regulations
U.S. and foreign supplier/vendor concerns and distribution disruptions
Currency/Foreign exchange fluctuation
Less demand for products
Threats to International operations
Management of mergers and acquisitions
Legal proceeding
Restrictive international trade policies
Environmental laws, regulations and liability
Commodity/raw material prices
Access to capital
Labor concerns; underfunded pensions
Failure to properly execute business strategy
Intellectual property violations/challenges
Product quality issues/recalls
Health of the major industries they serve
Ability to innovate to meet changing customer needs
Loss of key management/new management
*risk factors are analyzed and ranked according to frequency cited, based on risk factors expressed in the most recent 10-K filings of the largest 100 publicly traded U.S. Manufacturers across five sectors, including fabricated metal, food processing, machinery, plastics and rubber, and transportation equipment. A t indicates a tie in the risk factor ranking.

While Michigan’s small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) may not cite these risk factors as frequently, there are some that are worth noting. Many, such as general economic conditions and regulatory environments are largely outside of a manufacturer’s control. There are some, like commodity prices or access to capital, which may actually be of greater concern to an SME. However, there are others that may provide Michigan SMEs with an advantage. When it comes to innovating to meet changing customer needs, an SME may be more agile and better equipped to accommodate a design or material change.  

Michigan’s cluster of new product contract manufacturers are a great example of a nimble group of companies ready to launch new-design products quickly, bringing new product concepts to market. Several were featured at our Third Annual Proud to Manufacture in Michigan conference earlier this month.

Understanding your core efficiencies, adding design and material capabilities, identifying and implementing a business strategy that helps diversify your customer base, all these things can help alleviate Michigan SME’s exposure to risk factors and better condition them to withstand industry and economic ambiguity.

MMTC has many tools that can help. For more information, click here or contact us at

Have thoughts on Risk Factors for Michigan's Manufacturers? Share them in the comments below. 

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, June 20, 2014

Michigan Manufacturers – It’s Time to Get Social!

Technology and the Internet are constantly changing how we communicate and conduct business. For better or worse, it seems like we are always surrounded by technology. By the time you snap your fingers, you can probably find a desktop, laptop or smart phone to surf the web.

Our cultural dependency on technology is also rapidly changing how companies market their products. Our target customers have the ability to block our sales calls or skip over our advertisements. Think about it – when’s the last time you took a cold call? Our target audience can research solutions, products and parts…not to mention our competitors… all on the Internet.

Michigan manufacturers – it’s time to increase your online presence. When your prospective customers go on the Internet, you’re the one they should find.

Social media is a great way for businesses to build their online brand. If you’re envisioning high school students who are using their personal blog to complain about their problems or college kids posting their party pictures on Facebook, that’s NOT what we’re talking about when we say social media. Social media for business is an entirely different animal. With the right social media strategy and implementation, it can help you:
social media for manufacturers 
  • Increase website traffic
  • Enhance brand awareness
  • Connect with new prospects
  • Nurture leads
  • Drive sales

According to SocialMedia Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92% of marketers indicate that “social media is important for their business,” up 86% from 2013. The State of Inbound Marketing from Hubspot reports that social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing (techniques such as cold calling and telemarketing).

There are various ways manufacturers can use social media platforms to their benefit, but here are just some examples:

  • Facebook – manufacturers can showcase their products and parts. Companies can also provide industry news and updates to provide engaging content for followers.

  • Blogging – businesses can provide “how-to” tips and information to their target audience and present themselves as credible subject matter experts.

  • Twitter – organizations can tweet news to reporters for possible media placements or connect with local, state and federal legislators to tour their facilities.

  • LinkedIn – manufacturers can use LinkedIn’s group function to connect with new contacts online and start discussions.

If you haven’t joined social media yet, now is a good time to explore the possibility. It’s a powerful business development tool in your arsenal to grow sales!

MMTC provides business development services to all Michigan businesses. For more information, clickhere or 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, June 13, 2014

Proud to Manufacture in Michigan, You Better Believe It! (Best Believe)

We’re just wrapping up our third annual Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference, co-located this year with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ (SME’s) Big M Event at Cobo Hall.  It was exciting to be part of the outpouring of support for Michigan’s manufacturers, and we were happy to celebrate the great things going on in our state.

Did you know that manufacturing is still the largest sector by employment in Michigan? It’s home to over 12,000 manufacturers. Not only that, but those manufacturers reject fewer parts (0.3% vs. 0.5%), spend less time reworking product (1.4% vs. 2.0%), and have lower labor costs as a % of sales (32.4% vs. 33.5%) than their non-Michigan counterparts?

Recognized as the heart of the automotive industry, Michigan is home to 61 of the top 100 North American auto suppliers. It produces 23% of all vehicles in the nation, more than any other state. 14.6% of Michigan’s workforce is in the automotive industry, and more than 70% of all US automotive R & D spending takes place in Michigan, which is home to 370 R&D Centers.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, because Michigan is so much more than automotive. Detroit was once known as the Aviation Capital of America, and the University of Michigan started the 1st collegiate aeronautics program in the US. Its graduate program ranks #1 among public institutions.

Grand Rapids has earned the title of “The [Office] Furniture Capital of America” and is home to many large OEMs, including Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, and American Seating. At least 85 Oakland County-based companies offer products and services for defense and homeland security, Rogers City boasts the world’s largest limestone quarry, Beaverton is known as the thermoforming capital of the world, and we all know that the cherry capital is right here in Traverse City.

In fact, it’s no surprise that Michigan is the #1 U.S. producer of cherries, but did you know that we also rank #1 for blueberries, cucumbers (used for pickles) AND potted Easter Lilies? We’re #2 in fresh market celery and carrots, behind California. 

A big thanks to Jeff Mason from the University Research Corridor and Joe Quick, Manager of MEDC’s Talent Programs and Talent Enhancement, who helped jumpstart our day one celebration of Michigan. In addition to these fun facts, we enjoyed keynote speeches from Nigel Francis, Senior Vice President from MEDC’s automotive industry office, and Charles E. (Gus) Whelan, Jr., Chairman of the Warren Featherbone Company.

Our main room included Innovative products that were imagined and are now, or soon will be, manufactured in Michigan. Spectra Therapy developed a new wearable laser wrap to promote wound healing. Elite Mold & Engineering will be building it. Elbert Han, at the age of 15, while still in high school, designed a wristwatch made with eight moveable parts manufactured using a new kind of 3D printing. Linear Mold & Engineering helped make his design a reality. Central Screw Products came up with better uppers and lowers for the 308 version of the AR-15 rifle, and its Detroit Gun Works division is now making them. LithSafe came up with a safe way to contain and transport faulty lithium-ion batteries and has partnered with Action Wood 360 to build its prototype, which was on display at the conference. S.E.T. Products came up with steel covers to deter thieves from breaking into abandoned buildings. Its unique solution is being manufactured here in Michigan by Detronic Industries. Our final showcased innovation was developed by Arborlight. Billed as ‘daylight on demand’, this U of M spinoff has developed Solis: an LED based skylight emulator that simulates outdoor lighting. They are in the final decision making process and will select a Michigan manufacturer to make these lights from among those that responded to its RFQ.  We’re so glad these fantastic companies were willing to share their innovative ideas and designs with us.

Our interactive breakout sessions featured nine different Michigan companies and highlighted ways to transform your business, increase your capacity without large capital investments, develop leadership and engage employees, and enhance the role of small and medium sized manufacturers in lightweighting. A big thanks to Extreme Tool & Engineering in Ironwood, Kremin Corporation of Saginaw, Tentcraft in Traverse City, Jacquart Fabric Products, also of Ironwood, Symmetry Medical from Lansing, Roll-Rite in Alger, NanoSteel in Troy, Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) from Auburn Hills, and Kaiser Aluminum in Kalamazoo, representing the Aluminum in Transportation (ATG) group. We also want to thank our facilitators, Mike Beels, Rich Wolin, Russ Mason, and special guest Bob Metzger from the Automotive Industry Office of the MEDC.

We had a great time, and hope you did too.

No conference is complete without sponsors, and we had great ones. A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and participating companies. We could NOT have done this without you.

Companies that helped us thank our speakers by providing WONDERFUL Michigan made products:
Brownwood Farms Cherry BBQ sauce

Cherry Republic Cherry Jam
Kelloggs Poptarts
McClure’s Pickles – Pickles
Garden Fresh baked pita chips
Zehnder’s Bavarian Inn old fashioned egg noodles and msg free chicken seasoning
Germack pistachios
Sanders dessert toppings, dark chocolate peppermint raspberry, a personal favorite
Hanover Michigan cherry chocolate wafers
Blackrock’s Brewery Coconut brown and 51K IPA beverages

For a copy of a speaker presentation, sponsor contact information, or additional conference follow-up, please email See you next year at Soaring Eagle Resort in Mount Pleasant, September 24th and 25th, at the Fourth Annual Proud to Manufacture in Michigan conference. 

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, June 6, 2014

Three Ways Cross-Training Improves your Workforce

Michigan’s manufacturers are always looking for ways to strengthen their workforce. In today’s competitive environment, your staff is your company’s most valuable asset. Cross-training is an excellent way to cultivate a versatile workforce that maximizes efficiencies and productivity.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, cross-training involves taking an employee with a specific function within your organization, and training him or her in a different role. The goal is to develop this employee’s skills in other areas or departments so that he or she is more well-rounded and adaptable. By cross-training employees across different departments, you create a more flexible workforce.

Example: Kimberly works in your company’s marketing department and she’s great at her position. Long-term, you would like her to remain in marketing. However, you bring her on the shop floor every Thursday at 2:00pm. During this time, Gary, who operates numerous machines on the floor, trains Kimberly to use a special injection tool. Over time, Kimberly develops the skills required to operate the machine independently. She remains a member of the marketing department, and Gary remains in charge of operating the machines. However, Kimberly now has the expertise to also use the tool.

Likewise, you may take Jonathan from the shipping department and bring him into the marketing department on Thursdays to learn some specific marketing tasks such as sending company e-blasts through the organization’s e-mail marketing software.

Here are three key reasons why this can benefit your organization:

Keep Production Flowing During Absences, Vacations and Spikes in Business

Employees get sick, go on vacation or take breaks. An employee may need to stop… but your productivity can’t. In the event that an employee is gone, you now have a back-up employee(s) who can fulfill critical tasks. Using the example above, if Gary gets the flu and is out for the week, Kimberly may be able to fill in for him at certain parts of the week and use the special injection tool.

This is also helpful during unexpected spikes in business. Let’s say the marketing department was unexpectedly hit with extra projects this month. They have to plan two extra major events and rollout a new campaign. If the work is overflowing, they can bring in Jonathan, who is now  trained in the e-mail marketing system, to manage sending company e-blasts.

Here is a real-lifemanufacturing example from a website for entrepreneurs called

“There was only one employee (out of 30) who had the training to run a particular machine. When the employee was not in the correct spot, the entire line shut down waiting for the one trained employee to return. Had other employees been trained in this area, there would not have been a line stoppage and 29 people could have remained working.”

Build a Stronger Sense of Team Appreciation

When someone works hard at his or her job, there is a natural desire to be recognized. Consequently, when people make mistakes or fall short at tasks, they also want people to understand the difficulties and challenges of their position. Cross-training enables workers to experience somebody else’s job, for better or worse. Through this experience, workers are able to build a sense of appreciation for the work of other employees. This understanding can help create a better environment of teamwork and camaraderie.

Circling back to our fictional example above, even if Kimberly and Jonathan are never called upon to assist the company with their newfound skills, this new perspective can also enhance their own job performance. Now that Kimberly has an appreciation for the care that Gary uses in operating machines, particularly the special injection tool, she can utilize that knowledge when writing marketing materials and creating campaigns. Jonathan has a better understanding of efforts that go into each campaign and can take pride when product shipments increase, knowing those marketing efforts are being rewarded.

Add New Perspectives into the Mix

Workers develop their own natural routine with getting the work done. But what if their routine isn’t the most efficient way to go? By training someone new and adding them into the mix, they may offer a fresh perspective and identify a more effective way to accomplish goals. Similarly, they may have had a similar issue in their own department and can offer insight as to how to address problems.

Cross-training provides an excellent opportunity to develop the skills of your workforce and recognize numerous additional benefits. Identify key players in your company that you believe can handle new functions and ultimately experience the perks!

MMTC offers a variety of services including projects that will improve your workforce. For more information, click here to see a list of MMTC’s solutions or contact us at 888-414-6682 or

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