Friday, January 31, 2014

Manufacturing: Michigan Leads the Way

Unless you’ve been without power for the last 24 hours, and with this polar vortex that’s entirely possible, you know that President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night. And, if you’ve read the transcript or watched it live, you know that there were multiple references to Michigan, including the highlight of Andra Rush’s Detroit Manufacturing Systems story of putting people back to work and of newly appointed GM CEO, Mary Barra, breaking the glass ceiling.

Pundits from all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle fact checked, praised and criticized aspects of the speech. Such is the nature of politics and our freedom of speech. Rhetoric aside, there were many positive mentions for Michigan and manufacturing. As the MMTC, we’re excited about that. So excited, in fact, that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about some of those initiatives and how we can help.
 
Job Training Programs
MMTC is a consulting company that does training. We’ve conducted tens of thousands of hours of on-site, personalized assistance for companies – from Internal Audit to Six Sigma, Leadership and workforce development, and strategic planning sessions for CEOs and managers – to help strengthen businesses. We’ve gotten certified with IACET to offer Continuing Education Credits (CEU’s) to help our trainees leverage new skill sets. With Vice-President Biden gearing up to “lead an ‘across-the-board’ effort to reform job training programs in America,” we’re confident that we’re up to the challenge. We’ve already had our ear to the ground to better understand the skills and services that Michigan companies need to remove capacity constraints, improve operational flow, and work with new and lightweight materials. We’re in partnerships with local economic development agencies, universities, trade schools, and community colleges to improve training content and make sure that tomorrow’s skills are being taught today.

Job Growth/Partnering with CEO’s to put people back to work
The mention of the “8 million new jobs created by business in the last four years” is indeed good news for Michigan and the nation. The call for reducing unemployment and putting people back to work resonates with us, since Michigan’s December unemployment rate of 8.4% ranks it still fourth-highest in the nation. As part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), MMTC is measured on the impacts we have on our clients, including their job growth. In the last 12 months, our clients reported that MMTC helped them create or retain 1,230 jobs. In addition, the President announced the convening of CEO’s from around the country to address unemployment. Midland-based Dow Chemical is among the top American companies enlisted to support this initiative. This is yet another example of how Michigan is leading the nation on industry support and manufacturing advancement.

Leveling the Playing Field and Opening New Markets for American Made Products
As noted in the President’s address, the volume of made-in-America goods and services is increasing and the U.S. is achieving record levels of exported products. In 2011, nearly one-third of all manufacturing workers in Michigan depended on exports for their jobs. 90% of Michigan’s exporting companies in 2011 were small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and they contributed 22.1% of all exported merchandise. MMTC has been working with companies to improve their supply chains and to match Michigan companies to more local suppliers. We also contract with companies to identify top markets for new and existing products, including international trade opportunities. Through our partnership with Pure Michigan Business Connect, we encourage companies to increase procurement spending within the state.

 No matter your political party or the political positions you hold, it’s clear that manufacturing - jobs, exports, and taking pride in American products - is back on the agenda. That’s a position we all can embrace. On behalf of Michigan, we say ‘Welcome to the party!’ American made, American strong? Michigan is leading the way.

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, January 24, 2014

What do you know about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?

The wheels of progress and change often move slowly, and never more so than in a bureaucracy. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) representing a major shift in food safety, probably the biggest in the last 70 years, was signed into law early in 2011. Today, in early 2014, many aspects of the FSMA are still being discussed by the Food and Drug Administration and Congress. Just how will all those new elements be enforced and who will need to comply? Those are just two of the big questions still being decided, often on a guideline by guideline basis, in Washington and communities just like yours.
 
Following the FDA Process
The FDA, in conjunction with Congress, issues a number of rulings and guidelines, as set out in the Administrative Procedure Act, yet another law, that governs how the federal government can propose and establish regulations. Under this act, the FDA can and does hold public meetings to provide all interested parties an opportunity to come and raise issues or concerns about the proposed legislation. In some cases, but not all, feedback is factored into the enforcement or ruling, in effect changing the way in which the legislation is applied.  
  1. FDA proposes a rule and requests comments - Also known as a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), it’s published in the Federal Register (FR) so that the public can view and send comments, typically between 30 and 90 days.
  2. FDA considers all comments and issues a final rule - Any significant comments are discussed and sometimes written into the review. Sometimes those comments result in a rule revision. The final rule is also published in the FR and in the FDA’s official docket on Regulations.gov.
  3. Companies comply with the rule based on the identified “Effective Date” - The amount of time can vary and the sometimes additional provisions or accommodations are made for various industries such as farms, small business, etc.
Actual Case Study
One such example, starting back in January 2013, regarded rules about produce safety and preventive controls for human food. One aspect addressed science-based standards and the other aspect addressed safety standards for food facilities. In both cases, the FDA made unprecedented steps to engage all stakeholders, traveling across the globe to meet with industry, farms of various types and sizes, and food producers of all kinds. Because of the valuable input received during those interviews, it quickly became clear that the language would have to be revised in order to achieve the goal of the legislation while minimizing undue burden to local farmers and growers. You can reference the Dec 19th publication where the results of this inquiry are detailed. Be on the lookout for the revised ruling due out in summer 2014.

Latest FDA request for input 
One of the currently proposed rules, published Dec 24, 2013, for the “Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration” is currently posted and available for comments. Comments to the proposed rule are due by March 31, 2014. Under this proposition, the largest food businesses would have to have a written food defense plan addressing significant vulnerabilities in a food operation. The FDA is proposing tiered compliance dates, recognizing that small and very small businesses may need more time to comply with this requirement. This rule, as currently written, would apply to all foreign and domestic facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food and are required to register as a food facility under section 415 of the FD&C Act.

Opportunity and Challenge
A recent Food Manufacturing article on the FSMA rightly identified it as an opportunity and a challenge. The FSMA moves from responding to food safety breakdowns to preventing breakdowns in food safety, in an attempt to minimize the increasing number of recalls and outbreaks on the rise in recent years. The challenges, particularly for the smaller food processor and local farmer, offset by tiered compliance dates, may be insufficient to relieve the pressure of meeting all of the FSMA requirements.

The opportunity is for those who can get ahead of the curve, be better informed and aware of changes, and be at work or have already achieved accreditation to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and food safety such as SQF and HACCP. 
 
What do you know about FSMA? Are you ready? Share Your Story 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, January 17, 2014

Does your Manufacturing Website Need a Makeover?

In today’s technology-based economy, having a strong online presence is very important. Think of it from a practicality standpoint– you’re online all the time. Whether you’re in front of your computer or gazing at your smartphone, the Internet is always at your fingertips. Fun experiment – count how many times you Google something every day!

Well, your prospective clients are no different and this puts them in the driver’s seat. Your prospects have the ability to search through the Internet and compare your products and prices to your competitors. You can’t prevent this from happening, but you can have a better online presence than your competition.

In “real life,” you want your salesperson to look professional (and look more professional than your competitor) be credible (and more credible than your competitor) and involved with the business community as much as possible (and “out there” more than your competitor).

You should think of your website as a member of your sales team… your digital salesperson. It should possess the same qualities you look for in a “live” salesperson – professional looking, credible and “out there.”

Manufacturing website redesign


If George W. Bush was the president the last time you made a change to your website, then it’s time for a makeover. Focus on these three key areas:

1)    Graphics – does the appearance of your website convey your brand in a professional light? Just as important – is the layout and navigation easy for prospects to navigate? You only have a limited amount of time to make a positive impression on your visitors, so make it count.
2)    Content – Just selling your products isn’t enough. Your content has the ability to demonstrate that you have more industry expertise than your competitors. Your website should have information that’s genuinely helpful and interesting to your prospects. Industry news and helpful “how to” tips create a positive experience for your visitors.
3)    SEO – SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, Google and other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing have algorithms that determine which website come up on the first page of the results section when people type in specific key words and phrases. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so that when your targets search for your products and services, your website comes up high in the rankings.

Having a dynamic website is integral to driving new leads and sales. MMTC provides web development services to all Michigan businesses. For more information, click here or contact us at inquiry@mmtc.org.


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, January 3, 2014

It’s a New Year: Learn from Yourself and Others

Happy New Year! The ball has dropped, the champagne has been popped and Auld Lang Syne has been sung. We hope you had a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve with your family and friends.
happy new year 2014

If you’re a Michigan manufacturer, it’s particularly an exciting time. Our industry is gaining some great momentum, providing new opportunities for businesses to develop and grow. The Institute for Supply Management’s monthly PMI index is widely regarded as the key economic indictor for growth in our field and the last reading for 2013 was 57%. Readings over 50% indicate industry expansion, so this was a great reading. Notably, this was the seventh consecutive month of growth!

While all of 2013 was a great year for expansion, the second half of the year was particularly strong. As Chad Moutray, Chief Economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, pointed out, “the manufacturing PMI measures averaged 56.3 in the second half of 2013, a nice improvement from the 51.5 average seen in the first half of the year.”

The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect upon your previous successes, and yes, your setbacks, and then set forth an action plan to become better. It’s also critical to gauge what other manufacturers are doing… how are they improving and growing… what can I learn from others in my field?

Learn from Yourself – Benchmarking and Planning

In an earlier blog entry series, we discussed the importance of benchmarking and transformation planning. Simply put, you can’t improve until you gain key insight into how your organization is doing. This extends beyond a review of your expenses and revenues… this about identifying your specific strengths and weaknesses. Learn from yourself by obtaining metrics that will help you develop a strategic plan for growth.

If you’re interested in reading the two-part series: Part 1 and Part 2.

Learn from Others – Success Stories

Manufacturers from around Michigan are increasing efficiencies, expanding their product lines and implementing sustainable business practices. For example, Omega Plastics implemented new production efficiencies and new market strategies to diversify their customer base. The company landed $60,000 in new sales.  

Read success stories about Michigan’s manufacturers and get inspired!

Let’s make 2014 the best year yet!


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