How MEPs Benefit Manufacturers
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published September 17, 2020
Manufacturers from throughout the country are dealing with an assortment of challenges locally and globally. Businesses need to be able to solve problems as they arise and to prepare for the future. Dan Bigger from Chenango Valley Technologies discusses manufacturing extension partnerships (MEPs) and how to utilize them in this week’s #USAMfgHour chat on Twitter.
A Little Help
Bigger asked the team of U.S. manufacturers if they knew where to find the assistance they need to hurdle their facility’s challenges.
“Often, obstacles seem larger than they are once broken down into bite-sized challenges. I research, research, research... but sometimes struggle to make a decision because I have too many options,” said Brooke at Scotchman Industries metal fabrication in Indiana.
“Great question! Sometimes we tend to make mountains out of molehills,” said Felix Nater of Nater Associates security consulting in New York and North Carolina. “I start looking at my resources for creative approaches to advertising. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn Ads, or even sponsorships to get the name out there.”
Whether it be staffing issues or the need to embrace more advanced technology, manufactures can find the assistance they need in an MEP. Most manufacturers do not know about MEPs or how they can assist any manufacturing business.
“I'm going, to be honest, I do not,” said Megan at SpaceGuard Products in Indiana. “I'm eager to find out though.”
“I certainly recommend MEP orgs, but since my company is not a manufacturer, we have other methods,” said Paul Kieche of Aviate Creative in New Jersey. “I love using mastermind groups for this. We also work with a few consultants at times.”
“(We) recently learned about our local MEP. Seems like they'd be a great help to us,” said Rebecca Hart of DSI/Dynamatic in Wisconsin. “When we face challenges, it's not always easy to find the right place to go, but having great connections on social media helps!”
An MEP is a public-private partnership with centers in 50 states that are dedicated to serving small and medium manufacturers, according to Bigger. There is no cost to join, and they are federally and state-funded. MEPs provide discounted alternatives to help manufactures circumnavigate their problems. In 2019, MEP's interacted with 28,213 manufacturers, leading to $15.7B in sales, $1.5B in cost savings, $4.5B in new client investments, and they helped create or retain 114,650 jobs.
“MEPs are designed to help manufacturers with nearly any pain point they might experience,” said Mike Womack of NJMEP in New Jersey. “New services are being developed all the time, too! Just like the manufacturing industry is always shifting, the support needs to evolve as well.”
“We are fortunate to have not only a state MEP, @Fuzehub, but we also local MEP Centers,” said Bigger. “We work with two, AM&T, Alliance for Manufacturing & Technology, and AIM, Alliance Institute for Manufacturing. They help with innovation strategies, technology acceleration, process improvements, quality control, and more.”
With vast resources and a growing list of contacts, MEP's have a lot to offer a manufacturing business. They can assist with many issues and pain points. Bigger then asked the group if they had any issues or struggles and to weigh the engagement with a local MEP.
“Just getting to know our MEP, but you can bet I'll have some interactions this week,” said Hart.
“They helped us with our lean manufacturing project and were great to work with,” said Scotchman. “Tons of resources offered, but not enough time or manpower to utilize them, unfortunately.”
Nater added that there is a mutual benefit in working with MEPs and then writing a quality press release as a way of attracting others to the business “by way of curiosity and TEAMing opportunities.”
Bigger said it didn't take long for the MEP to work with CVT once he figured out who they were and what they did. “They have helped us in so many ways I cannot list them all,” he said. “I interact with them every week. … We are very active with MEP's, not only in our local area & state but with other states also.”
For example, CTV began to participate in programs through MEP for career days, start-up workshops, manufacturing meet-ups, and participating in a 2020 calendar project. This type of collaboration, networking, and involvement led to CVT’s participation in Manufacturing Day, which is a day that focuses on promoting manufacturing in the local community and to inspire more involvement in manufacturing.
While this year, Manufacturing Day is less in-person and more virtual or creative, many manufactures still could see the importance of involvement and advertising that involvement in some way.
“This is another great way of getting your name out there as a leader,” Nater said. “It will allow you to be around a tailored audience. And those who develop their virtual activity can attract a tailored audience likely interest in your product and/or services.”
“I could go on and on about MEP's,” Bigger said. “They are a great way to get your name out there. I follow and comment on MEP pages all over the country. They get views. We are not putting on a @MfgDay celebration this year due to the current pandemic. However, we did last year and it was a complete success. We will be participating in events for @Fuzehub & @NJMEP.” Bigger encouraged the group to sign up for the @NJMEP Manufacturing Day event: https://www.njmep.org/manufacturing-day-2020-new-jersey/
One of the benefits of MEPs, Bigger explained, is that they have been crucial in connecting manufactures during the COVID-19 pandemic. MEP centers across the nation received funding from the CARES Act and they’re standing by to help manufactures overcome related obstacles. The group was then asked about how COVID has impacted their business and how MEPs can help.
“The sheer slowdown in the economy and manufacturing business equipment purchases,” said JD at Cleveland Deburring machine company in Ohio. “The cleaning, social distancing, etc; we can handle that.”
“Getting certain Electrical Components,” said Nick Rivers of Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois. Getting people to make decisions NOW, and waiting longer on paid invoices. Oh, and no personal visits. I'm big on personal meetings.”
“There have been many challenges associated with C19, but one of the biggest ones for us is disrupted supply chain,” said Hart. “For some products, we've been quoting a 20+ week lead time. That's unacceptable to us, but it's all we have right now.”
“Listening to other businesses here locally, it is harder getting parts - and on time. Delay is the new normal. And many are short-staffed,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing in California.
“I've never been so thankful to live in my tiny town in the middle of nowhere, but because all trade shows (especially our biggest & best event of the year) were canceled, it's caused a ripple effect of s.l.o.w. biz issues...but we're powering through & hanging on,” said Scotchman.
“We were fortunate to stay open every day since, but many of our suppliers/ customers were not so fortunate. Supply chain slowed down, orders down, we have not been able to make sales calls like we used to, limited staffing due to taking care of families,” said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech in Wisconsin.
Learning about MEPs shows how they work side by side with manufacturers to problem-solve and make them even more successful. Contacting your local MEP is a win-win.
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.