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Last chance to sign up for Northeast Ohio's best manufacturing event!

September 22, 2017 by Liz Fox

Do you like manufacturing, food, and football? Sign up for the 6th Annual Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Symposium! Presented by MAGNET and Cleveland Engineering Society, this for-manufacturers-by-manufacturers event takes place on Friday, September 29th and features a valuable keynote from Ben Marker (General Manager, Riddell). Also available are several best-practice sessions on essential topics for today’s companies, including cybersecurity, talent development, market diversification, product development, and operations excellence. Attendees will also have the opportunity to… • Meet former Cleveland Browns defensive back Felix Wright • Win an official Cleveland Browns football helmet • Talk to peers from companies like Bettcher Industries, Sauder, M-7 Technologies, LEFCO Worthington, and more • Tour the new, state-of-the-art Riddell facility in North Ridgeville • And more! Kick off Manufacturing Month by joining us for the best manufacturing event the region has to offer! REGISTER TODAY! For more details, contact Linda Barita at 216.391.7766 or email linda.barita@magnetwork.org.

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Equifax: A Financial Tempest

September 12, 2017 by John Hattery

On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, and as we prepared for Irma, another storm was announced on Sept. 7th, this one a financial typhoon. To make matters worse, this particular tempest was actually discovered way back in early July, and could have begun as early as mid-May. Hackers hit Equifax, the oldest of the three largest credit reporting agencies that gather and maintain financial and personal information on hundreds of millions of consumers, and tens of millions of businesses worldwide. The fact credit reporting agencies monitor consumers is broadly known, but people tend not to consider these agencies’ role monitoring businesses. Though it will be more challenging for hackers to make hay with stolen business information, the fact they now have enough personal information on up to 143 million Americans to easily commit identity theft on an unheard-of scale certainly gives one pause. It doesn’t beggar the imagination to envision some enterprising young hacker cross-referencing troves of stolen consumer and business data to see if there might be anything else interesting to exploit. What might this mean to a worried executive? For a large business, likely somewhat little, so long as they keep a weather eye carefully trained on their

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Hurricane Harvey Hits Here?

September 05, 2017 by John Hattery

Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast with a vengeance on August 25th, delivering the largest single storm amount of rainfall in the continental USA, ever. We have all seen the devastation and misery inflicted upon the residents of southeast Texas, and our hearts go out to them. If you wish to help fellow Americans in need, make sure you do so effectively and intelligently. See what Consumer Reports or other sources you trust have to say about giving before you break out your checkbook. But once we get past our sympathies, we have to begin to wonder - Will this disaster have any impact on me, or on my business? The answer is yes, most definitely. We are all used to seeing above-average rainfall in parts of the Midwest after a named storm system inflicts its mayhem in the gulf area, then meanders along a northeasterly path toward us. But we should expect more than just rain to fall out as a result of Harvey. The Gulf Coast holds about a third of the nation’s refining capacity, and serves as a critically important nexus of America’s “energy superhighway system.” In normal times, crude comes in, refined products go out, either

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How Can Thought Leadership Drive Business for Manufacturers?

August 21, 2017 by MAGNET Ohio

Competitiveness can be a positive thing. It inspires companies of all sizes to innovate and improve over time, and the constant push to do better can lead to some creative, outstanding results. However, because most markets are growing increasingly competitive, it’s getting harder to sort excellent goods and services from the rest, leaving a lot of voices drowned out by the noise. In the end, it all goes back to showing what you know, and adopting thought leadership as a key part of your strategy is key to distinguishing yourself from your competitors. Many think thought leadership is just a marketing ploy, but manufacturing companies stand to earn many long-term benefits by posting blogs and other pieces of content that draw back to your expertise. Even if you’re in a niche market, demonstrating awareness of what’s going on in your industry/sector goes a long way; in fact, 93 percent of respondents in a 2016 Bloom Group study said high-quality thought leadership content improves their opinion of the company producing it (while 94 percent also pointed out that poor or no content lowers their perception). But what can you do to ensure the content has good return-on-investment and gets you more

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How Do You Escape the "Commodity Box"?

August 07, 2017 by MAGNET Ohio

Do customers consider your products commodities? Nearly two-thirds of companies report that their products or services have fallen into commodity traps, as customers assume that there’s little or no difference between vendors. This puts tremendous pressure on pricing - with both customers and suppliers - a third of manufacturers find themselves stuck in price-centric, buy-and-sell relationships with customers (an even higher percentage of SMEs are stuck). Unfortunately, commodity-based, transactional relationships almost always lead to limited bargaining power and low margins. According to marketing expert Andrew Thomas of the University of Akron, current marketing and distribution notions have wrongly convinced thousands of U.S. innovators that the sale and distribution of their products and services is better left in the hands of outside forces. But there's good news: breaking out of the commodity trap can re-energize your organization — and your profits. In doing this, focus on three commodity-trap escape routes: Innovate: If competitors copy your products, make your own versions obsolete. Few products retain popularity forever (Twinkies excepted). Nothing drives new margins like new products. Differentiate: Add value to existing products — via enhanced service and support, embedded intelligence, extended warranties, etc. — that distinguishes your offerings from those of competitors.

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[M]SPIRE 2017 Winners Announced

July 26, 2017 by Liz Fox

MAGNET has revealed the names of six entrepreneurs, startups, and small manufacturers who will receive an array of services and connections through the second-annual [M]SPIRE pitch competition. Announced in late July, the winners span many different areas, backgrounds, and industries. Over 40 applications were received from individuals and companies across Northeast Ohio, including submissions from Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, Elyria, Lorain, and Canton. “Entrepreneurship is an essential and irreplaceable component of Northeast Ohio manufacturing, and MAGNET is thrilled to help these individuals and small companies achieve their potential by connecting them to the funding and resources necessary for success in the long-term,” said MAGNET President and CEO Ethan Karp. Sponsored by Bank of America, AT&T, and Jumpstart, the submission period was held through the month of May. 11 finalists were selected to meet with an expert panel of judges comprising area entrepreneurs, engineers, consultants, and more. The six winners will receive varying types of assistances from MAGNET and MAGNET partners, including grant funding, product development, market research, and specialized consulting services. These winners include: Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce – a local manufacturer of 100%, all-natural applesauce Karis Doll Collection – a line of dolls that aims to help young girls adapt to

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MAGNET featured in guest spot on Canton radio program

July 25, 2017 by Liz Fox

MAGNET Manufacturing Liaison Steven Katz recently made an appearance on WHBC's The Gary Rivers Show to discuss the state of manufacturing in Stark County. Recorded Friday, July 21, the program features insights from individuals about what's made in the Canton area as well as why small manufacturers are so important to the U.S economy. Also included in the discussion is Eric Smer, Director of Community and Workforce Development at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. Listen here (MAGNET segment begins at 47-minute mark):

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How Critical Assumptions Can Make or Break Your Business

July 24, 2017 by Brandon Cornuke

“Am I working on the things that matter most?” “How can I get more traction?” “Do I have enough cash to keep going?” These are just a few of the questions that keep entrepreneurs up at night. Unfortunately I'm not here to give you a magic way to erase all those worries. But I can give you one piece of advice that'll make organizing and prioritizing your questions a little easier: work on your critical assumptions. Here's how: Find the guesses that absolutely have to be true for your business to succeed. Every entrepreneur makes guesses. What they're doing hasn't been done before. Ask yourself, "what do I think is true about my customer, their problems, my product, and my team?" Write down things like "I believe my customer is ____" or "I think _____ is a problem that _____ is trying to solve." Make a long list. Then rank each guess based on how detrimental it would be if you're wrong. Take the top of your first list and rank those assumptions by how much or how little you know about each. The most important word in that sentence is “know”. You need concrete evidence to know something is

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Big Data, and Why it Matters to Manufacturers

July 17, 2017 by Bob Baxendale

“Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive actions will they be positioned to truly transform.” – Colin Masson, Global Industry Director for Manufacturing and Distribution at Microsoft As technological advancements are made in manufacturing, companies are embracing data as a key component of their business strategies. In fact, according to a 2016 Honeywell study, 68 percent of manufacturers are currently investing in data analytics, while 46 percent say implementing these processes is no longer optional in our fast-changing world. But does big data bring real benefits to the table, and is it really worth your time and money? Absolutely. Analytics often come in the form of dashboards, which can provide information about nearly every aspect of your business, including supply chain, quality management, sales and marketing, and administration. Having this information at your disposal equips you with tools necessary to make better, more well-informed decisions – not just in six months or one year from now, but often in real time. For example, with the appropriate systems in place, a single dashboard is capable of detecting and analyzing product defects by type, time, region, and other factors. Think of

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The Perks of Punting, Pivoting, and Persevering for Entrepreneurs

July 10, 2017 by Brandon Cornuke

If you're starting a business, there's a good chance an assumption you've made will turn out to be wrong. You can hope that day never comes but, trust me, it will. Startups, after all, are full of risky bets and guesses (that's what makes them startups). But even if you know it's coming - even if you're looking for your own weak assumptions - it's tough to absorb the blow of being wrong. Sometimes it's even harder to know what to do next. We're here to help. First, congratulate yourself. As we've discussed, entrepreneurs don't look for evidence that refutes their ideas often enough. If you've discovered a flaw in your plans - say, your customer target was off - that's actually great news. It means you've saved yourself a lot of time and money. Now you have three options: Punt - It's never fun to admit your idea won’t work, but the end of one entrepreneurial journey can be the start of another. Consider whether the circumstances are right to keep going. Do you have the cash? Are the rest of your assumptions still solid? Does your team have the energy to keep going? When you're at a crossroads,

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