By Mary Ann Pacelli, Senior Consultant, The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) For nearly 30 years, MAGNET has been working with small- and mid-sized manufacturers here in Northeast Ohio. We help companies shore up quality, improve productivity, train their current workforce, and develop new products. Lately, we have focused more on growth planning—asking our clients where they want to be in three to five years. As a workforce specialist in an engineering-focused organization, I sometimes feel people mistakenly assume that "if you build it, they will come." Managers who focus on the bottom line often don’t consider workforce needs to be burning issues. I’ve met some manufacturers who simply assume that they’ll be able to find the people they need when their business grows. They don’t understand in any detail the competencies required for a given manufacturing position, or how an individual with specific training can add distinct value to the manufacturing process. But the reality is, considering the skills gap apparent today, and the time it takes develop a future pipeline of skilled talent, workforce development needs to be brought to the forefront of growth planning projects.
The preliminary results of a new research report on innovation in manufacturing caught our eye here at MAGNET recently. In 2010, MIT’s President, Susan Hockfield, launched the MIT Production in the Innovation Economy (PiE) research group to answer the question: "What kinds of production do we need–and where do production facilities need to be located–to sustain an innovative economy?" The PiE group also worked to answer these questions: "How do production capabilities here and abroad contribute to sustaining innovation and realizing its benefits within our own society?" "How did this new global economy of fragmented research, development, production and distribution come into being? And what does this mean for the future of the U.S. economy?" The group analyzed these questions in relationship to large U.S. corporations, start-ups companies that had achieved commercialization, and small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers (referred to as "Main Street Manufacturers"). In late February, the group released its thought-provoking preliminary report (the final report will be published in the fall). The report’s conclusion: "What’s held manufacturing in the United States…was the advantage firms gain from proximity to innovation and proximity to users. Even in a world linked by big data and instant messaging, the gains from co-location
When a major customer pressured Nova Films & Foils, Inc. to implement a formal quality management system on a short deadline, management reached out to MAGNET to make it happen "At the beginning, I really thought achieving ISO 9001 certification was just going to be a daunting task," says Rick Huskey, managing director of Nova Films & Foils, Inc. based in Bedford, Ohio. "I thought it was going to be like swallowing an elephant!" Instead, with the assistance of MAGNET Senior Consultant Dennis Rosa, Nova Films’ staff aggressively tackled each step of the certification process, mapping 18 different processes. Within six months of kicking off the project in mid-January 2012, Nova Films was ready to receive an ISO auditor and ace the inspection. By September, they could proudly display their ISO Certification plaque in their front lobby. "When we first met with them, they said they needed to be certified within six months," recalls Rosa with amusement. "Normally we’d take at least nine months or a year. Because of their small size (less than 15 employees), we realized they probably could move that fast." In short order, Rosa was elbow-deep in flow charting Nova Films’ existing processes—all 18 of them.