Connect with like-minded, like-sized businesses to find ideas that may help your company grow.
Although large corporations offer lots of inspiration, benchmarking against them can be frustrating for smaller manufacturers, due to the many factors that differ between the two groups. That's why networking with leaders of companies like your own can be as productive - or even more so. Learning what they are doing to thrive may help you renew your own strategies. Reach out through connecting organizations like these.
State, Regional and Local Industry Coalitions
These organizations often sponsor special interest activities in a defined area. For example, the Connecticut Manufacturing Coalition hosts a monthly manufacturing operations roundtable, with plant tours, open conversations and guest speakers. The group has toured award-winning companies like HABCO, Inc., Whitcraft LLC, Kamatics Corporation and TierOne Machining, among others.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST's 59 Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) organizations help small and mid-sized manufacturers by providing consulting services, participating in partnerships like the Chicago Manufacturing Center and finding training grants. They can also help clients meet and learn from each other. Find your local MEP at the NIST website (www.nist.gov/mep/find-your-local-center.cfm).
Local Chambers of Commerce
These highly effective local resources provide many ways for local businesses to get together and learn, both within and across industries. For example, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual Manufacturing Summit. In 2010, the even featured a keynote talk about managing in a recession; a panel discussion among human resource and training directors about workforce development, hiring, training and funding; and a case study about a new glass recycling operation in the area that collects glass in the community and processes it for the local Owens Corning fiberglass plant.
It may sometimes seem like conferences are less important than time at the plant. However, they provide a highly effective way for manufacturing leaders to get to know each other. The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in Wisconsin, for example, sponsors the annual Manufacturing Awards of Distinction event, which honors area companies who have achieved excellence in manufacturing.
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