Navigating an Innovative World
The world is constantly changing, and businesses need to adapt to survive. They are struggling to attract and retain the employees they need. They are dealing with fierce competition and customers always looking for faster, cheaper, better. They are dealing with new laws and regulations. Manufacturing companies are especially impacted by changes. It’s vital to be as efficient as possible since they have the longest cash flow cycle. Manufacturing companies in New Jersey have unique challenges paying high property taxes, high labor rates, etc.
What should they do?
They should leverage the resources available to them. Manufacturing Extension Programs (MEPs) were created over 30 years ago to help stop the erosion of U.S. manufacturing jobs. There is a national network of MEPs with at least one in every state and Puerto Rico all with the same mission. The mission is to help manufacturers be more productive, profitable and globally competitive. The New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) advocates for manufacturing in New Jersey and works directly with NJ manufacturers to; find and train the people they need, improve processes, contain costs, and grow their top-line revenue.
NJMEP Account Managers develop strong relationships with business owners and leaders by asking questions to understand the goals they have for their business and the challenges standing in their way. After listening to their passion and concerns, Account Managers work with business leaders to develop a comprehensive plan of action with both short and long-term recommendations.
With hundreds of programs and resources available, Account Managers simply help business leaders implement the strategies that will be the most impactful for their organization based on their goals and needs. NJMEP Account Managers are out visiting their clients frequently and become a valuable trusted advisor for them. Partnering with their clients to solve problems, implement recommendations, and lead them to achieve their goals.
Here are just a few examples: Finding and developing the right people
Many NJ manufacturers have said that they look out over the shop floor and see a sea of grey hair and a wave of retirements coming. They have a high average age and wonder where the next generation of workers and leaders will come from. Businesses haven’t shifted from the abundance mindset to a scarcity mindset when it comes to available talent. They are trying to replace key employees with decades of experience. Candidates are simply not out there. NJMEP developed a USDOL Registered Apprenticeship program for manufacturers to upskill employees, provide them with an experienced mentor, and allow that legacy knowledge to transfer to newer employees. It’s a change from the way things have been done but companies that have embraced this “new- old” concept and are already seeing the results for both the employees and the company.
After meeting with an Account Manager from NJMEP, the next step might be a plant tour with a lean efficiency expert. That plant tour is a valuable second set of eyes. After the tour, the client is presented with a report with areas of improvement identified and the impact of implementing recommendations. Strategies like Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and ISO have been a staple for NJMEP in helping manufacturers improve processes, production, quality, and profitability.
There are risks and costs for manufacturers to implement new technology and no shortage of technology salespeople. Trade shows are full of the newest equipment from robust ERP systems, collaborative robots, 3D printers, sensors, etc. However, business leaders need to be careful with their time and money. Manufacturers are leveraging MEPs as an unbiased resource to evaluate opportunities for new technology. Much like a plant tour with a lean expert, manufacturers can meet with a technology expert to discuss the pros and cons and potential impact without the pressure of a salesperson.
Cybersecurity is a growing concern with many businesses experiencing phishing attempts, malware, ransomware, and countless others. The Department of Defense has grown so concerned that it has set a minimum cyberse-curity standard to be followed by any company in the DoD supply chain. The NIST 800-171 framework has been in place since 2017 however manufacturers are now starting to risk losing contracts. NJMEP is working with manufacturers to protect them from cyberattacks and breaches, financial harm, brand damage, loss of intellectual property and the potential loss of contracts.
Sales and Marketing
Many NJ manufacturers are struggling to grow with their revenues flat or even declining. For many, their top customers represent a significant percentage of their revenue. Driving sales is arguably the most important responsibility for a business leader. Without the demand for products and services, companies cease to exist. However, many business leaders express more willingness to spend on equipment than on a growth initiative. For growing companies, marketing is an ongoing investment. Businesses trying only to survive have difficulty making sound strategic decisions that will grow and sustain their business.
NJMEP helps manufacturers develop a growth plan and implement strategies to achieve growth goals. After understanding a manufacturer’s industry, top customers, success stories, and competition, NJMEP can develop marketing and sales strategies to drive sales growth. The strategies could include building lists of prospective clients, outbound calling to schedule sales appointments, designing and developing websites, leveraging search engine optimization, and so much more.
Innovation does not just mean the development of new products. Businesses don’t need to invest in the newest 3D printer to be innovative. Manufacturers need to continue evaluating what is working and what is not, continue learning and evaluating new strategies and challenging their status quo.
If you haven’t met with NJMEP recently, reach out to schedule your meeting today. We are constantly evolving and there are new programs and resources available to you.