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MAC Resource: Saving Manufacturing, Saving Jobs – A Primer

By William Baldino, Director, Employer's Resource Group, A.I.M.

Saving manufacturing in Massachusetts? Can it be done? Yes, even with the high cost of doing business and the maze of regulations, we can hold onto manufacturing in this state. And saving manufacturing means saving jobs—good paying jobs in the sector where the middle class was formed and once thrived.

Back to Basics
How can a manufacturing company survive in a global economy? There are no simple answers, of course, but there are some obvious goals to be met. Developing and adhering to a philosophy of continuous improvement will allow these goals to be reached. The term "continuous improvement" frequently becomes cliché when a company demonstrates lip service instead of commitment, or does not understand how to go about implementing change. Successful manufacturing leaders understand the necessity of developing a continuous improvement culture within their organizations. Whether it's called "Lean Manufacturing," "ISO certification," or just plain old "process improvement," these leaders realize how organizational culture affects their ability to achieve their most important business goals:
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved quality
  • Improved on-time delivery

Increased performance in the above areas directly affects:

  • Top line growth
  • Cost of sales
  • EBIT
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Job security and job growth

Sounds simple enough, but it is not simple at all. There are varying degrees of complexity and certain limiting factors unique to every business. But the good news is that these goals and improvements can be reached, in large part, by applying some very common sense initiatives.

You Can't Do It Alone
I am still amazed at business owners and managers who truly believe they have all the answers and need no assistance—from either their staff or from outside resources. Hey, no one wants to make the consultant rich, that's for sure; but changing culture – the way people think about their work as well as how they perform their work – is a very complex task. It is most often worth the time and the money to learn from the mistakes and the successes of others—the folks who are doing it now or who have done it before. You must educate your staff. Period. "Staff" is defined as managers at every level, supervisors, and the non-manager individual contributors who are too often overlooked.

Massachusetts Wants to Help
Most small and medium sized manufacturing companies are not in the position to spend a lot of money on training or process changes. And many are unaware that very real, very valuable help is available. The Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund is designed to help employers develop workforce skills that will make the company more productive and more competitively viable. Education motivates. Motivated individuals are more productive. Increased productivity will strengthen the company. Strong companies offer job security and job growth.

That's the goal right? As Leonard Perrault, V.P. Manufacturing for National Vinyl Products states, "The ability to train, develop, promote, and improve the abilities of the workforce is absolutely necessary if we are to have a viable, vibrant, and diverse economic base in this state. Statistics have shown that more workers are employed by small businesses than these mega-sized businesses, and they provide the fertile breeding grounds for our next generations of ideas, businesses, and our future workforce."

A.I.M. Wants to Help
Before you go down the path of a Lean implementation, ISO, or some other form of continuous improvement program, you must prepare your staff. Management and supervisory skills need to be reviewed and improved. Your customer service and sales groups (that can make or break you) should know what is expected of them and have the opportunity to improve their skills. In fact, all of your employees need to be trained and prepared for the continuous changes that will become part of their work life if their organization is to survive. A.I.M. has assisted many companies as they define their direction and begin their journey toward more effective, efficient operations through Lean Manufacturing and other significant cultural change initiatives. We are well equipped to conduct a training needs assessments, provide assistance and support with the Workforce Training Fund grant process, as well as deliver focused, targeted, highly interactive educational sessions for employees at every level. For more information, call 800-470-6277 or e-mail: wbaldino@aimnet.org.

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