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From the Desk of Jack Healy

New Collaboration Efforts Are Making a Real Difference for Small Manufacturers

Jack Healy – The voice of manufacturing in Massachusetts
Jack Healy –
The Voice of Manufacturing in Massachusetts

By Jack Healy, Director of Operations, MassMEP jackh@massmep.org

In 2010, research by the Manufacturing Leadership Council* indicated that the preferred organizational model five years ahead would be a collaborative, a sharp turn from the centralized structures most companies were employing. The aspiration persisted for a couple of years, but by the end of 2012 the march to the promise organizational land showed signs of slowing, prompting speculation that inertia had somewhat taken hold.

The latest research released by the council now shows that only 56% of the survey respondents still cling to the collaborative organization model, which is a substantial drop from the more than 70% who did so back in 2010.

While this may be true for internal collaboration in larger organizations, the opposite is true for small manufacturing enterprises and inter-firm collaboration in Massachusetts.

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This inter-firm collaboration has been brokered by a variety of organizations. For example, the Central Mass Work Force Investment Board collaborated with the Southbridge Career Center and the MassMEP to form a training consortium that secured a grant for Lean training through the state's Work Force Training Fund. The result was a collaborative of five individual manufacturing companies that gained access to 25 different training sessions; this produced economic impacts for all of the companies involved. The results were so outstanding that the Central Mass Work Force Investment Board started two more Lean Collaboratives in the Worcester area plus a new collaborative in Southbridge MA. 

Lean Collaboratives
The Southern Worcester County Manufacturing Partnership (SMCMC) was recognized as the "Workforce Training Partnership of the Year" by the Workforce Solutions Group.  SMCMC continues to shape their organization to meet collaborative member training needs. The lead company, INCOM, has continued to implement "Leadership Effectiveness Training"  (LET) for their own staff and has opened their doors to other manufacturers in their collaborative to share in this training.  All participants in the training collaboratives felt their interface with the other manufacturers was extremely beneficial and are reluctant to forego their new associations.

ISO Collaboratives
In addition to the Lean Training Collaboratives, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), in conjunction with the MassMEP, has formed and promoted over eight individual ISO Collaboratives. Over 50 manufacturers have participated in ISO 9000, ISO 9100, and ISO 13485 training that not only provides the opportunity for quality certification, but has changed the way that the participants manage their respective organizations. In the words of one participant, "It helped to change how we think about what we are doing, and provides a stable work process and procedural approach."

Workforce Collaborative
The largest demonstration of collaboration in Massachusetts was the formation of the Manufacturing Advancement Center's Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC). The MACWIC was formed to preserve manufacturing tribal knowledge, and to execute the transfer of knowledge and critical skills to the current and future workforce. In the 18 months since it's inception, MACWIC has established an Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification Process which focuses on a skill set that is readily recognized and widely accepted by the manufacturing community.

The MACWIC is working on implementing a new program for "On The Job" (OJT) training that can be applied by any manufacturer. This will ensure all employees receive consistent and effective training, regardless of who trains them. This OJT program, along with the skill sets required in the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway, will provide the basis for the establishment of an Apprenticeship program for any manufacturer.

Anyone interested in forming or joining a training collaborative can do so by contacting John Killam at johnk@massmep.org


* The Manufacturing Leadership Council, part of Frost & Sullivan, is the world's first member-driven, global business leadership network dedicated to senior executives in the manufacturing industry.

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