Training Trends:
Big Help for Small Manufacturers

May 19, 2003
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For small- and medium-sized manufacturers not knowing where to turn for help can be even scarier than for larger companies with bigger budgets and more resources. But there is a place for smaller companies to turn. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has provided customized assistance for more than 107,000 manufacturers. Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, MEP is a nationwide network of not-for-profit centers in more than 400 locations whose goal is to provide small- and medium-sized manufacturers the help they need to succeed.

Centers in more than 400 locations serve all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and provide the expertise of manufacturing and business specialists. Each center, with local and national resources, can evaluate the capabilities of a company to provide technical and business solutions, create partnerships and encourage learning through seminars and training programs.

Small and mid-sized manufacturers are no small fish in the great manufacturing sea. They account for more than half of U.S. production, employ almost 12 million people, or two-thirds of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, according to MEP. The centers help manufacturers improve productivity, strengthen competitiveness and increase profits.

Generally working with companies that have less than 500 employees, MEP centers help manufacturers that:

  • Can't locate resources or technologies.
  • Want expert, impartial advice in evaluating alternative solutions.
  • Need help solving specific problems, such as determining the cause of product defects.
  • Want assistance in reversing negative business situations such as sales decreases, cost increases and market share losses.
  • Desire to implement new technologies and processes.
  • Want to reach optimum performance.

Some of the areas in which MEP can assist companies include:

  • process improvement;
  • quality management systems;
  • business management systems;
  • development of human resources;
  • market development;
  • materials engineering;
  • plant layout;
  • product development;
  • energy audits;
  • environmental studies;
  • financial planning;
  • CAD/CAM/CAE and;
  • electronic data interchange and electronic commerce.

MEP has helped its clients increase revenues by $996 million, generate $195 million in cost savings and locate $360 million for modernization investment. A 1999 Census Bureau study revealed that over a 5-year period, MEP clients experienced productivity gains more than four Arial greater than companies that did not receive MEP assistance.

For more information, or to contact the nearest MEP center, call (800) MEP 4 MFG.

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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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