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The study, conducted by the Manufacturing Performance Institute, finds that this is a critical point in time for U.S. manufacturing, and manufacturers must assess whether they have the workforce, business systems, equipment and strategies in place to successfully compete in the future. While external factors, like the economic downturn present challenges, manufacturers can remain competitive by focusing on six strategies assessed by the NGM Study as a blueprint for success (see sidebar).
Specifically, the study found:
“Wisconsin developed the NGM concept and continues to identify new opportunities to help manufacturers in our state,” says WMEP Executive Director Buckley Brinkman. “We believe the six key NGM elements define the areas critical for success, and this study shows how our manufacturers can improve in the future. The WMEP looks forward to helping Wisconsin keep its lead in American manufacturing.”
“Next Generation Manufacturing programs led by WMEP have produced results from every department throughout the organization,” said Mary Isbister, president of GenMet Corporation, a metal fabricator based in Mequon. The company initially focused on one specific strategy – Superior Processes/Systemic Continuous Improvement – to drive a lean transformation, the results of which surpassed expectations. Isbister describes some of the quantifiable returns: “We went from an average of 9-12 inventory turns per year to 33 turns. We cut lead-times on most of our products in half and we reduced our finished goods inventory by 90%. Today, we carry essentially zero finished goods inventory.” Isbister attributes these results directly to GenMet’s Lean Transformation which she says took approximately four years to be fully integrated.
Isbister adds that commitment to Next Generation Manufacturing requires full buy-in from all employees. “These strategies are now part of the GenMet culture.” Leveraging its success in systemic continuous improvement is now driving the company to focus on the next improvement project - Six Sigma, as well as work in the areas of Profitable Sustainability and Global Engagement exporting.
The study, first conducted in 2009, surveyed more than 800 U.S. manufacturers. More information can be found at www.smallmanufacturers.org/2011NGMStudy.