Job One here at AllBusiness is to help you find ways to become more productive, more competitive and… more profitable! Recently I chatted with Carrie Hines, Executive Director of the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) http://www.smallmanufacturers.org/, an organization that has exactly the same goals, plus boots on the ground to give individual manufacturers help on specific problems.
Providing more detail about the ASMC involves wading through a few government acronyms, but, believe me, if you’re looking for some objective advice about how to improve your business, it’ll be worth it. Here goes.
The ASMC is an association of Manufacturing Extension Partnership members(MEPs), which are in turn part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) .http://www.nist.gov, While NIST is probably best known for its annual Baldrige Award, the MEP program is the most interesting one that NIST offers.
MEPs are basically consultant organizations that study your business and provide technical assistance to improve the way you do things via well-recognized approaches such as Six Sigma for quality and lean/kaizen techniques for improved efficiency. In addition, MEPs can help companies take advantage of existing government programs that can directly affect the bottom line. Some companies, for example, may be eligible for R&D tax credits, but don’t have their accounting systems set up in such a way as to capture the data the government requires in order to become eligible those credits.
MEPs are located in all fifty states, and, according to Hines, there is no manufacturing plant in America that is more than three hours’ drive from an MEP. Most MEPs are non-profit organizations, and many are associated with universities. MEPs have worked with over 300,000 businesses over the past seventeen years, and have accumulated some impressive stats. In 2006, they could boast of
· an 80% track record of success improving client productivity
· creation and retention of over 52,000 jobs
· increased/retained sales for all their clients taken together that added up to over $6.7 billion
Eighty-two percent of MEP clients in 2006 reported they became more competitive.
The easiest way to find an MEP near you is to look at the ASMC’s interactive MEP map http://www.smallmanufacturers.org/membermap.html.
It is absolutely, positively worth taking a little time to do this. At minimum, you’ll get an unbiased outsider’s point of view about your processes, and advice about potential improvements you just can’t see yourself because you’re too busy with all your other responsibilities. As the old saying goes, “When you’re up to your *** in alligators, it’s hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.” An MEP can help you remember.