Manufacturers often experience pain points as they navigate operations. There are many concerns and challenges that are experienced by people working in manufacturing. What can be done to alleviate these struggles? MAGNET recently interviewed 33 Northeast Ohio manufacturers about their pain points and unmet needs. Gina Tabasso of MAGNET in Ohio led a discussion for USA Manufacturing Hour Chat on Twitter and shared the top 6 points from those interviews with chat participants.
The discussion started with information about whether participants used external resources for assistance with their respective businesses and if so, what tasks they outsourced. Participants shared their thoughts.
Dan Bigger from Custom Profile in Michigan said, “I am sure we do. We outsource some tooling for stamping dies and some marketing projects. I am sure there is more, but I work remotely.”
Phil Samuels from Intuilize said, “We outsource some marketing activities (ie email, LI posts to company page).”
Tabasso inquired, “Do you use an agency or a freelancer?” Samuels answered, “Freelance as we are very small. Our sales guy needs to pick up the pace!”
Paul Kiesche from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “Sure, we try to do anything in-house that we can deliver quality at 100%. If we can't, we work with partner companies, freelancers and consultants to bring those other services to 100%. “
Kati McDermith from Industry Net in Illinois said, “I think I might be the external resource... though my personal network on LinkedIn is my audience.”
Manufacturers’ News Inc in Illinois said, “For some things, yes, but for the most part we try to do things "in-house" whenever possible to provide new opportunities to our existing staff and have more control.”
Rebecca Prox from DSI/Dynamic in Missouri said, “Definitely. We outsource some of our manufacturing, our lead generation, our website services, our shipping services, etc. As a small company, we HAVE to outsource a lot.”
Tabasso added, “So do we. We provide the strategy and manufacturing expertise along with the project management and vetted service partners. It's a dynamite combo!”
VirtuDesk said, “Yes we do. We outsource virtual assistants from the Philippines to fulfill marketing, real estate, sales, administrative duties, and more.”
Sam Gupta from ElevatIQ in Toronto, Canada said, “Anything and everything we are not good at and can afford.”
Kelley Plats from North American Coating Laboratories in Ohio said, “We definitely have some external resources. The biggest one is IT management. We also have a few vendors that assist with highly specialized projects. I don't think any company can exist without a little bit of outside support.”
Nigel Packer from PelaTis Online in Wales, UK said, “We are not experts at everything, so do bring in that expertise by outsourcing on a project by project basis.”
Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “We sure do. We bring in people to fill skills and time gaps.” She added, “We can’t be experts on everything; diversity is a GIFT.”
Host, Tabasso said, “At Magnet, we outsource a variety of work to our service partners, including cyber security, IT Help Desk support, digital marketing, and more. We also have interns who help us out.”
The next discussion point related to staffing. Tabasso asked if companies have a pool of qualified candidates and how they find their candidates. Participants had a lot to say.
Bigger said, “That I am not sure on. We are currently growing and hiring for many positions. We need more quality people to help us grow.”
Samuels said, “Mostly through personal connections. Again, small shop, need to keep chemistry at the forefront.”
Kiesche said, “ Yes, ever since we went remote & opened up to looking for candidates nationwide it has been great. The pool of qualified candidates is huge and we've been finding people with no problem. Treat people with respect and kindness and that's a big part of retention.”
JD from Cleveland Deburring Machine Company in Ohio said, “Full disclosure, I have 0 to do with hiring.”
Gupta said, “We can't survive without talent. We have a large recruiting team just to find talent. Then we have networks that help with finding talent and then finally social media, databases, job portals. You name it.”
Plats said, “Having connections within the industry is a big one! Another great way is to talk to students. Today is "Student Day" at the SPIE Optifab and our team has made some great connections! Retention is all about culture! Work hard, do good, have fun!”
Manufacturers’ News Inc said, “We encourage referrals from existing staff and also post ads online. But the market right now is really tough. With retention, we have many employees that have been with us 20+, even 30+ years so we've been lucky. Our family-owned company culture seems to help.”
Packer said, “Our pool has been developed over many years of testing and working with them on projects.”
Prox added, “It doesn't appear that way. We're struggling to find a highly qualified engineer to head a department at the moment.”
Rusine said, “I find candidates through referrals - mostly friend of friends. So I go through people I know. Then if that’s tapped out, I go wider to FB groups that I am part of.”
Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Yes, we do have a pool of candidates. We retain our talent by training them, making learning resources available to them, giving them the support they need, and building relationships.”
VirtuDesk said, “We have a recruitment team handling the hiring process, training team, and operations team once they got endorsed. We don't stop there. We make online learning resources available to them through our Virtudesk Academy (this is for our virtual assistants only )”
Host Tabasso said, “We partner with local colleges to offer an Early College, Early Career (ECEC) Program to train high school students in manufacturing and get them in an apprenticeship program. Here is a link to the program https://www.manufacturingsuccess.org/manufacturing-solutions-and-expertise/workforce-development/ecec “
The next pain point related to adopting automation. Participants were asked if they had adopted automation or Industry 4.0 in their facilities.
Samuels said, “We offer Artificial Intelligence to “automate” processes in sales and purchasing. Get information out of siloed data bases and facilitate actionable ideas.”
Bigger said, “We are not fully automated, but we try to do as much as we can "in-line" as we can. The more we can get done there provides value to our customers parts reducing our need to do them off line, but we offer that as well.”
Plats said, “I'm going to sit back and learn on this one as I'm not overly familiar with this.”
McDermith said, “I use a lot of automation personally, and I am fan of it in general. I did work with some customers on a targeted list of potential 4.0 grant recipients!”
Manufacturers’ News Inc said, “We don't manufacture products, but we can tell you that this is a hot topic for manufacturers, with searches for automation services & equipment, etc trending on our website. Companies are scrambling to get their products out amid labor shortages.”
Tabasso added, “I did a plant tour on Monday. They have been trying to hire and can't find people; so, they are adding more robots.”
TMA Info in Illinois said, “We are hosting our first robotics class in Jan 2022!”
Gupta said, “We are a software company so we don't need industry 4.0 but we are automating the hell out of everything to maintain the cost expectations of our clients.”
Rusine said, “Yes, I’ve automated some of our processes. HUGE time saver -and sanity saver.”
Host Tabasso shared, “Our engineers work with manufacturers to implement or improve their automation and process innovation, which results in streamlined processes, reduced labor needs, and improved quality. Here’s a helpful link: https://www.manufacturingsuccess.org/growth-services/process-automation-innovation “
The next discussion point centered on communication. Tabasso asked if companies were doing a great job of communicating to all levels of the organization and how clear they were on how their day-to-day activities impact the long-term goals of their respective companies.
Bigger said, “Crystal Clear. We are a very meeting heavy and it there is a question on anything we meet about it. There are no secrets and everyone is kept up to date with any changes that need to be made.”
Tabasso said, “Team strategy meetings and daily huddles using the Scaling Up methodology are paramount.”
Bigger added,” Meetings help to keep us all on the same page. I am getting used to all of the meetings, but many of them are beneficial and needed.”
Tabasso agreed with Bigger. “I have found the same thing,” she said. “These are not meetings for the sake of meeting, but meetings that accomplish something. We brainstorm, and our cumulative ideas are greater than one person alone. We arrive at different places.”
Samuels said, “Excellent communication. Founder listens to our ideas, even if we don’t agree. Always looking for the next “key” to unlock our prospects understanding.”
Tabasso said, “This is rare and something leadership of most manufacturers we talk to feel is a weakness in their organizations.”
Gupta said, “We have daily standups with all of our teams and monthly 1:1 with everyone. And then finally everyone is on Slack. Everything is super tied to performance and comp. We over-communicate our vision and priorities.”
FreightPOP in California said, “Communication is key throughout our organization. Listening is a key skill all of our employees have, and our clients benefit from the transparency we provide. New ideas and suggestions are always encouraged!”
Manufacturers’ News Inc said, “We hope so! Before the pandemic, we were more of a hash-it-out-in-person sort of place. We had to pivot pretty sharply when we went mostly remote, but so far so good! Leveraging tech we wouldn't otherwise has in some ways helped augment our day-to-day.”
Packer said, “We have a very flat management structure. We put the emphasis on the communications with our clients. It prevents misunderstandings and keeps them informed to make decisions.”
Rusine said, “What the client wants is clear, so we focus on their goal. What we can do for clients is also clear, so we do not want to misrepresent ourselves - and yes, we are social media marketing mavens. That’s what we are.” She added, “Internally we hold weekly meetings...and my main question for team members is always this: “How can I help you this week?”
Host Tabasso shared, “We use the Scaling Up Methodology that focuses on people, strategy, execution, and cash to help manufacturers with their strategic planning. The Scaling Up book by @Verne Harish is worth a read. Here is a helpful link:https://www.manufacturingsuccess.org/growth-services/strategy-marketing-sales/manufacturing-growth-strategies “
The next discussion point was about product support. The host asked if participants are working on new products and sales or busy supporting work for existing product lines and customers. Participants shared their answers.
McDermith said, “BOTH.”
Bigger said, “I am in Business Development so I am more new than existing, but I am picking up more accounts as I transition into the team. We have a great client base, but we are always looking to expand.”
Samuels said, “Continuously modifying software to better meet the needs of our customers. Regular feedback from them due to our extensive implementation process.”
Gupta said, “We have to keep hitting. Always looking for new opportunities. Working on sales and marketing. Maintaining Google ranking etc. Obviously, current clients feed us. But the contracts can get canceled anytime. So we can't just wait and pray.”
Val W from Monofrax in New York said, “Both new and old.”
Lermit Diaz from SC Tools in Michigan said, “We are working on new sales, migrating to CRM, and training our new sales team."
Host, Tabasso said, “Sales strategy and coaching, sales training and skills development, CRM implementation, a sales playbook, a sales process, and distribution channel strategies can help you grow your business. Here is an additional helpful link: https://www.manufacturingsuccess.org/growth-services/strategy-marketing-sales/manufacturing-sales-solutions “
Rework and Standardization
The discussion continued on to rework and standardization. Tabasso asked if rework was an issue for participants and if there was standardization in their organizations or if people were each doing things differently and getting different results.
Bigger said, “That is not a problem. We do have mistakes, but they are correctly quickly. Everything is standardized.”
JD said, “ Standardization. CDMC works on very specific applications for their customers. Haphazard and inconsistent results are not an option nor a recipe for success in any endeavor, I would add.”
Gupta said, “We are supposed to be coaching standardization. So it will be embarrassing if we have variability in our own processes. We have to keep the ship very tight starting from hiring, training, and client engagements and continuously measuring.”
Host Tabasso said, “Lean strategies can help with business alignment. A distribution layout and optimized floor plan also are important elements of operations excellence. Here is an additional helpful link: https://www.manufacturingsuccess.org/growth-services/operations-excellence-and-engagement“
She added, “MAGNET helps Ohio manufacturers with every facet of their business. If you are experiencing, or know a manufacturer who is experiencing, these pain points, contact your local MEP for info about how they can help.”
There will always be pain points within a working environment and manufacturing environments are no exception. Learning ways to work through challenges and using support organizations can help manufacturers push past their stress points and in turn, navigate their daily work environments productively and successfully.
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.