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The Future of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Manufacturers in the United States are facing significant challenges. There is a constant pressure to cut costs, improve quality, meet environmental and international standards, and get to market faster with new and improved products, all in a larger, more competitive, global playing field. As manufacturers struggle to keep pace with accelerating changes, MEP’s mission has become more critical than ever to individual manufacturing firms, industrial communities, and the American manufacturing sector as a whole.

Over its 20-year existence, MEP has proven its value to manufacturers as demonstrated by the resulting impact on jobs and the economies of all 50 States and the U.S. as a whole. Now is the time to build on these experiences to expand the capacity and capabilities of the MEP nationwide network to address the challenges facing manufacturers. With this goal in mind, this document describes the vision, mission and approaches MEP will take to support manufacturers to improve their competitive position, to grow their business, and to maintain a strong manufacturing base in the U.S.


MEP is a catalyst for strengthening American manufacturing – accelerating its ongoing transformation into a more efficient and powerful engine of innovation driving economic growth and job creation.



To act as a strategic advisor to promote business growth and connect manufacturers to public and private resources essential for increased competitiveness and profitability.


The Importance of Manufacturing in the United States

A strong manufacturing base is critical to the financial and national security of the United States. U.S. manufacturing firms employ over 13 million people in high-paying jobs with benefits, represent roughly two-thirds of total U.S. research and development expenditures, and account for more than 80 percent of all U.S. exports. If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a country, it would be the 8th largest country in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. Manufacturing creates millions of jobs, directly and indirectly, in a wide range of related industries. These include business services such as accounting, marketing, legal support, shipping, and warehousing as well as millions more indirect jobs in other local industries. Beyond these services supporting the extended manufacturing enterprise, the broader U.S. service economy also depends increasingly on the adoption of technologies from the manufacturing sector to keep pace with global competition.

To be positioned not just for survival but for growth, manufacturers need to address five key critical areas in concert:

Continuous Improvement
Technology Acceleration
Supply Chain

Both a framework and resources are needed to provide manufacturers the ability to address these critical areas and establish a defendable competitive advantage. Manufacturers’ management and integration of each of these interrelated, interdependent areas will determine their ability to protect and grow profits and compete in the long term.

MEP as a Catalyst for Change

Over its 20-year history, MEP helped thousands of companies reinvest in themselves through process improvement and business growth initiatives leading to more sales, new markets, and the adoption of technology to deliver new products and services. 

While headlines and news stories focus on the current impact of the difficult times faced by particular firms or industries, missed are the significant transformations achieved by others, and the potential opportunities and rewards that accompany these changes. Knowledge application is occurring faster and more efficiently as companies and other organizations (universities, laboratories, suppliers, and customers) become more interconnected. To be successful manufacturers must have access to a wide range of resources that will enable them to
sell to new customers, compete in new markets, and develop new products, thus creating new, more profitable revenue streams.

MEP continues to serve as a resource for manufacturing and innovation by expanding and leveraging resources to couple cost reduction strategies with profitable growth through new product development and market expansion. MEP established itself as the connecting point for manufacturers, state and local governments, private sector resources, research organizations, and the federal government. To respond to this expanded need, MEP is developing new networks and partnerships that companies must have in order to realize an enduring competitive position in the global market. MEP promotes the transition from reactive strategies to the proactive pursuit of increased profits and overall growth by helping manufacturers understand the value of their marketable assets in light of these drivers.

MEP Next Generation StrategyMEP facilitates the transformation of manufacturing into a more powerful engine of innovation providing manufacturers with a framework that addresses the drivers of business growth and competitiveness. The figure to the left depicts the five key areas in which MEP strategically works with companies –focusing on the coordination across these areas to maximize success.

The overarching goal of the Next Generation MEP is to increase manufacturers’ business growth and profitability. This will require additional resources and the development of the networks and partnerships necessary to support a framework that integrates continuous improvement with strategies focused on new product development, market expansion, and workforce needs.

Continuous performance improvement strategies enhance productivity and free up capacity for growth. Technology acceleration, supplier development and sustainability strategies represent the next logical steps toward generating profit, creating jobs, and bolstering a long-term
competitive position. Success requires that manufacturers develop proactive growth strategies and foster an entrepreneurial workforce. By encouraging firms to invest in themselves across all elements of their organization, MEP will work with partners throughout the network to provide the tools, services and connections focused on the five key areas of the framework: continuous improvement, technology acceleration, supply chain, sustainability, and workforce.

Download the full Next Generation Strategy document.