Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Manufacturers Roundtable organized by the Oregon MEP and held at Welch Allyn, a medical device manufacturer and MEP client. About 25 manufacturers representing 20 companies in the Portland area participated. In addition, there were over 25 partners and collaborators involved, including representatives from the Economic Development Agency, Governor’s office, Congress, regional banks, CPA firms, and local and state business development agencies. Chris Scherer, Oregon MEP (OMEP) Director, welcomed the attendees and kicked off the meeting. Then Congresswoman Bonamici addressed the group and the day wrapped-up with a tour of Welch Allyn given by the company President.
Prior to the meeting, OMEP asked the manufacturers to identify the most important and pressing key issues they are facing. Scenarios were designed around the resulting four topics suggested by the manufacturers. The scenarios were as follows:
#1: A company is looking at a deadline to "turn the switch" on a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System and is concerned about making sure that staff are ready to use it.
Question: What are the challenges associated with implementing ERP or similar enterprise technology and what steps might you take in the future to overcome them?
#2: A company wants to improve their ability to bring a new product to market and is measuring success by focusing on development time, getting prototypes to industry leaders, and establishing a profitable price point for their product.
Question: What challenges do you have in new product development and what ideas do you have about overcoming them?
#3: A company is seeing the repeated problems in critical parts from key suppliers.
Question: How might you change your current quality systems to ensure that they extend through your entire supply chain?
#4: A manufacturer is having a difficult time filling open positions with qualified candidates.
Question: What changes must your company make to ensure you’re attracting the best and the brightest from today’s young workers?
OMEP facilitated the group in prioritizing the scenarios, which resulted in the manufacturers selecting “Quality in the Supply Chain” and “Workforce Gap and Availability.” These areas seemed to take center stage among the manufacturers and resulted in an excellent discussion around the challenges. An added feature of the roundtable was that the partners weighed in and offered great insights and suggestions that the manufacturers may not have been able to elicit otherwise.
For me this was an excellent example of how MEP is positioned to bring together the right decision-makers and thought leaders to discuss the right issues at the right time for the state’s manufacturers. It offered me another chance to see firsthand how the MEP system is ideally suited to help manufacturers address the challenges they face.