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The Demand for Consulting Services

The most recent issue of the Economist contained an article regarding the increasing demand for consultants and consulting services among firms. The article suggests that while competition is becoming more intense among consulting firms, the type of work being done for clients by these firms is changing.  Companies are employing consultants and consulting services to implement ideas and specific projects focused on improving clients’ internal processes and moving from projects that are not traditionally considered “strategy consulting.”  Some of this struck a chord with me since the work of our network of MEP centers is often focused on these and other areas including supporting companies in growing their bottom line and moving into new markets, delivering goods to new customers, developing new products, and deploying new services.

As part of our MEP client survey, we ask clients to choose, from a provided list, the two most important factors that led them to work with their local center. The chart below provides the detail from these surveys. The surveys done over the last year, based on responses from nearly 6,000 clients, suggest that there are many reasons clients have for working with an MEP center.  In particular, 60 percent of the survey respondents said they used their local center because of center/staff expertise.  Forty-one percent chose to use a local MEP center because the services were cost-effective and nearly one quarter of all respondents said they used a local center because of their local center’s reputation for fair and unbiased services or because of its reputation for results. About 15 percent of all clients said they used a local MEP because the services they needed were not available from other providers or no other providers were nearby.

Keeping abreast of best practices and seeking expertise beyond the walls of a company is becoming important to many companies. Having access to these ideas and support systems is important. Looking toward your own local manufacturing support system may represent a key competitive advantage in the future as I recently argued in my last blog. Helping manufacturers make the right products for the right customers the right way will be key to the future success of individual manufacturing firms and the sector. Let me know what you think about the future of consulting and where you think it is moving…..

About the author

Ken Voytek

Mr. Voytek is the Manager of the Program Evaluation and Economic Research Group and the Chief Economist with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In his spare time, he collects baseball cards, reads obscure books and articles, and shares his bubbly personality with family, friends, and colleagues.

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Interesting post. I have actually seen a rise in consulting services in my business dealings recently as well. It seems more companies are hiring staff to do jobs that were once done by consultants, but these companies still want to bring consultants in every so often for some fresh eyes and ideas.
I have seen rise in high level technology consulting in Mfg companies, with elimination of sustaining engineers on site, and attempt to use equipment and materials vendors as sustaining engineering. Big problems need scientific methods, and consultants can force supply chain members to work together intelligently, since factories have now only kept design and financial services well staffed. Outsourcing can lead to blindness on complex technical issues until serious trouble threatens.

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