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Learning by Example from Manufacturing Success Stories

I have a confession: I’m not a fan of PowerPoint presentations. I just struggle to learn when I’m being taught things via bullet points on slides. For me, real-life experiences and examples, case studies and success stories help me “connect the dots” when I’m digesting new information.

This got me to thinking about how I relay information. We often get asked to provide insight into how manufacturers can improve their global competitiveness and profitability. Typically, I provide “bullet points” about vital areas such as innovation, growth, exporting, continuous improvement and sustainability.

For some people, this may be valuable information. However, others might “learn like I do” and would benefit more by learning through real-life examples and success stories from other manufacturers.

So as an alternative to simply telling manufacturers to invest in things like exporting, new product developments and workforce training, I would like to share three success stories from companies who have worked with local MEP Centers. Hopefully these examples may even inspire your business initiatives in 2015.

The Wagner Companies (Exporting)

The Wagner Companies, a 120-person, family-owned company located in Milwaukee, Wis., manufactures and stocks standard products for metal fabricators and also produces custom products — primarily for handrails. The organization was able to increase sales through exporting.

The Wagner Companies accelerated its exporting efforts by connecting with the Wisconsin MEP and participating in ExporTech™. This program consists of three intense sessions scheduled one month apart, and coaching and assistance are provided between the sessions.

The key takeaway: The Wagner Companies worked to develop a strategic plan for exporting with recognized experts. As a result, the organization has increased export sales 40% each year and has increased the countries served from 2 to 16.

Read the full story.

CleveMed (New Product Development)

CleveMed is a leader in web-based solutions and miniaturized wireless monitors for sleep disorders. The company is located in Cleveland, OH, and has 40 employees. The organization was able to grow through new product developments.

CleveMed had a great concept for a new device that would help people diagnose sleep apnea. However, they were challenged by creating a physical design for the product that would be extremely user friendly, which would make or break the success of the product. The organization connected with MAGNET, part of the Ohio MEP, who provided a product development engineer to help them solve the problem and successfully introduce the product to the market.

The key takeaway: New product enhancements and developments are vital to growth. If you run into a problem, seek outside assistance. As a result of MAGNET’s help, CleveMed was able to achieve $500,000 in new sales and created 2 new jobs.

Read the full story.

RF Micro Devices (Workforce Training)

RF Micro Devices (RFMD) was founded in Greensboro, N.C., in 1991. It designs and manufactures high-performance radio frequency systems and solutions for applications that drive wireless and broadband communications.

RFMD enlisted the N.C. State Industrial Extension Service (the MEP Center in North Carolina) to provide Six Sigma on-site Green Belt training. Participants were given real-world projects during training that they would continue to work on after its completion.

The key takeaway: Training your staff is critical to your company’s success. Six Sigma on-site Green Belt training led to the development of better processes for inventory control levels and final product test efficiency.  As a result, RFMD experienced multi-million dollar cost savings.

Read the full story.

To learn more by reading about real-life success stories from US manufacturers, please visit our success stories page (which has around 950 success stories from the past three years alone).

About the author

Kari Reidy

Ms. Reidy is with the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She formerly led the NIST MEP Marketing and Communications team. This team oversees the messaging and outreach efforts focused on highlighting MEP accomplishments and positioning the Program as a resource for manufacturers.

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With a career of more than 40 years in the manufacturing industry, I can look back now and see that I was greatly influenced by my father, who worked for an


Great post. Love the real life examples. BTW, I hate Powerpoint too.
Thanks. Great idea, need many more eventually.
Great work, this will go a long way in creating awareness and confidence for manufacturers to open up to external help in revamping their firms.

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