Manufacturing Innovation Blog Manufacturing Innovation Blog blog posts en Whether You Build Them or Buy Them – IoT Device Security Concerns Us All The Internet of Things (IoT) offers many attractions for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) who may want to integrate IoT into their facilities and operations, or who seek to enter the IoT market with innovative products. The spectrum of available IoT products is broad and continually growing. When venturing into the IoT waters, it’s helpful to be prepared for the potential cybersecurity pitfalls, whether in the form of implications for organizational risk management when introducing IoT to the environment or considerations for product design and support when entering the marketplace Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Barbara Cuthill MEP Centers – On the Frontlines of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion This blog is the second in a monthly series brought to you by the new America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development. Craig Garner, profiled recently in a PBS News Hour segment discussing Rhode Island’s focus on retraining workers displaced by the pandemic, is excited about his new job at Yushin, a robotics manufacturer. He may or may not know what Polaris MEP is – even though Tue, 06 Apr 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Matt Fieldman E.G.O. North America – New Ways to Grow 90-Year-Old Business E.G.O., a global manufacturer of domestic appliance technology, components and products for manufacturing radiant heating elements, made a name for itself in 1931 when the company invented the original hot plate. Since 1982, E.G.O. has housed their North American headquarters and main warehouse in Newnan, Georgia, bringing its first production line to the facility in 1996. Today, the company has 6,000 employees in 17 countries and holds more than 1,000 official patents. In the 1990s, E.G.O. helped grow the smooth top electric range market with their invention of the radiant heating element Fri, 26 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership America Works – An Innovative Approach to Workforce Development This blog is the first in a monthly series brought to you by the new America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches to workforce development. What is America Works, and why is it important to the future of American manufacturing? The American manufacturing industry is at a crossroads, facing growing competition from foreign countries while struggling to develop a skilled, dedicated workforce here at home. American manufacturers are desperately Tue, 09 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Matt Fieldman Detecting Abnormal Cyber Behavior Before a Cyberattack The promise of advanced manufacturing technologies — also known as smart factories or Industry 4.0 — is that by networking our machines, computers, sensors and systems, we will (among other things) enable automation, improve safety and ultimately become more productive and efficient. And there is no doubt that manufacturing has already benefited from that transformation. Connecting all of these sensors and devices to our industrial control systems (ICS), and the increase in remote work and monitoring, results in manufacturing networks with greater vulnerabilities to cyberattack. This is an Fri, 05 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Dr. Michael Powell Sometimes It’s Not Easy Being a Small Manufacturer The COVID-19 pandemic has presented big challenges for small manufacturers. That was the message of three leaders from manufacturing companies located in two Southwestern states. Fortunately, the MEP National NetworkTM is here for the small (and medium-sized) manufacturer! These are views from the twin public health and economic crisis trenches shared by our panel during the Oct. 2, 2020, “National Conversation with Manufacturers” session hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). This was the 11th and final listening Tue, 23 Feb 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit U.S. Manufacturing to the MEP National Network: Don’t Let Up! The COVID-19 pandemic has asked much of manufacturing executives. They’ve had to make decisions about staffing and operations in the face of tremendous health and economic uncertainty — and then adjust or even change decisions based on a myriad of shifting and evolving factors. They’ve had to retool to produce new items for a new market to generate needed revenue while helping address an urgent demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE. They’ve had to master new skills and new tools to communicate with workers and customers and foster community in a period of necessary isolation. Oh Wed, 17 Feb 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit After a March (and More) of Madness, What’s Next for Manufacturers? The six manufacturing executives participating in a Sept. 25, 2020, virtual conversation spent much of the time discussing what comes after the pandemic has subsided. This session of the “National Conversation with Manufacturers” was the ninth in a series of 11 virtual panels with leaders of small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). The executives gathered for the discussion represented companies ranging in size from 900 employees to just six. The discussion included the Wed, 10 Feb 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Pandemic Makes Plain Need for Manufacturing Workforce In the Sept. 18, 2020, session of the “National Conversation with Manufacturers,” our three West Coast manufacturing leaders on the panel kept coming back to their critical need for skilled workers. The conversation was one in a series of 11 virtual listening sessions hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). The purpose of the listening sessions was learning how small and medium-sized manufacturers across the country have been handling the near-term jolt from the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for success in the Thu, 04 Feb 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Getting a Grip on What’s Next for Robotics in Manufacturing Manufacturing robotics is to some extent following a similar path of advances to those in machining and fixed automation systems. Though the ROI is most easily measured in efficiency and cost savings, manufacturers are looking for robotic technology to help them resolve a pain point in their operation or to create new opportunities. It might be to link processes more efficiently or eliminate the need to outsource a specific function or two. The growth path for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) with robotics is therefore increasingly focused on applications and added capabilities, not Thu, 21 Jan 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Andrew Peterson Sometimes You Just Have To Go Fishing Says Manufacturing Executives Sometimes you just have to go fishing. Seriously. That’s one of the messages manufacturing executives from West Coast and Mountain states passed along during a conversation about their experiences handling the near-term jolt of the COVID-19 pandemic and their expectations of the future. For them, fishing provides a respite from the intense demands of managing the effects of the combined public health and economic challenges on their businesses. And lucky for two of the manufacturing operations represented, consumers have also opted to go fishing and embrace other outdoor activities as Tue, 12 Jan 2021 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit How Daycare and Industrial Entrepreneurship Relate to Manufacturing’s Recovery Two subjects that came up that I wasn’t expecting (but probably should have been) in a conversation with manufacturing executives were daycare and entrepreneurship. While their other observations hit upon topics you would expect to come up during a pandemic, such as concern for the health of their workers, the need for enhanced safety measures, the communication challenges that arise when administrative staff work remotely, and an intent focus on cash management, the executives’ most impassioned concerns were about daycare and entrepreneurship, which they cited as key to reinvigorating the U.S Wed, 23 Dec 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Rethinking Business Risk After the Great Lockdown The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more aware of the items we purchase on a regular basis and how they get to store shelves and to our doors. Anyone else still waiting two to three weeks longer for orders of sanitizing wipes and paper towels? Now, if we as consumers have experienced these longer wait times and find ourselves (still) refreshing the delivery notifications on our latest online purchases, imagine what’s going on behind the scenes! Manufacturing leaders have told us this pandemic has really made them think about risk. Nearly all of the manufacturers we have spoken to mentioned that Wed, 16 Dec 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit COVID-19 — The Disease That Is Reshaping Manufacturing Unless you’ve been living on private island (send invite immediately!), it’s no secret that the pandemic has changed the way manufacturers operate and run their businesses in order to survive these challenging times. At least that’s what we at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) have heard from manufacturers over 11 virtual listening sessions we call the “National Conversation with Manufacturers.” We have spoken to 50 manufacturers across the country and captured their perspectives and experiences during the past several months Wed, 09 Dec 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Five Simple Digital Applications That Are Changing Manufacturing Digital applications in manufacturing are not only becoming increasingly accepted; they are expected. However, for smaller manufacturers, the process of making this switch can be daunting. Initial expenses, as well as the cost of training employees, is enough to stop the process altogether. But beginning the process of “going digital” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a little guidance and education, all manufacturers can start to implement digital manufacturing concepts in a staged approach that best fits your individual work environment. Here are our top five recommendations for digital Fri, 04 Dec 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Michael Taylor Midwestern Manufacturing Leaders Learning the Lessons of Testing Times I think we’d all say that this year has been different than we thought it would be way back in January. Plans had to change; adaptations had to be made. Video meetings have become a larger part of life, both personally and professionally, than I ever imagined outside of TV shows about space travel. Then again, I guess with enough upheaval we can all feel a bit lost in space, eh? Yes, yes, let those among us who have not yet binged their entire watchlist of wholesome family adventures cast the first stone. “Danger, Will Robinson.” For many businesses, the 2020 experience has been much the same Tue, 01 Dec 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Where Manufacturing Is Growing (and Where It Is Not) Over the past few years, I have written more than a few blogs and papers looking at manufacturing productivity across the 50 states. I wanted to update some of these analyses to reflect more recent data, see what it tells us and examine how states were performing when looking at the change in real manufacturing GDP since the Great Recession, but before the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, how do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been? The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be difficult to predict or parse long term due to a number of variables, including sector, changes in Thu, 19 Nov 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Ken Voytek Midwest Manufacturers — Make Do, Can Do, Will Do As a proud son of the Midwest (yes, my family does exchange holiday cheese, and yes, it’s delicious, we have no regrets), I was particularly interested in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Partnership Extension (NIST MEP) virtual round table for Midwest manufacturers. All our nation’s manufacturers are important to me and, of course, we at NIST MEP love them all equally, but there’s always a certain extra curiosity about how the home team’s doing, isn’t there? On Aug. 26, 2020, we brought together manufacturers virtually as part of a series of conversations Tue, 17 Nov 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Manufacturers Share Views on Leadership from the Pandemic Shop Floor As a kid I used to be confused by the so-called curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Wouldn’t interesting times be … good? Why would I not want to be interested? Then I got a little older, experienced a little more life, and I started to understand why “interesting times” could be a negative. Then the pandemic happened, and I began to wish for stable, comfortable and predictable days in a way I never had before. There are always unknowns, risks and challenges you can’t see coming, but the current health situation was so far outside my calculations it might as well have come from another Tue, 10 Nov 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mark Schmit Customer Base Expanded Due to ISO Certification M&R Engineering, a woman-owned business, has over 40 years of experience in delivering high precision CNC machined parts and high-quality, screw-machined parts. The company employs more than 65 people and its team of skilled engineers and machinists use the latest programming techniques and equipment to deliver high precision CNC Lathe, CNC Swiss and CNC Mill parts. The company is fully equipped to handle both small volume, large variety projects, as well as large volume projects requiring millions of pieces in annual demand. M&R Engineering fulfills contracts to Department of Defense (DoD) Fri, 06 Nov 2020 12:00:00 +0000 California Manufacturing Technology Consulting Supplier Scouting Provides Solutions Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and create two-thirds of net new jobs that drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness. In recent months, in order to help keep the general population healthy, many small companies were obliged to temporarily close their doors to both customers and employees. The full impact of these closures are still not known. During this difficult time, businesses are looking for any opportunity to not only support their bottom line, but to also ramp up production of critically needed items. Enter the MEP National Network™. In FY 2019, the MEP National Thu, 29 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Samm Webb The Future of Connected Devices With the increasing power of digital technology, the vision of a connected manufacturing system that can sense, analyze and respond will soon be a reality. This vision – called “intelligent edge” – combines computing power, data analytics and advanced connectivity to allow responses to be made much closer to where the data is captured. It takes emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 capabilities to the next level. Cybersecurity plays a complex role in this vision. On one hand, technological advances can lead to improved cybersecurity capabilities. On the other hand, when built Tue, 27 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Erik Fogleman, Jeff Orszak Securing Internet-Connected Medical Devices Lions and Tigers and Bears — Oh My! Upon arrival in an unfamiliar landscape in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy observed, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Encounters with flying monkeys, organ-deficient companions, cheerful munchkins and a water-averse witch soon became her new normal. For us, the new normal involves the accelerating adoption of internet-connected medical devices and virtual care models — the “internet of medical things” or IoMT, which is defined by Deloitte as a “connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, and health systems and services.” Thu, 22 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Jennifer Kurtz 7 Essential Traits to Build a Resilient Growth Strategy In their recent IndustryWeek webinar “The 7 Essential Traits of a Resilient Growth Strategy,” Chris Scafario and Sylvia Wower from the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC, part of the Pennsylvania MEP) shared insights from their experience helping companies innovate, market and grow their businesses successfully. Together, Chris and Sylvia have delivered over 900 projects to manufacturers across the country and helped generate over $300 million in value-added impact through market research, lead generation, digital marketing and overall growth planning. Their insights and tips Fri, 16 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Katie Rapp Suspicious Minds: Non-Technical Signs Your Business Might Have Been Hacked I grew up in the outer suburbs of New York City. My dad commuted to the city for work, as did most of our neighbors, but as kids we rarely went into the city. An occasional field trip to a museum, seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center, or a family outing to a ballgame had been the extent of my urban experience. One year for Christmas, my sister, my cousin and I received tickets to see the Broadway show “Grease.” For the first time, we would be allowed to travel on the train and see the show without our parents. A whole day in New York without supervision! For young teenagers, it was a Tue, 13 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Pat Toth If You Connect It, Protect It! Meet Humphrey Humphrey is a gray squirrel that a friend of mine rescued as an abandoned baby squirrel. For weeks, my friend and his family nursed the young creature by hand. While Humphrey was growing, he became very friendly with the family members, often perching on their shoulders and snuggling in their arms for naps. Humphrey was permitted the run of the house and had a basket for his sleeping quarters, which he often used at night. As time passed, he grew strong enough to survive on his own and the family released him back into the wild to enjoy the life of a healthy gray squirrel. Having Tue, 06 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Zane Patalive Thinking Anew about Manufacturing The last couple of months have caused manufacturers and MEP Centers to think anew about many things — supplier, customer and workforce relationships; the economy; outsourcing, insourcing, and reshoring; lean; automation; and on and on. Things have changed. A lot. We now see papers, blog posts and other things suggesting the we need to reimagine, rethink, reinvent, rebound, retool and recover as the environment that we face has, in many ways, been turned upside down or at least it feels that way. I think the 2020 experience also suggests that manufacturers and MEP Centers need to be resilient Thu, 01 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Ken Voytek Creating a Culture of Security October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It also happens to be (among other things) Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dental Hygiene Month, National Bullying Prevention Month and my personal favorite, National Pizza Month. Plus, it’s Halloween! But I digress…we’re here to talk about cybersecurity. Every manufacturer should hold cybersecurity awareness training for all their staff at least once a year. Many people are spooked by the mere mention of the words “cybersecurity” and “training,” so October seems like an appropriate time for it. Your training should, at a minimum, cover Mon, 28 Sep 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Celia Paulsen Manufacturing Day – Its Genesis and Evolution Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) has become a nationwide phenomenon. MFG Day is held annually on the first Friday in October. Many events continue throughout the entire month. The purpose of MFG Day is to show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders. Each year thousands of manufacturers open their doors to give a glimpse at what today’s manufacturing really looks like and inspire the next generation of skilled workers. Do you ever wonder Tue, 22 Sep 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Dileep Thatte Manufacturers: Pre-Purchase Guide for Equipment A survey from 2014 found that small and medium-sized manufacturers do not like to compromise on quality when it comes to communications devices, vehicles or tea (yes tea – the survey respondents were probably British) but were more likely to skimp when it came to things like manufacturing equipment1. Whether it is a new computer for the office or a welding station for the shop floor, purchasing new equipment is a decision about risk. A poor purchasing decision can result in a waste of resources and possibly a safety or cybersecurity incident. Before you purchase or otherwise acquire a piece of Wed, 09 Sep 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Celia Paulsen Safe Quality Food Certification Expands Markets Valley Popcorn produces bags of popcorn, popcorn seeds and oil, toppings, supplies and poppers. The company has about 30 full-time equivalent employees at its 25,000 square foot facility, which includes an office area as well as a store that features a variety of popcorn products for sale to the public. Owner and Chief Executive Officer Carl Freundl and his wife Carol founded Valley Popcorn in 1992 with six poppers in their small home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The business moved to its current plant in Neenah, Wisconsin in 1996. Customers include retailers and grocery store chains in Wisconsin Fri, 04 Sep 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) Connecting Resources in Natural Dam Dunn Paper – Natural Dam, Inc. located in Gouverneur, NY, produces white medical tissue and deep-dyed napkins. The mill employs 90 people and the company employs over 800 across the country. The company has seven plants in the U.S. and Canada. Dunn Paper needed a water filtration and treatment system to remove dirt and tannins from the Oswegatchie River. The company struggled with water quality while making paper and used bleach to whiten the paper. Bleach is an expensive and corrosive chemical, which needed neutralizing before entering the process. There were a lot of moving parts to this Fri, 28 Aug 2020 12:00:00 +0000 New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Why a Food Safety Culture Is Good Business for Food Manufacturers There were more than 300 food recalls and 17 multistate foodborne investigations in the United States in 2019. (ref: Food Safety magazine) The recall process in the food industry averages more than $10 million in associated costs, according to Food Safety Tech. In order to address such public health issues and protect the consumers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which was signed by the President in 2011. FSMA enables FDA and food manufacturers to focus more on preventing food safety problems rather than relying primarily on reacting Tue, 11 Aug 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Dileep Thatte How Automation and AI May Help Level the Playing Field for Women in Manufacturing Women make up about 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce despite filling 47 percent of the positions in the overall workforce, according to the Manufacturing Institute. While there have been periods of growth and decline, the dynamic is mostly unchanged since 1970, when women held 27 percent of the manufacturing jobs. But many experts say the growing adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), combined with the critical need for knowledge-based workers, will create more opportunities for women in manufacturing. What Does Automaton, AI Look Like in the Manufacturing World? The Thu, 30 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Nicole Ausherman High-Mix/Low-Volume Manufacturers Are a Sweet Spot for Collaborative Robots Collaborative robots are increasingly attractive to manufacturers who require flexible solutions for their growing product mix but may not have the scale of work or capital resources needed to justify larger investments in automation systems. These collaborative robots, commonly referred to as “cobots,” can execute tasks with minimal programming and adapt to variations in part position and size. Humans work side-by-side with cobots to reduce the need for custom fixturing that can make high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) work inefficient. Cobots can also go to where the work is on the shop floor. The Thu, 23 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Andrew Peterson How to Host a Virtual Manufacturing Day Event Given the limitations with public gatherings and social distancing practices prompted by the current pandemic, it’s uncertain whether manufacturers will be hosting traditional on-site tours of their facilities on Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) this October. But as we have learned with so many other aspects of our lives, a virtual option awaits. And while there is no replacing the sensory experience of watching a manufacturing process up close for the first time, there may be opportunities with a virtual event to increase community engagement and collect data on visitors who are interested in a Tue, 14 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Anthony Diaz Infographic: The Defense Manufacturing Supply Chain The defense manufacturing supply chain is critical to both the U.S. economy and national security. Support is needed for emerging technologies such as directed-energy weapons, hypersonics and cybersecurity, all of which are vital to national defense. While challenges exist, there have been remarkable successes due to the MEP National Network’sTM dedication to assist small and medium-sized manufacturers across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Manufacturers assisted have included those that supply a material, component or subsytem used in a defense or national security system. The Network continues Thu, 09 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 MEP National Network 7 Manufacturing Digitization Challenges — and How to Overcome Them Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robots, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT)...there’s a whole world of advanced manufacturing technology and innovation just waiting for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) who want to step up their digital game. Unfortunately, manufacturing digitization can present some fundamental challenges, like added cybersecurity risk. So how do smaller manufacturers increase their advanced manufacturing technology capabilities while balancing the associated risks? Let’s dissect some of the top challenges for SMMs when it comes to implementing advanced Thu, 25 Jun 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Celia Paulsen A Holistic Approach to Developing a Modern Manufacturing Workforce In line with the continuous process improvement mindset the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP) advocates, its Smart Talent methodology has evolved a great deal during the five years OMEP has been practicing it. Smart Talent was launched in 2015 to help small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) address workforce challenges with systematic approaches to recruitment, hiring, onboarding and early career development. OMEP has used the methodology with 95 organizations, in engagements ranging from 16 weeks to 18 months. It has responded to client needs by expanding the program to Thu, 18 Jun 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Mary Ann Pacelli Managing Productivity I’ve made it my personal crusade to keep a focus on the fundamental importance of productivity to manufacturers, to the MEP Program, to the MEP Centers that do the daily work of helping small manufacturers boost their performance. It may seem strange to read a post about productivity given the current environment, but it remains important to both national economic and business success. Indeed, productivity will be even more critical as we recover from the current health and economic crisis. Currently, there is significant excess capacity of both capital and labor that we can reengage to help Fri, 12 Jun 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Ken Voytek