In the 2020 Quarter 3 issue of our Impact newsletter, we published this article on Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, and the benefits our customers could have by working with them. With the push for Made in America products, we thought it was a great time to share the article again and urge customers to work with their local MEPs that can help them find local resources that may help their business.

Small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) face various challenges. With the resource of Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center, or MEP Centers, companies can get much needed resources and access to experts to help them succeed.

MEP Centers hire subject matter experts who have experience in various areas – such as productivity, quality, cyber security, business growth, and advanced technologies – where they can be of assistance to these SMMs.

“I lived and breathed manufacturing for 28 years,” said Sharon Ohman, Senior Services Manager – Quality Assurance at the Purdue University Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

They also build tools that companies can use, such as spreadsheets and templates.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of helping them develop a checklist or something they can use internally,” said Ohman.

They even offer training for companies. For the Purdue University MEP Center, they have conducted onsite trainings at the company’s facility as well as hosted public workshops where companies can send certain employees to. These are internal auditor training for management systems (ISO 9001, IATF 16949, AS9100, ISO 14001, ISO 45001) and skilled for success (working with workforce development – training to help build workforce skills and basic manufacturing knowledge).

California Manufacturing Technology Consulting® (CMTC), the largest MEP Center in the country, acts as a trusted advisor and honest broker for these companies. CMTC delivers technical, financial, and growth services to SMMs in California and helps them to increase their productivity and global competitiveness.

In California and across the nation, 99% of the manufacturing companies are small or medium-sized and roughly 70% have less than 20 employees. As a non-profit, companies can trust that CMTC is working in their best interest. They connect clients with the best products and solutions for their needs instead of promoting a certain product.  The MEP program is based at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  As such, every client served receives a NIST surveys to measure the impact of the services provided.  The results of these surveys are tied to the MEP Centers’ funding. MEP Centers help clients implement the most effective solutions so the clients report great survey results, which in turn allow the MEP Centers to continue to receive MEP funding to help other companies.

As an added benefit, working with MEP Centers lets smaller companies use their networks.

“We all have a vast network of manufacturing and technical expertise across the MEP National Network and our partner organizations,” said Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. “Working with an MEP Center lets you tap into that network in the MEP Center, in academic partners, and in the National Labs.”

Just like all other organizations, MEP Centers have been navigating the new normal with COVID-19 restrictions for the last 6 months.

For the Purdue University MEP Center, they took the time where they couldn’t travel and used it to convert 75-80% of their onsite courses to remote courses through WebEx. They were also able to help companies implement their quality system through Microsoft Teams, which worked out well too.

CMTC is working on assisting companies through this transition as well. They have been deploying regionally located service providers to identify and understand manufacturers’ specific needs, challenges, and opportunities, and provide customized virtual services for recovery and growth.

Even before the pandemic, MEP Centers have been helping companies to succeed. As a federally funded resource, we encourage customers to check out how you can benefit.

Sara Gulo

Sara Gulo is the Marketing Specialist for DQS Inc. in the USA. She's been with DQS for 10 years in various roles, including Verification and Customer Service Professional.