Congressman Mike Michaud's op ed article was published in the April edition of Machining The New Voice of Manufacturing. Machining enjoys a circulation of 80,000.
Congressman Michaud, an avid supporter of the national and Maine MEP stated that, "Maintaining our technology advantage in the manufacturing sector means supporting the development of new materials, manufacturing process, and products, and ensuring that companies have the tools to take full advantage of new technology developments in industry. A shining example of something that the federal government can to aid manufacturers is the successful and ongoing work being done by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
By Congressman Michael H. Michaud
Over the years, I have seen this countryís manufacturing sector go through many changes. Due to the ever-changing face of our global economy, it shouldnít be surprising to find that the need for increased technology is greater now than ever before. Small and medium sized manufacturing firms need this technology to remain competitive so that they can increase their already massive contributions to industry innovation.
To better highlight important manufacturing issues before Congress, my colleagues and I joined together to form the House Manufacturing Task Force. As members in this group, my colleagues and I share ideas and proposals on ways in which we can better promote the ability of our domestic firms to modernize and compete.
The Task Force aggressively supports U.S. manufacturing with a robust policy agenda that promotes an entrepreneurial business climate, invests in innovation, and ensures our citizens' protection and productivity. And, while the Task Force addresses tax, trade, and education, we believe itís crucial that we invest more resources in research and development in order to improve manufacturing competitiveness and create sustainable economic growth.
Maintaining our technology advantage in the manufacturing sector means supporting the development of new materials, manufacturing processes, and products, and ensuring that companies have the tools to take full advantage of new technological developments in industry.
A shining example of something that the federal government can do to aid manufacturers is the successful and ongoing work being done by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). As a nationwide network of not-for-profit centers in nearly 350 locations nationwide, MEPís sole purpose is to provide small and medium sized manufacturers with the help they need to succeed.
As a major supporter of the MEP program, I have been pleased to see the MEPís efforts pay off in every corner of the country. In addition, I have been impressed by what the Maine MEP center has been able to do for a local constituent of mine, Richard Casey, owner of AM Wood Designs.
As a manufacturer of unfinished pine furniture, AM Wood Design faced challenges with production flow. The companyís ultimate goal was to get to zero inventory and on-time production. The solutions to AM Wood Designís challenges were found through consultation with the Maine MEP center. The center helped the company rework the plantís layout by creating work cells on the production floor and implementing a pull system for inventory.
Another example of a local Maine company helped by the MEP is Kennebec Tool and Die. They sought MEP help when looking to upgrade their ISO 9000 designation to ISO 9001:2000. Upgrading to the new standards would help Kennebec Tool and Die continue to attract worldwide customers to their 30-year-old high quality machined components company.
The Maine MEP assisted them with the ISO certification upgrade, focusing on involving employees in the process. Meetings were held with all employees, educating them about the benefits of the recent designation and how they contribute to the companyís success. As a result, the company expanded their customer base to include both commercial aircraft and military markets. MEPís efforts also proved to educate their employees on each production process within the company.
These local success stories are really just the tip of the iceberg. The MEP program works all across the country to help address the needs of manufacturers. In the fiscal year 2003 alone, the national MEP program served over 18,000 manufacturers. Impacts from this program have been reported to be a six to one return on investment generating just over $4 billion in new and retained sales as a direct result of MEP assistance. In an independent survey of clients served, 4,865 clients reported MEP's assistance lead to 50,315 jobs that were created and retained as well as a cost savings of over $686 million.
In my home region, the MEP centers of New England are teaming together in an innovative, effective and cost-efficient partnership to help small manufacturers competitively meet the procurement demands of the Department of Defense. Small and medium-sized defense contracting enterprises (SMEs) were once the backbone of the United Statesí defense industrial base. Over the past decade, procurement streamlining, program downsizing, restructuring of large prime contractors and reductions in spare parts inventories have negatively impacted the ability of SMEs to serve the country's defense needs.
The solution to rebuilding this capability is to tap the vast capacity of SMEs to meet the growing needs of the defense industry. As a crucial part of the solution, the New England MEP offices have banded together to develop a program called the New England Manufacturing Supply Chain (NEMSC) program. The NEMSC initiative, based on its recent successes, is establishing the New England Center for Supply Chain Integration as a one-stop program that will provide SMEs the necessary engineering and manufacturing technical assistance to speed up the process of submitting successful bids directly to the Department of Defense as well as to prime contractors. As evidence of the good work being done by the New England MEP offices, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) stated that the NEMSCís center is a model that they would like its own purchasing centers to be aware of in order to determine how DLA centers could use the MEP initiative to address difficulties in identifying qualified suppliers.
As the only federal program designed to specifically help the manufacturing sector, the MEP increases our country's manufacturing productivity and competitiveness, resulting in expanded economic activity and an enhanced tax base. It aids in the creation and retention of well-paying manufacturing jobs for American workers and ensures a reliable and secure supply chain for defense and consumer goods. The MEP also helps U.S. manufacturers expand their exports and engage in new trade opportunities.
The MEPís statistics and countless case studies are very impressive and one can see why the program is so vital. As a committed MEP partner at the federal level, I look forward to seeing how Congress can continue to foster programs such as the MEP to best serve the interests of our nationís manufacturers.
If you would like to find out more information of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, I encourage you to visit their website at: http://www.mep.nist.gov/.