Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Cash-strapped auto suppliers may be contemplating drastic measures. If they want new opportunities outside the auto industry, the federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership can help.

The non-profit partnership is a nationwide network that helps companies find public and private resources to improve productivity, expand capacity, explore new technology and strengthen operations. The MEP is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The organization has helped thousands of manufacturers achieve $1.4 billion in annual cost savings. In one year, MEP helped companies retain or increase sales by $10.5 billion. The network has 440 locations across the U.S. and a nationwide staff of 1,600 people, who do not work for the federal government but for local entities.

MEP Director Roger Kilmer, speaking at this morning’s Money Matters panel session here at CAR’s Management Briefing Seminars, says last year his organization worked with 32,000 manufacturing companies and completed 8,000 projects.

“We work with companies in a strategic context,” Kilmer says. “They might need help positioning themselves for the future. We get them to think long-term, to be more strategic, to understand how their sectors have changed.”

The emphasis is on small to midsize companies that may be struggling with trends such as globalization, outsourcing and, now, OEM customers taking work back in-house. “Recreating themselves is an important component of this,” Kilmer says of the companies MEP works with.

As an example, the MEP helped a Michigan automotive gear supplier find new opportunities producing parts for prosthetic limbs in the medical sector.

“The MEP matched the market trends and data with the company’s specific process capabilities,” Kilmer says. “The company came to realize they could use the same equipment and the same manufacturing process to move from automotive to medical appliances.”

The assistance came from the Plymouth-based Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, which is part of the MEP network.

“It really is going to take multiple approaches from the federal government to the state governments to the districts to be able to really position and get folks back on the track that we’d all rather be on than the track we have been on.”

More information about MEP is at mep.nist.gov.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com