The Manufacturing Alliance of Bucks and Montgomery Counties held their second Manufacturing Forum of the year. Relevant and actionable information from some of the area industry leaders packed the morning agenda. Topics included training, financing and cyber security.
Tom Krol, President of IMET Corporation, a full service product design company specializing in electronics design and manufacturing acted as the MC for the event. He began with an overview of the three focus areas of the Alliance including education, regional competitiveness and manufacturing business support.
Krol said education is a key focus area as both students and parents need better information about the career opportunities available in manufacturing. The Alliance also works to promote the region by highlighting the varied types of manufacturing assets and partners in the two-county area. Lastly, the group works with all manufacturers to help them get the support and services they need to grow and expand.
Training Panel Recap
The training panel included manufacturers as well as government and private training resources. Ken Krauss, President and CEO of U.S. Axle talked about the systems they use to provide their employees the on-the-job training they need. Each job function has a skills assessment along with training to fill in the gaps. Testing is done to assess competency; this includes observing skills in action. The company uses ToolingU.com as an online job training resource.
John Shegda of Meron Medical and M & S Grinding also emphasizes in-house training with his team. “Time is an issue” said Shegda, “So we use technology to enhance the on-hands experience.” M & S taps into the online educational resources at the National Tooling and Machining Association. With a link on the company’s website, employees can access training where and when it fits into their schedule. “We spend a lot of time on people skills or how to make people better.” To achieve this goal Shegda gives his employees exposure to all departments in the company. This cross training helps team members understand how each job function contributes to the overall success of the company.
Sherry McKinney was on-hand to discuss the money available for tuition assistance through WEDnetPA.com. Employers access these resources through an online system called ISSAC where they can apply for and receive training reimbursement. The compensation covers both essential skills training as well as advanced technology training.
Manufacturing Finances Recap
The second topic on the agenda covered cash flow and procurement. The overriding theme was “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Seems simple enough, but some companies get caught up in the attraction of new technology without a plan on how to pay for it sooner than later. Businesses must also take into account the number of clients they can serve with an investment in new equipment. If you buy equipment specifically for one project, you may be vulnerable should that project go away. Bud Tyler, Vice President of EF Precision, has some sound advice. “If we have a need for new equipment, we look at the ROI and how fast we can pay for it. We like to pay back the investment in less than two years to keep up with the latest in technology.” Fred Joseph at Phillips Corporation had similar advice. “Don’t buy more than you need and be sure to vet out your partners.” Create partnerships with reliable equipment suppliers.
Banking relationships are another key ingredient to sustainable business growth. Tyler suggested that companies get their banking partners involved in equipment purchases up front. Often bankers have access to suppliers that can provide better terms for equipment financing.
Other key takeaways from panel members included:
- Look for financing before you shop for equipment
- Get a letter of credit or performance from the supplier before you buy
- Take advantage of state and local resources like the Pa Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) to help obtain low cost financing
|The Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Fairless Hills, PA|
Cyber Security and the Internet Recap
The final panel addressed the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber security. This group discussed some of the potential vulnerabilities all companies face. Walt Johnson, President of Precision Systems, talked about the value of the “Industrial Internet of things”. These interconnected systems can provide up to the minute diagnostics on plant operations and help companies improve processes, streamline maintenance issues and respond to client needs. One word of caution from Johnson, “Stay away software solutions that require proprietary hardware or force you to change to a different system. You lose flexibility and control over the changing needs of your manufacturing environment.”
In this world of greater mobility and data transfer, Kip Lynch, Owner of CMIT Solutions, cautioned that companies need to use layers of security including firewalls and ransomware solutions. Managing Director of Layer 8 Security, Kevin Hyde said the human factor could make companies vulnerable. Hyde recommends creating policies and procedures with security in mind. He also recommends screening vendors to see how they operate and how secure they are. He reminded us that the breach in Target’s computer system originated with an Air Conditioning contractor they hired. Protecting your business and your data in this world of daily hacks is a challenge, but one all companies need to accept and make a priority.
Spread the Word
Judging from the feedback of the attendees, this second Manufacturing Forum was a great success. All we need to do now is spread the word. Invite other manufacturers and vendors to join the group. With greater numbers, we will have more resources and knowledge to share. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats.
To learn more about the Alliance or join the LinkedIn Group visit http://linkd.in/1HdWaf4.