New Article Reveals the Importance of Small Manufacturers, Partnerships

New Article Reveals the Importance of Small Manufacturers, Partnerships

A March 18 IndustryWeek article covering President Obama’s recent manufacturing initiative announcement in Ohio brought out some great points about the importance of small businesses in the U.S., and the value of partnerships in the manufacturing industry.

The article states that as the American manufacturing industry continues to experience positive growth as a whole, small manufacturers in particular are becoming increasingly important. The article points to a new report from the White House and Commerce Department that “describes a dense network of small manufacturers that make up the backbone of America’s supply chains, contributing more than 40% of all manufacturing employment.”

The article talks about the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network of small manufacturers, revealing a great point about the value of partnerships. Strategic alliances with industry groups are one of the most important steps a small business can make. Over the past several years, PMT has established and strengthened partnerships with both local government officials and national industry groups, leading to a wealth of available resources and thought leadership.

For example, PMT invited Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) to visit our plant, and we presented a new view of the role of the small business in the landscape of American manufacturing. We invited El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser to tour our facility, and showed why small plants like PMT are vital to the economy of the city. During these visits, PMT aimed to prove exactly what the report showed: the “backbone” of manufacturing resides in the small business supply chain. Today, the mantra “Made in the USA” has never been more pertinent.

PMT’s long-standing relationships with industry groups provide support for our role as a small manufacturer. PMT is part of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) and the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). We’ve also worked with the University of Texas at El Paso, New Mexico State University and local community colleges; the El Paso branch of the EPA; the Texas Workforce Commission and our local Borderplex Alliance group.

PMT has utilized resources at the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), part the MEP, for many years. These partnerships offer resources when implementing new ideas like our plant-wide sustainability initiative, or when launching new projects like PMT’s in-house apprenticeship program.

This is an exciting time to be a manufacturer, especially with new technologies like 3-D printing and robotics becoming more and more accessible. Yet the IndustryWeek article revealed a gap in innovation-driven solutions for smaller businesses:

“Dense networks of these small manufacturers are vital to the process of taking a product from concept to market, and the exchange of manufacturing know-how across suppliers is essential for the diffusion of the new product ideas and innovative processes that give U.S. manufacturing its cutting edge. However, because of the barriers they face, small manufacturers often lag behind their larger peers in adopting critical new technologies.

For example, a recent survey found that fewer than 60% of small manufacturers were experimenting in any way with 3-D printing, a potentially transformative technology that is especially beneficial for small companies due to its flexibility. In contrast, over 75% of large firms were using the technology.”

PMT sees first-hand the need to bring in new technology early. PMT adopted 3-D printing in our plant last year, and we now print fixtures to support in-house value-added assembly operations and perform rapid prototyping for customers. We may be a small manufacturer, but our ideas are big. Thanks to sustained partnerships, we are able to keep growing our ideas, translating them into effective new initiatives.