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FuzeHub Publications

Follow for the latest publications from our state-wide MEP partner FuzeHub

 

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How Digital Manufacturing and Design Changes the Supply Chain

November 6, 2019

In 2018, manufacturing generated more than 11% of the United State’s economic output. As many as 98% of the manufacturing industry is made up of small and medium-sized businesses. As many as 75% of those companies have less than 20 employees. 

The digital world and the manufacturing world are increasingly intertwined. This link between the physical world and the digital is changing how companies do business, which is how the newly coined “digital manufacturing and design” or DM&D came to be. 

DM&D optimizes the product life-cycle by: 

  • Combining the power of software, data, and control systems
  • Melding those technologies to model, simulate, analyze, control, and optimize product development 

Businesses that are able to automate steps of the manufacturing process via digital platforms can push towards new technologies. These technologies utilize real-time analysis to adapt and optimize the product life-cycle. 

How?

Digital Twins and Threads

 A digital twin makes it possible for you to link a physical product with a digital model of that product. It makes it so that multiple experts and stakeholders can be involved in the creation, testing, and production of a design in real-time.

By using a digital twin,  the supply chain is connected from end-to-end with a digital thread. While this level of technology might seem out of most small businesses’’ reach, giants like Amazon and GE manage these processes as a virtual vertical integrated enterprise.  

What does that mean?   

The Factory of the Future 

That means  small-to-medium enterprises  ( SMEs) will become part of the supply chains of  original equipment manufacturers ( OEMs). This relationship will ultimately benefit both OEMs and SMEs. OEMs receive reliable partners along the supply chain, while SMEs get access to the technologies that enhance both production and processes.  

The right partner can help SMEs accomplish the following: 

  • Automated data exchange between all stakeholders 
  • Data-driven product planning and design 
  • Automated data collection and analysis  
  • Optimized manufacturing performance 
  • Ensure cost-competitive, quality manufacturing 

The right partner will help SMEs secure their place in the digital future with ready access to the digital design tools that industry giants are using. 

To learn more about digital manufacturing and design,  check out this post  by IndustryWeek for more info, then reach out to your  local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center.

How Public Relations Can Bolster The Manufacturing Industry

October 21, 2019

Growing a manufacturing company is hard work.

The competing priorities can seem endless—filling orders, training workers, marketing products, keeping up with competitors, adopting new technologies, improving operations, and more.

Fortunately, there’s a network of organizations across the nation that is ready and available to help manufacturers solve problems, become more competitive, and accelerate their growth.

The  Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is a public-private partnership with centers in every state nationwide. The New York MEP is a network of 10 regional centers and one statewide center,  FuzeHub.

Every day, the  NY MEP and its peer networks in other states help small- to mid-sized manufacturers access the resources, programs, experts, and assets they need to address challenges related to productivity, innovation, commercialization, efficiency, and other business issues.

And importantly, they’ve delivered results. In 2018 alone, the NY MEP helped create or retain 5,351 manufacturing jobs and generate $819.3 million in company cost savings, new investments, and increased or retained sales.

Since the summer of 2018, The Martin Group has worked alongside FuzeHub and the NY MEP to expand awareness of their work to help manufacturing and technology companies thrive.

With our clients at FuzeHub, we were recently invited to lead a webinar for the  MEP National Network with the  Oregon MEP and its PR partner,  Coates Kokes.

With coast-to-coast collaboration, we shared our successes with the NY MEP and OMEP. We presented to MEP Centers across the country about how they, too, could deploy public relations programs to expand their networks, build their brands, and engage new partners and clients.

When manufacturers learn about their local MEP center, it can be the first step toward stronger growth and job creation. That means empowering MEP centers with PR skills could have a big impact on U.S. manufacturing.

You can watch a recording of the webinar at this link.

We provided an overview of PR basics and dove deep into tactics that can drive earned media success for MEP centers and other organizations that serve manufacturers.

Throughout hourlong webinar, we explained how to:

1.) Leverage client stories to drive local news

To help people understand the work that MEP Centers do, it’s often best to use real-life stories of how they helped a manufacturer solve a problem so they could grow. This is especially important with local media that want real stories about people who live in their coverage area.

2.) Increase attendance of events through earned media

The news media wants to provide value to their audience. If you’re an organization that helps companies succeed and your events are among the ways you help those companies, be sure you let the media know about your events. If the events can be beneficial to their audience, they will often be interested in including them in their coverage.

 

3.) Generate awareness through industry trade publications

Your clients are reading publications specific to their industry to gain insights into how to become more competitive and grow. If you can successfully land a story in one of these publications, you’ll reach people within your target audience.

4.) Advocate for manufacturers through op-eds and opinion writing

Writing opinion pieces can position you as an expert in the field. Help your community understand the issues the industry faces, and explain how certain solutions can generate a positive impact. In business-focused publications, your op-ed could explain how to solve trending challenges or capitalize on emerging opportunities.

5.) Create and distribute media kits to grab attention

Media kits put engaging, compelling materials in front of reporters and editors to facilitate introductions to your organization and experts. In our media kits, we typically include a fact sheet, spokesperson sheet, a narrative about the organization, pertinent news releases, localized data, and high-res imagery.

6.) Share the experiences of manufacturers to connect with readers

To reinforce the message, we emphasized that each MEP center’s best stories live within the clients it helps strengthen and grow. When timely and compelling, client successes can lead to valuable coverage. However, one significant challenge is that many manufacturers get nervous about speaking to the press because they fear they might share proprietary information. The solution is to get manufacturers comfortable; try conducting pre-interviews, which will help you gather pertinent info for your pitches or your own website content, plus, it will give them a practice run.

7.) Create a steady drumbeat by keeping the media updated on your work

Beyond the big successes with notable clients, MEP centers are doing important work every day to strengthen the manufacturing industry. Let the media know about it. Keep a pulse on activities happening throughout your organization and create a habit of regularly sharing updates—through news releases or media pitches—with key journalists. And, focus on building relationships with those key journalists.

8.) Become your own reporter

Unfortunately, newsrooms across the country continue to face a shortage of resources, especially outside of major markets. Capture video and photos. Gather learnings from events and from local manufacturers, and write them up into digestible content. Constantly consider opportunities to share your content and maximize its reach—through social media, blogs, email newsletters, and other tactics.

The takeaway

While the information we shared during the webinar was tailored to the needs of MEP Centers, these tips can help any service-oriented organization or company. Strategic public relations can be an effective tool to connect with your target audiences and encourage them to take action.

 

Will Manufacturers Working Like Cobots?

September 23, 2019

Some workers at Walmart dislike their new colleagues. Cobots like “Freddy” and “Emma” have familiar nicknames, but they’re blamed for a host of workplace problems. These collaborative robots, or cobots, are built to interact with humans in a shared workspace. Moreover, they’re designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance. Walmart executives say that cobots will eliminate mundane tasks, so why are some workers complaining that their jobs have become more robotic?

According to       The Washington Post, Walmart has deployed thousands of cobots to more than 1500 of its largest stores. Automated shelf-scanners, box unloaders, floor scrubbers, and other machines are now doing jobs that were once performed by humans at the nation’s largest private employer. The new in-store technology also leverages cameras, sensors, servers, and artificial intelligence (AI). Walmart isn’t an industrial company, but are there lessons for manufacturers to consider here?

The Walmart workers who dislike cobots aren’t worried about losing their jobs to them. Rather, these employees seem concerned about what their jobs have become. In some cases, workers say they no longer perform tasks that they used to enjoy. For example, it’s now the cobots who walk through the store in search of problems to solve, such as identifying out-of-place items and returning them to their proper location. Perhaps more importantly, workers complain that they no longer control the pace of their jobs.

If a shopping cart pen is empty or the bananas are overripe, a worker receives an alert on a handheld device. Efficiency-driven manufacturers may not see this notification as objectionable but consider the workers’ larger complaint. The same cobots that are supposed to eliminate mundane tasks have created more of them. When cobots malfunction, it’s the human workers who must respond to and resolve the alerts. The cobots also require training and retraining that re-directs the workers’ efforts.

For example, the self-driving floor scrubbers must be driven manually until they “learn”  the store’s layout. When the aisles are reconfigured, as is common during store remodels and holiday displays, the cobots need to learn the new pattern. By contrast, the industrial robots that are used in most factories are already programmed to perform specific tasks. These machines can’t work side-by-side with employees, but some Walmart workers wouldn’t want them to anyway.

For manufacturers who want to learn from Walmart’s experience, it’s important to separate the cobots’ limitations from their implementation. The frequent breakdowns of the machines may be frustrating, but it was an executive team that decided which technologies to buy and which tasks to automate. Worker expectations may have a role to play, too. If managers promoted cobots as a way to reduce drudgery, the human employees who still perform most of the physical work may wonder why their backs are still sore.

Finally, there’s room for improvement in human factors research.       Bossa Nova Robotics, the company which makes Walmart’s inventory-scanning robots, spent years teaching its machines to be as human-friendly as possible. Yet there isn’t any etiquette for human-cobot interactions. Cobots that remain silent can seem creepy, but machines that beep can be annoying. Plus, making cobots more like cars won’t necessarily help since shoppers don’t expect to see turn signals in the snack foods aisle.

Most manufacturing workers haven’t seen a cobot before, but an army of these machines could arrive at their favorite big box store sometime soon. Will their experience as shoppers affect how they perceive future cobots on the factory floor? They probably won’t punch or kick the machines (as some Walmart shoppers do), but don’t assume a warm welcome. That’s why it’s important to prepare for a discussion that covers technology, implementation, expectations, and human-machine interaction.

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