2nd Annual Manufacturer’s Forum
A rainy June morning welcomed a capacity crowd of Bucks County business people to the Keystone Industrial Port Complex for the 2nd Annual Manufacturer’s Forum event. Dan Bates, President of the event host, Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce, warmly welcomed the attendees and introduced the themes for the event: “Your Company’s Training Culture”; “Financing Advanced Technology”; and “The Internet of Things”. Univest Bank and Trust was the primary sponsor for the event and the Manufacturing Alliance of Bucks and Montgomery Counties provided the content.
The keynote topics for the forum were covered in a panel discussion format. Several selected Bucks County organizations, who provide services to local manufacturers, manned small booths in the lobby for networking and information sharing after the panels were completed. Tom Krol, President of IMET Corporation in Southampton, facilitated the three panel events and kicked off the initial discussion on company training cultures by emphasizing a determined pursuit of state/county funded grant money for training whenever opportunities became available. He highlighted a hidden gem, WedNetPA, and introduced a trusted training expert on these types of programs, Sherry McKinney of Bucks County Community College. Tom and the other panel members stressed the importance of having an organization wide training plan and tracking its effectiveness as it relates to employee performance over the long haul. John Shegda, President of Merion Medical in Southampton, discussed the role that trade associations and other outside manufacturing organizations can play in providing enhancement programs for development of employee skills. John is also President of the regional chapter of NTMA and talked about its “Tooling U” program, which is an on-line training and certification program for machining, robotics and other related metal trades jobs. As it related to the event themes, all of the manufacturing leaders discussed the importance of having and communicating clearly defined company values around skill development and establishing a culture of learning and growing within the organization.
After a brief transitional break, the next group spent a significant amount of time on the difference between buying a piece of equipment versus buying advanced technology. An overall point of emphasis was that any thought of acquiring new machinery should be measured against the overall strategy to lower the unit of cost of any product. Paybacks should be quick and supported by a quantum growth in sales revenue. The keys to the marriage of equipment and technology are the integration of software systems, process flow, systems support technology as well as employee interaction with this technology. The ROI is not just a calculation of sale dollars, but of value added to the customers’ overall perception of the product’s contribution to the customers’ success in their marketplace. Fred Joseph, President of Philips Corporation in Bensalem, reinforced the notion that business owners should look at multiple approaches to finding the right technology. The remaining time in this segment was spent on the various equipment financing options that are available to manufacturing organizations through the Bucks County EDC, Univest and Bucks County IDA.
When the conversation switched to the internet and its effect on manufacturing, interest level was high and the questions were numerous. The talking points of this panel were system networking, managing the information value chain, connecting machines to software and cyber security. While representatives from Precision Systems, Inc., CMIT Solutions, Ciright and Layer 8 Security touched on many of these topics, the key component of the panel’s emphasis was the fact that all the expertise and support that any local company needs in these areas exists right here in Bucks County. Kip Lynch of CMIT Solutions in Doylestown focused panel discussion on the importance of a strong interface between company leaders and networking support organizations. Very few businesses do not have the in-house expertise to address system integration issues in depth nor do many have the necessary bandwidth to provide the required quick response should a crisis occur. The knowledge exchange between the audience and panel members reflected the event themes of sharing what the participants know through real life examples and expanding their local network of capable and talented resources.