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When you think of learning new techniques for improving your business, what are some of the first thoughts that come to mind? Perhaps you are thinking about being out of the office for two to three days at a costly seminar or the expense associated with working on the business instead of in the business. Perhaps you are thinking of returning to an inbox full of emails from people needing you yesterday or simply that you do not have the time to spare.

These thoughts are common, but they fail to recognize the resources that may be in everyone’s backyards. For example, companies within Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island have experienced firsthand the benefits of collaborating with peers through the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (EAMA), specifically in learning new ways to improve each organization.

An important factor here is that peers do not always refer to the people who share the same job title or who work in the same industry. Although all EAMA members are manufacturers, they each operate their businesses very differently from one another and supply a diverse range of products to varying industries. The key to the success of this peer group is acknowledging that while many businesses share common struggles, each one uses a different approach to overcome them. This group provides an opportunity for a business to see a common challenge from a different perspective, which can help that business implement a successful solution.

The key to the success of this peer group is acknowledging that while many businesses share common struggles, each one uses a different approach to overcome them.

Putting Peer Networking to Work

As the event coordinator for EAMA, it is my job to provide valuable learning opportunities to the members on a consistent basis. For example, EAMA hosts an event every other month that highlights a strength or challenge of a member company. The group holds shop tours, roundtables and even hires consultants to provide learning opportunities for members. These events offer convenient, insightful learning opportunities within a 45-minute drive and in fewer than three hours. The conversations sparked at these events continue well beyond the tour. Members are constantly engaging outside of sponsored events to continue a conversation or to support each other in implementing a shared idea.

One instance is a tour that EAMA member Unicorr Packaging Group hosted that focused on employee safety. Members learned how to develop a safety committee, set safety objectives and see the results in action. Unicorr also allowed time for attendees to chat with the safety committee about successes, failures and best practices. Westminster Tool implemented its safety committee using the structure that Unicorr shared.

Another recent event was a workforce-development, best-practices roundtable discussion on replacing an aging workforce, recruiting new talent and retaining existing talent. This event brought together a group of human resources professionals who represented employee structures ranging from a 20-person operation with one shift to companies with more than 200 employees operating three shifts.

Westminster Tool walked away from this discussion with some actionable insight for reducing the time the interview process takes with each potential new hire. Westminster Tool learned that implementing a phone interview strategy as a first step in the interview process can help the company screen out candidates who may look good on paper but are not a fit for the organization. Westminster also learned how to access funds from the State of Connecticut’s incentive programs, which help manufactures offset the cost of hiring new employees. One program offers as much as a $12,500 reimbursement to help offset the cost of training.

Now you may be thinking, How does my company get involved locally with an organization like EAMA? If you do not have the time or resources to start your own grassroots effort, join forces with other companies in your area. This does not have to be expensive. Ideas for getting started include joining a local chamber of commerce or business network or connecting with a business in your industrial park to take a tour.

If you do not have the time or resources to start your own grassroots effort, join forces with other companies in your area. This does not have to be expensive.

When you establish these relationships and begin to collaborate, it’s important to think less about what other companies make and instead focus on the processes that they use to run their organizations. As Edward Demming once said, “Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.” Collaborate with your peers to improve the processes of your business.

About the Contributor

 

Kylee Carbone

Kylee Carbone is the director of human development and marketing at Westminster Tool and a 2018 MoldMaking Technology editorial advisory board member.

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