Who’s Your MEP Center?

You should have the name of your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership center in your head. The center’s services may be the key to your company’s survival and growth 


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If your company has ever used the services of an MEP center, that name would probably be familiar. Richard Powell and Deighton Brunson at Brunson Instrument Co. certainly know the name of Missouri Enterprise, the MEP center that serves the Kansas City, Missouri area well. See the article about their shop at http://www.mmsonline.com/articles/focusing-on-growth.aspx 

MEP is an acronym for Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network of organizations that provide manufacturers with services to make them globally competitive. The MEP system is coordinated and partially funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. MEP was formed 20 years ago to boost the productivity of America’s manufacturing companies, especially smaller ones that needed greater access to the resources that could help them improve processes and cut costs.

Today, there are 59 MEP centers in 393 locations, according to figures cited on the MEP/NIST Web site (www.mep.nist.gov). These centers served almost 32,000 manufacturers in FY2008. MEP centers have been especially effective at helping companies implement lean manufacturing.

However, MEP is changing. It has added programs that emphasize profitable growth through new product development and market expansion. One of these programs, Eureka! Winning Ways, is highlighted in the article on page 66. This is only part of the transformation that MEP is undergoing. In fact, a radical transformation of America’s manufacturing companies is the ultimate goal of the fully transformed MEP.

In a nutshell, the Next Generation MEP is creating a framework by which manufacturers can shoot for a 20-percent reduction in bottom-line costs AND a 20-percent growth in top-line sales, the "MEP 20/20+ Vision." This framework for growth has five key components:

• Continuous improvement—helping companies stay on the "lean" path as the foundation for all other reforms.

• Technology acceleration—helping companies get faster at finding and exploiting new processes and innovation.

• Supplier development—helping companies integrate more readily into a streamlined, responsive supply chain.

• Sustainability—helping companies conserve and renew natural resources.

• Workforce—helping companies find, prepare and retain the skilled people they need to fill critical manufacturing jobs.

The MEP transformation will involve working with new partners and organizations that have resources and inventive ideas beyond those currently available.

One final point: MEP seeks returns that can be measured and verified. In fact, developing better metrics is part of the Next Generation plan. That should reassure the Richard Powells and Deighton Brunsons of the manufacturing community.

So call your MEP center. If you need a name, go to http://blue.nist.gov/centers-near-you/index.htm.