Small things can make a big difference

Posted on Sep 15, 2017 :: Editors Note
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Sometimes, it’s the small things that make the biggest difference.

When President Trump’s budget writers proposed the elimination of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, it was most likely a small detail in a large swath of cuts to help achieve a budget-cutting goal. But to Wisconsin companies that have benefited from the expertise the MEP provides, that small detail could be the difference between success and failure.

You can’t get a much bigger impact than that.

This month, Staff Writer Jessica Thiel looks at what the Wisconsin MEP has meant to some of the small and medium manufacturers based in the New North region. The program helped spark a turnaround at Shawano-based J&R Machine, and other manufacturers in our area have benefited from the organization’s expertise as well.

Now, there is an argument that government should not be this involved with the business sector, or that these services would be better provided by private, for-profit companies. Those are valid arguments. However, for many of Northeast Wisconsin’s companies, these services would not be affordable if not for the WMEP.

With a reported return on investment ratio of $9 returned for every $1 spent, our region’s representatives in Congress should at a minimum be having a healthy conversation about the program and its costs and benefits. Let’s hope we hear that discussion soon.

Speaking of small investments that appear to have significant payoffs, we are hearing more and more from companies about the benefits of opening onsite wellness clinics. In this month’s Back Office feature, page 15, Great Northern Corp. shares the results of its decision to add an onsite clinic in 2016 through ThedaCare at Work. GNC benefits from lower costs and less time lost, while its employees enjoy cost savings in deductibles, premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Given the state of health insurance, this approach seems to offer some real benefits for companies and their employees. It will be interesting to watch to see if this trend continues and if this will only be affordable for large companies, or if market dynamics will create opportunities for small and medium employers as well.

One thing all our manufacturers can benefit from is attending this year’s Manufacturing First, Oct. 25-26 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay. Co-sponsored by Insight, the two-day event features multiple education tracks and displays to deliver vital knowledge manufacturers can use to improve their business. This year’s keynote speaker is Fast Company magazine co-founder Bill Taylor, who will discuss creativity and innovation in the manufacturing sector — including examples from local companies he has observed over the years.

Insight Publications Co-publisher Margaret LeBrun had a great conversation with Taylor and shares some of his wisdom in a feature starting on page 20. The event is now a bit more than one month away and registration is open at I look forward to seeing you there.