Consortium to Help Meet Challenges of Northwest Ohio Manufacturers

By LISA NICELY @CNLisaNicely Published: November 1, 2015

ARCHBOLD — Northwest Ohio is reliant on manufacturing and that sector is facing various challenges in the future. To successfully met those challenges, the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium was launched Friday at Northwest State Community College (NSCC).

“We need to bring northwest Ohio manufacturers together to work on similar challenges,” said Jim Drewes, director of workforce development at NSCC about the consortium.

The Advanced Manufacturing Consortium is an initiative of Northwest State in partnership with the Ohio Manufacturing Extensive Partnership (MEP). Its goal is to help manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money by being a primary support resource for issues dealing with supply chain, sustainability, workforce development, technology acceleration and continual improvement.

Manufacturers are encouraged to visit to take a survey about issues, learn about the consortium and become a member. Rebecca Singer of the Ohio MEP said that her organization has created “a framework of resources for manufactures who want to develop and sustain a competitive edge.” She said MEPs has regional partnerships with NSCC, the Center for Innovative Food Technology (which is a MEP regional center) and Rhodes Colleges.

“We are really trying to address the challenges facing the future,” Singer said.

The consortium will act in several ways including bringing in experts to speak on various manufacturing topics, hosting seminars, workshops, conducting education/training, offering MEP services, forming task force and industrial and technology clusters.

One big issue is workforce — finding skilled and nonskilled laborers who can pass a drug test and show up regularly for work.

Kevin Febrey, president of Napoleon Machine, pointed out that Northwest State is working with companies to come up with innovative solutions to that problem. He pointed out his company works with the Northwest Ohio Learning Center for Manufacturing Sciences, which is located in Automatic Feed, and partners with NSCC and Henry county students.

“Classes are taught by Northwest State, and classes are associate degree eligible,” he said, adding that students get both classroom and hands-on training in items such as manufacturing processes and engineering technologies.

He pointed out that APT Manufacturing Solutions in Hicksville has a similar program with students from Fairview and Hicksville where students learn machining, CAD, print reading and more. Those students also earn college credit as well as receive two different professional certificates.

In addition, his company is looking for candidates through a Earn and Learn program it established where individuals work 25 hours a week and learn on the job while they are going to school. Individuals will earn a paycheck and the company will help pay for the individuals’ college education as well.

Singer pointed out MEP’s internship and cooperative programs are available to help employees as well.

“Manufacturing is not going away,” Febrey said. “We have good high-tech jobs and good compensation and salaries. … We (northwest Ohio) will not attract companies unless we have a competent workforce. We have existing businesses that really have a need for employees. Business growth will be limited by the ability to get skilled laborers.”

Tori Wolf, Ohio MEP account manager at Northwest State, said that workforce development is a key issue the consortium will begin working on immediately, letting manufacturers know about programs already available as well as new programs and trying to establish programs to get more youths interested in manufacturing.

Several speakers at the launch pointed out that having the consortium in the area is a benefit for the region.

“Manufacturing is a crucial piece of Ohio’s economy,” said Ohio Rep. Rob McColley. “Northwest Ohio is arguably the largest manufacturing employment area in the state.”

He pointed out that manufacturing makes up a large percentage of employment in the six-county area including 17.9 percent of the workforce in Defiance County, 20.9 percent in Henry County, 17.2 percent in Paulding County, 30.5 percent in Williams County; 25.3 percent in Fulton County and 21.7 percent in Putnam County.

“Northwest Ohio, as a whole, is extremely reliant on manufacturing. That’s why it’s so important to have an institution like Northwest State to help meet the needs of manufacturers,” McColley said.

Wolf said the consortium already has several events planned including an energy assessments (ISO 50001) program on Dec. 8, 10- and 30-hour general industry Occupational Safety and Health Administration trainings and much more. Series for leadership, human resources and new supervisors are being set up as are roundtable events on supply chain optimization.

She pointed out that the consortium needs to hear from manufacturers about their issues and challenges to come up with ways to address them. Wolf encouraged manufactures to join the group.

“It’s a place to network, brainstorm and exchange ideas,” she said.