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An innovative program in Pennsylvania leveraged stimulus funds to drive broadband deployment, adoption and use. Small and mid-sized businesses flourished.  Below is a snippet that mentions MANTEC’s success.

One of the technical assistance partners was MANTEC, an industrial resource center that supports small and mid-sized manufacturers in south central Pennsylvania and helps them progress toward advanced manufacturing technologies.  Even after the NTIA grant period, MANTEC continues to perform digital assessments for companies and develop customized implementation plans regarding broadband.

John Lloyd, president and CEO of MANTEC, says, “Technology is changing at a breakneck pace, and many manufacturers are not keeping up with it. We are creating awareness of that change and helping them take advantage of it.” MANTEC’s smart manufacturing lab demonstrates robotics and 3D printing to manufacturing companies and students, generating enthusiasm from both parties.

To help develop the skilled industrial workforce of the future, the agency also participates in a program called “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” in which teams of eighth-graders are sent to manufacturing plants with action camcorders to create videos. (The Harley-Davidson motorcycle plant in York, Pennsylvania, is a perennial favorite of the student visitors.) Last year, the video contest from the program garnered 58,000 votes on YouTube.

Lloyd says the best way to help small manufacturers – whether their problems involve broadband, succession plans or enterprise resource planning – is to build a relationship with the CEO, assess the company’s needs and identify its pain points. “We don’t go in with the idea that they need this or that,” he says. “We assess the current condition, get the vision of the CEO on where the company should be in three to five years, do a gap analysis, and lead the company through a series of projects to get it there.”

Most manufacturers already use some information technology, but frequently their systems are disjointed and obsolete. MANTEC’s projects often involve migrating these systems onto cloud-based platforms in which all processes, from shop-floor control to resource planning, inventory, sales, marketing and accounting, are seamlessly integrated.

Such systems are generally easier to manage and use than older, siloed systems. They require much less investment in computer hardware and IT staff, and they often pay for themselves quickly in terms of inventory reductions, production efficiencies and increased sales. However, they require reliable broadband access.

Another MANTEC case, described on its website, involved helping a company implement a cloud-based education portal to educate service technicians about problem resolution in the field. The system helped the company generate new and retained sales that amounted to more than 10 times the technology investment, and three new people were hired as a result.

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