Original Article available on Central Penn Business Journal
by David O’Connor
When John Lloyd began as president and CEO of MANTEC in 2001, people in his office remarked how the resource center for manufacturers was “the best-kept secret in Central Pennsylvania.”
“That has to change,” Lloyd would tell them, meaning the part about being a secret.
Today, the York-based private, nonprofit consulting firm is well-known in the manufacturing sector in its local nine-county region.
It seeks to “help manufacturers grow, innovate and be profitable,” Lloyd said recently.
“Those who don’t innovate and invest in technology will wither and die,” said Lloyd, who oversees a 15-member office that provides professional business advice to over 150 manufacturing firms a year.
“Companies can’t do business today like they did before,” Lloyd emphasized. “It is no longer sufficient to simply be better, faster and cheaper than the competition. Manufacturers need to be innovative, capture new markets and identify opportunities for growth.”
MANTEC serves Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.
Created in 1988, it’s one of seven centers of its type across the state, and is part of a federal network, through the U.S. Department of Commerce, adding more resources for local manufacturers.
There are 2,400 manufacturing firms in MANTEC’s coverage area, featuring a broad range of industries that include plastics, snack foods, pharmaceuticals, metal fabrication and motorcycles, Lloyd said, adding that this diversification makes this a strong manufacturing area.
Here’s what he has to say about some top issues in manufacturing:
What’s the biggest issue now faced in the manufacturing sector?
“Company leaders are challenged by the extreme pace of change. Technology in particular is changing at an unprecedented rate. Just as technology is changing our personal lives, it is changing the way we do business. Progressive companies will embrace the opportunities to utilize technology to make them more efficient and more competitive.”
For those who don’t know what MANTEC does, what is your ‘elevator speech’ on what your organization provides?
“It may be easier to say what MANTEC doesn’t provide. We want manufacturers to think of MANTEC for any business concern. MANTEC serves manufacturers to overcome common challenges to grow profitable sales, enhance productivity, comply with external demands and plan for the future.”
We hear a lot about the ‘skills gap’ in manufacturing, with baby boomers retiring and the continuous search for millennials to fill their shoes. How large a problem is that?
“The larger problem is the cultural perception that manufacturing is stuck in the Industrial Revolution with dark, dirty and dangerous environments. We are now in a technology revolution.
Manufacturers include automation to increase productivity. The skills needed to fulfill these jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree. There are several technical institutes in our region filling the skills gap. Students entering the workforce need to understand that manufacturing is a viable option to earn a family-sustaining wage.”
There seems to be a growing awareness of the issue of ‘reshoring,’ or bringing jobs back from other countries. Is that true?
“MANTEC offers a ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ tool which assists companies in understanding the pros and cons of outsourcing.
The goal is to prove the case that reshoring is a viable option. China may have cheaper labor. This must be evaluated against possible quality issues, transportation time and an array of other factors. Already a handful of companies are bringing jobs back to the U.S., and that is expected to increase in the coming years.”
What will be the biggest tech and manufacturing jobs five years from now?
“The keynote speaker at our recent Business Growth Conference opened many eyes. He stated that the jobs we need in the future do not even exist yet. Technology is rapidly changing the way we interact with machines and each other. It goes back to my point that companies need to continuously innovate.”