NIST MEP Helps Manufacturers Respond to the Pandemic and Thrive Despite It

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has announced the results of its fiscal year 2021 manufacturing client survey, as well as the impacts of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding through January 2022.

“The survey shows that, even while navigating industry-wide disruptions caused by the pandemic, the MEP National Network helped manufacturing clients achieve some of the highest impacts to date,” said Jennifer Sinsabaugh, board chair of the Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence, which supports the network’s educational efforts, and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “Each of these impacts is critically important to the health of America’s manufacturers and to the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem overall.”

The MEP program supports the competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturing by making manufacturing technologies, processes and services more accessible to small and medium-sized manufacturers through MEP Centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

According to the survey, for every dollar of federal investment in FY 2021, the MEP National Network generated $26.20 in new sales growth and $34.50 in new client investment. This translates into $14.4 billion in new and retained sales for U.S. manufacturers. The network also created or retained one manufacturing job for every $1,193 of federal investment.

In FY 2021, the MEP National Network interacted with 34,307 U.S. manufacturers from nearly all manufacturing industries, delivering vital assistance and helping them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 9,000 MEP Center manufacturing clients completed the FY 2021 survey, which shows that these services helped U.S. manufacturers to create or retain 125,746 jobs and to realize:

  • $14.4 billion in new and retained sales;
  • $5.2 billion in new client investments; and
  • $1.5 billion in cost savings.

This year’s survey asked MEP Center manufacturing clients to identify from a list the top three challenges their companies will face over the next three years. The top challenges they identified are:

  • Employee recruitment and retention (63%);
  • Cost reduction (60%);
  • Identifying growth opportunities (46%); and
  • Innovation/product development (38%).

The survey is conducted annually by an independent third party to document the economic impact of services provided by MEP National Network experts. These survey results help the network better understand manufacturers’ challenges, identify areas of need, and focus on providing services that help manufacturers overcome the challenges they find most pressing.

CARES Act Impacts

A person is using a tool to attach foam to wood for upholstered furniture.
An employee of Custom Contract Furnishings (CCF), in North Carolina, prepares upholstered seating. The company began producing PPE during the pandemic.

In 2020, NIST MEP awarded a total of $50 million in federal funds authorized by Congress under the CARES Act to the MEP centers. Award amounts were determined by a formula based on each state’s population of manufacturers and ranged from $91,000 to $6.1 million. NIST MEP was able to make the awards in record time so centers could quickly implement critically needed COVID-19-related projects.

According to CARES Act project clients surveyed, through January 2022, MEP Centers served more than 5,300 companies with more than 7,300 CARES Act-funded projects, resulting in nearly 18,000 jobs created or retained. CARES Act funding expanded the reach of the MEP Centers, enabling them to serve more than 2,200 new manufacturing clients. Additional impacts of CARES Act funding include:

  • $1.4 billion in new and retained sales;
  • $480 million in new client investments; and
  • $175 million in total cost savings.

MEP Centers in every state are helping companies in new and different ways that include helping protect their workforce during the pandemic, finding sources of capital, stabilizing their supply chains, and protecting manufacturers from cybersecurity threats. CARES Act funding has enabled MEP Centers to provide manufacturers with additional services such as:

  • Assessing the extent and nature of the disruption caused by the pandemic;
  • Rethinking and retooling service delivery;
  • Forging new and strengthening existing state partnerships;
  • Helping manufacturers pivot operations to produce personal protective equipment, medical supplies and medical devices;
  • Implementing supplier databases for searching and matching; and
  • Tailoring services for operating in the post-pandemic environment.

The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership comprising NIST MEP, 51 MEP Centers, the MEP Advisory Board, MEP Center boards and the Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence. More than 1,400 trusted advisers and experts at approximately 450 MEP service locations provide U.S. manufacturers with access to resources they need to succeed. Manufacturers can connect with their local center and find additional resources through the NIST MEP website.

Full article can be found here.

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