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Alliance Network Provides Full Range of Expertise

In a perfect world, there would be an expert on staff to handle every situation that arises in the course of running your manufacturing business.

An employee issue Call the HR department. A concern about hazardous materials Talk to the person in charge of environmental matters.

But alas, we live in the real world. And the reality for many of Wisconsin's small manufacturers is that they don't always have access to the resources they need to respond to a fast-growing number of business issues, challenges and opportunities.

To help companies find the resources and expertise they need, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) has created an alliance network of firms that provide services to small and mid-size manufacturers. These firms address a full range of business issues, including human resources, information technology, marketing, mergers and acquisitions, family business planning and Internet strategy.

"Our alliance partners understand the specific needs of small manufacturers," says Roxanne Baumann, WMEP's alliance manager. "These firms have a proven track record in helping companies achieve higher levels of performance and profitability."

The alliance network augments the services and training provided by WMEP and its partnerships with the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin. WMEP's services to small and mid-size manufacturers include business improvement strategies, lean manufacturing, ISO 9000 and 14000 certification and strategic planning.

"Often in the course of working with a manufacturer, we become aware of a critical need within the company that is outside our area of expertise," Baumann said. WMEP then makes a recommendation on an alliance partner to provide a solution.

Alliance partners are carefully screened to ensure the highest quality. The screening process saves manufacturers the time and hassle of having to research and interview prospective firms. "Our screening efforts give a manufacturer a degree of confidence that the firm they bring in will not only meet - but often exceed their expectations," Baumann said.

Getting Up to Speed on HR

Brenda King, operations manager at Richfield-based Wisconsin Metal Tech Inc., was pleased to learn about WMEP's alliance network after she became responsible for the human resources responsibility at the 12-employee firm.

"I knew I was up to the task," King recalls, "but I just didn't know where to start." WMEP hooked up King with Waukesha-based MRA-The Management Association, Inc., which dispatched an experienced human resource specialist to spend a day with King. King got a crash course on everything from sample interview questions to what can be placed in personnel files.

"We went over the basics," she recalls. "We discussed job descriptions, employee safety policies, mandatory federal postings, personnel files and COBRA. They brought me up to speed on a whole array of issues. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge, and as a result, I'm much more confident about our policies and procedures."

King says MRA's fee was very affordable for a small business, and that Wisconsin Metal Tech is considering becoming a member MRA so it can access its expertise on an ongoing basis.

Demand for ISO 14001 Grows

Automotive industry suppliers often tap the services of an outside firm to become ISO 14001 certified. WMEP alliance partner BT2, Inc. offers environmental management services (EMS) that include environmental audits, aspects and impacts identifications, ISO 14001 gap analysis audits, customized training and written policies and procedures.

ISO 14001 certification delivers strong benefits - cost savings, a higher level of emergency preparedness and a marketing advantage for customers here and overseas, says WMEP manufacturing specialist Jim Schneberger. Other benefits are improved environmental performance and reduced environmental liabilities.

Shahana Banoo, senior project engineer with Madison-based BT2, Inc. said the firm provides a level of service tailored to the manufacturer's needs. That can include anything from "loaning them one of our engineers for three to six months or meeting with them at defined intervals to coach them on ISO 14001 design and implementation," she said.

To find out more about how WMEP's alliance network can meet your business needs, call 1-877-800-2085.

Copyright 2003 by WMEP.org

WMEP provides technical expertise and hands-on implementation assistance to small and midsize manufacturing firms on advanced manufacturing technologies and business practices includinglean manufacturing, ISO, value chain management, and strategic repositioning services for manufacturers and manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin.

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