PETALUMA -- The first North Bay Manufacturing Trade Fair and Jobs Expo, held on Feb. 20 at the Sequoia Business Center, attracted more than 340 attendees, including 100 high school students and dozens of candidates looking for jobs.

[caption id="attachment_69753" align="alignright" width="350"] Dick Herman (left), president of 101MFG, Patrick Harper, manufacturing manager with Agilent Technologies and keynote speaker along with Gene Russell, president and CEO of Manex, passed the football as each spoke to the 340 attendees at the Manufacturing Trade Fair.[/caption]

“By any measure this half-day session was a success,” said Dick Herman, president and founder of 101MFG (101mfg.com).

“We had 41 manufacturer exhibitors from the region, and some came from as far away as Auburn, Fremont, Lake Forest, San Leandro and Willits to showcase their growing businesses and to seek qualified candidates," he said. "Most of the exhibitors outside of the North Bay do business with local firms in our area.”

More than half of the exhibitors present -- 25 of the 41, or 61 percent -- have jobs waiting to be filled right now, and others plan to ramp hiring activities during the year ahead.

Keynote speaker Patrick Harper, manufacturing manager for Agilent Technologies in Santa Rosa, said that while his firm’s recruitment program has leveled off, one third of Agilent’s employees are expected to retire in five years and another third will do the same ten years from now.

He said his firm has to keep looking down the road for qualified future candidates coming from technical training programs, such as those developed by 101MFG and its partners.

“Our goal is to create California’s next great manufacturing center in the North Bay with a world class supply chain, a great labor force at all levels, and the ability to make key improvements in order to compete in a world market,” Mr. Herman said.

[caption id="attachment_69754" align="alignleft" width="350"] More than 100 high school students visited various exhibits to learn more about manufacturing and technical job opportunities at the Manufacturing Trade Fair on Feb. 20.[/caption]

He announced a new strategic partnership with the Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence, better known as Manex, to assist 101MFG in consulting with small to medium-size firms on issues such as onshoring vs. offshoring, lean manufacturing techniques, reducing time-to-market and increasing overall sustainability -- when it comes to labor, water, energy and capital -- as well as how to plan the best use of space and other critical subjects.

Mr. Herman said this partnership, launched Jan. 10, has a well-defined market plan targeting 300 California firms engaged in fabrication, machine tooling as well as small parts and component production.

He said this partnership fills a void of expertise crucial for the manufacturing industry. It focuses on bringing best practices to businesses and enhancing R&D functions using lessons learned by the nation’s top centers of excellence by giving these firms access to techniques that develop and sustain continuous improvement.

[caption id="attachment_69755" align="alignleft" width="350"] SPT Small Precision Tools, based in Petaluma, was one of 70 small- to medium-sized manufacturers at the trade fair.[/caption]

“We will begin by setting expectations designed to upgrade operational performance, with follow up sessions and measurements after six months to gauge results,” Mr. Herman said. “One of the big opportunities for almost all manufacturers involves eliminating non-value added steps.” 

For example, studies show that some 80 percent of engineering time is spent passing documents from engineers to designers and on to material suppliers, production workers and the sales staff - vs. the value-added time of an engineer or designer actually making or analyzing the change.

A major goal of the partnership is to find ways to remove non-value added activities to improve efficiency, save time and reduce costs.

Manex President and CEO Gene Russell said California has more manufacturing firms than any other state, and derives 11.6 percent of its GSP from manufacturing.   

“Manufacturing is a job multiplier, yielding four to seven additional non-manufacturing positions for each manufacturing job,” he added. "The net result is that today California has over 1.2 million high-paying manufacturing jobs."

Manex has established a series of California Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers, in cooperation with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), that help create solutions to improve the growth and profitability of small and medium-sized manufacturers with 500 or fewer employees. Collectively, these manufacturers account for over 95 percent of all manufacturers nationwide.

“Third-party survey results from a Department of Labor Job Multiplier report compiled in 2012, testify to the high value of the MEP program,” according to Mr. Russell.

“Approximately 16,145 jobs were created and retained in California as a result of this effort -- 3,229 manufacturing jobs and 12,916 additional non-manufacturing jobs.”

Last year, some 75 manufacturers in Northern California -- with total sales of $13 million, and cost savings of $8 million -- added 209 manufacturing jobs and 840 nonmanufacturing jobs as a result of MEP initiatives that led to higher competitiveness, accelerated growth and product innovation.  

Last October, Manex launched a “Made in California” online program (manexconsulting.com/made-in-cal) to showcase Northern California products and to provide a manufacturer directory. This program also links to social media sites where professionals can network and discuss industry topics.

Manex is a private nonprofit corporation established in 1995. It provides services to small- and mid-sized manufacturers in Northern California.

Manex operates through a cooperative agreement between the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the Department of Commerce. The partnership is funded as an outreach to grow the U.S. manufacturing sector.

For every dollar of federal investment, the partnership generates $29 in new sales growth, translating into $3.6 billion in new sales annually in California. For every $2,067 of federal investment, the partnership creates or retains one manufacturing job.