Twenty-five years ago, Bradley University led a coalition of stakeholders to create a statewide organization focused on the competitiveness of small and mid-sized manufacturers. Today, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) serves as the state’s official Manufacturing Extension Partner (MEP) through the U.S. Department of Commerce—a unique private-public partnership whose core mission is to foster economic and workforce competitiveness among American manufacturers.
“Our focus is on stronger manufacturers and improving the quality of jobs, thus benefiting our communities,” explains David Boulay, IMEC president. “We serve as a one-stop shop for small companies to strategize and implement improvements.” In 2019 alone, the organization assisted 770 companies, creating or retaining over 4,600 jobs, with an aggregate impact of more than $435 million.
IMEC’s experienced team works closely with manufacturing firms to initiate critical business improvements in the areas of leadership, strategy, customer engagement, operations, knowledge management and workforce. The result has been a return on investment that exceeds 19:1. “Every second they were here was beneficial to me and my employees,” notes one company leader. “They help you discover issues, make it clear to your team where those issues lie, identify solutions, and then train your people to put those solutions in place and sustain them.”
Last year, the manufacturing industry was booming; and then came the pandemic. “2020 has completely changed all facets of manufacturing—from health and safety, to process design, to supply chain disruptions,” Boulay explains. “Rebounding and retooling from the COVID-19 crisis is the number-one priority. This means retooling ourselves as well to ensure we meet company needs through new knowledge and virtual services.”
As it navigates this fast-paced environment, IMEC is able to leverage the resources and capabilities of its vast network of industrial service providers—including state and national economic development programs, higher education institutions, specialty service providers and private-sector consultants—to ensure the critical needs of manufacturers are met. “As we recover, our focus will be on productivity and innovation, the essential elements to be globally competitive,” Boulay explains. By building the capacity of Illinois companies, IMEC is investing in the future of its communities as well. imec.org PM