Supply Chains Viable

March 30, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Pieces are starting to connect for the $15 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant, also known as WIRED, that the West Michigan Strategic Alliance received just over a year ago from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Melissa Anderson, vice president of manufacturing research and analysis firm IRN Inc., said the findings of her Global Supply Chain Evolution Analysis have shown that some of the resources needed to keep area manufacturers competitive are already in place or are being developed.

Anderson said her analysis looked at which supply chains will stay in the area, which will leave the area and how that will change in the future. The analysis looked at the automotive, office furniture and fabricated metal industries.

The findings were encouraging for area manufacturers, Anderson said.

“It turns out companies that are really good at what they do can be competitive in this area,” she said.

With sophisticated processes, strategic planning for a strong culture, organized goals, focused market positioning, state of the art process and information technology, and continuous improvement, as well as supplier evaluation and development, success is possible in West Michigan, according to the analysis.

The analysis also stated that manufacturers and suppliers need to look at the “soft skills,” such as written and oral communication without American jargon and euphemisms, better customer interface, collaborative problem solving, negotiation practices and overseeing external partners.

Anderson said some of the other partners and initiatives in the WIRED project are already helping meet the needs of companies striving to succeed in the changing workplace. The WorkKeys initiative is working to advance the issue of written and oral communication in the Kent and Ottawa area intermediate school districts, and the Entrepreneurial League System is helping mentor entrepreneurs.

Phil Rios, project manager of WIRED West Michigan, said the grant is doing its work and people are connecting.

“We’re trying to build that synergy between innovations,” he said. “It’s the process I’m happy about, that it’s working.”

Rios said as the innovation champions have more opportunities to learn from each other and get together, more connections will be made.

“These nodes of information are starting to connect to each other, (but) not completely yet,” he said. “We’re on the front end of the process.”

Once the innovation champions are connected and start seeing the outcome of initiatives such as the Global Supply Chain Evolution Analysis, then things will start to take shape, Rios said.

“That’s where they’re going to start identifying new opportunities that we didn’t plan for,” he said.    

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