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Innovate or Evaporate – Takeaways from NTMA’s 2021 Engage Conference

Innovate or Evaporate – Takeaways from NTMA’s 2021 Engage Conference

NTMA recently wrapped up their annual conference, NTMA Engage, where members across the country traveled to Old Alexandria, VA to network, learn and advocate for the advancement and future of the manufacturing industry.

As affiliate partners with NTMA, we at Paperless Parts are aligned with NTMA’s mission to help members of the American precision custom manufacturing industry achieve profitable growth and business success in a global economy through education, technology, networking, programs, and services.

For those who couldn’t make the event, I have put together my three key takeaways from the conference:

1. Manufacturers are facing several headwinds that have made it far more difficult to run their businesses in 2021, including supply chain and labor pressures.

In talking with members, it was clear that everyone is facing common difficulties in running their organizations. Businesses are dealing with the lasting impacts of the “Great Resignation” on their labor force, managing volatility in their supply chains, and optimizing their digital marketing strategy, to mention a few.NTMA's 2021 Engage Conference

In one of the sessions, Winning the War for Talent, I learned just how drastically businesses need to change their hiring practices. It’s not enough anymore to leave a “for-hire” sign or upload a posting online, businesses need to start marketing their company to potential employees just like they do with customers. To find the next great machinist or programmer, shops need to be creative on how they market their open positions, including selling company culture and identifying what’s important to applicants for a particular position. Fun fact about job requirements – they were introduced in the 1930s during the Great Depression to reduce applicant pools. Not the market we are in today.

The economic rebound of 2021 has in large part been powered and sustained by unprecedented government largess, driving shocks across the value chain. Constantly changing and increasing supply costs have resulted in manufacturers needing to be agile enough to respond to change.

I listened to Matt Sordillo, Head of Marketing Services for Paperless Parts, give tips on setting a foundation for your business’s digital presence. At a minimum, manufacturers must have a modern website that shows potential customers what you do and the types of products you offer, as well as a tracking setup (like Google Analytics) to measure contact form submissions and RFQs.

Jack Welch, former GE chairman, used to say that if the rate of change inside your organization was less than the rate of change outside it, the end was in sight. Forward-thinking and innovative businesses will be able to respond best to the challenges today and to come.

2. Relationships matter

Really passionate (and busy) business owners are spending time away from their shop to spend a week with other professionals in the industry. Why? They understand the value of face-to-face interaction with their business network. I was impressed with the number of deep and long-lasting relationships most members had with each other, and the extent of their business relationships. In manufacturing, people want to do business with people they know and trust, as business dealings often become rooted for years to come. We value building relationships and spend a lot of time getting to know our customers and what is important to them in order to provide true value.

3. There are great partners out there ready to help manufacturers

NTMA Engage 2021
Grady Cope, President & CEO at Reata Engineering & Machine Works, Inc.

Throughout the conference, I was able to meet other amazing partners providing critical resources and technology tools to NTMA members. I was able to sit next to our partners over at ProShop for most of the conference and chat with Co-Founder Paul Van Metre on our integration capabilities between our two platforms. I also was able to meet Gabe Draper, Co-Founder at Factur, a firm that helps manufacturing suppliers find new customers. The partner list was impressive – I came out of the conference excited about the companies looking to innovate and partner with manufacturers. It was evident that NTMA is focused on connecting its members to the best technology resources, helping manufacturers tackle challenges and thrive in the Industry 4.0 era.

NTMA's 2021 Engage Conference
Paperless Parts and ProShop booths at NTMA Engage

It was also great to meet many of our customers in person for the first time, including Kristin Carlson at Peerless Precision, Grady Cope at Reata Engineering, and Alan Ortner at Sirois Tool. We at Paperless Parts think of our customers as partners for the long term, and being able to establish relationships with them in person was my favorite takeaway from the event.

Learn how Paperless Parts is helping members digitize the front-office so manufacturers can improve collaboration, quote faster, reduce risk, and increase revenue. Paperless Parts is a proud sponsor of NTMA, and NTMA members receive a 25% discount on the onboarding fee when their organization invests in the Paperless Parts platform.

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