The North Coast Regional Manufacturers’ Network (NCRMN) focuses on streamlining the manufacturing supply and value chain and supporting manufacturing growth and development in the regional economy. The project identifies the region’s inherent manufacturing capabilities, and connects those manufacturing assets with business needs and demands.
Mechanics and fabrication have long been staple skills in the region feeding into agriculture, fishing, timber production and mining. As employment in extraction industries has declined, first due to mechanization and compounded by the integration of technology, blue collar jobs went by the wayside along with the ability to leave high school and get a job that supported raising a family and buying a house. After the Second World War, the focus for youth was on college and the preferred careers were white collar. NCRMN will shine a spotlight on the potential of manufacturing as a career pathway.
One early example of refocusing on manufacturing skills is the Hydroponics Career Technical Education program which provides a science curriculum, hands on work experiences and the opportunity for students to participate in a student run business and research. This pathway is supported by a partnership with American Hydroponics, a leading international hydroponics systems manufacturer and vendor located in the region.
NCRMN works to maximize opportunities presented by the current trend of re-shoring manufacturing of parts and products (particularly high value), as well as low quantity runs and patent-sensitive products. By locating parts and products manufacturing opportunities closer to the end user, innovation and further product development is more likely to take place within the region. NCRMN catalogs information about regional manufacturers, what products they make, their capacity, capabilities, equipment and skills. By developing a robust network among regional manufacturers we can begin to explore supply and value chains looking for opportunities to develop new lines that meet local demand and link regional capacity to fulfill manufacturing contracts that an individual shop could not complete. Knowing what equipment exists within the region, and who has the skills and excess capacity to operate and manufacture will inform businesses, the economic development and planning community.
Creating Zero Waste lean manufacturers, where all waste is eliminated or greatly reduced and supporting recycled content manufacturing, expands the regions green credentials. Energy and Materials efficiency brings many benefits both strengthening the manufacturer and reducing the impact of manufacturing. This Triple bottom line includes people, environment, and economy and supports a lean and green economy in this region.
- Advance and build the regional manufacturing industry cluster by facilitating the interconnection of capacities of manufacturers.
- Develop opportunities for more production substituting locally-made for currently imported parts, products and packaging (Near sourcing).
- Build trust among manufacturers, linking production capacities to bid on contracts to large or diverse for one manufacturer to handle– “flexible manufacturing networks”
- Connecting innovators and manufacturers to knowledge about waste reduction and reuse and connecting available reusable and recycled materials.
- Increasing regional production reducing the need for capital investment by shortening the supply chain by both distance and time,
Activities will build on successes and link efforts to develop integrated career pathways, develop innovative apprenticeship programs, and increase the regional capacity for innovation through the long term development of regional technology centers, rapid prototyping capability, and entrepreneurial support systems.
Why is this important?
Domestic manufacturing revenues in California and throughout the rest of the country are often lost to other countries’ economies when the good or service is imported. The Redwood area is not immune from such economic realities, and has identified “targets of opportunity” to increase reliance on non-imported goods. The initiative fills in the import gaps within three targeted industries: Niche Manufacturing (small, specialized firms and some of the infrastructure manufacturers that support them), Forest Products (a mature, heavily concentrated mix of businesses), and Specialty Agriculture, which includes food, flowers, and beverages.
One of this region’s strengths is that our manufacturing sector was built on the supply chain of services to the forestry industry (lumber mills, pulp mills) where fabrication and problem solving quickly and efficiently were critical to continuous operation of those entities. NCRMN will focus on bringing this group of businesses forward in their thinking about utilizing existing and developing new skills to rebuild a vibrant manufacturing sector. This work will result in a new way of thinking about production processes and the necessity of manufacturing linkages to achieve economy of scale in this rural region.
The trend to “re-shore” manufacturing is bringing more parts and product manufacturing back to the U.S. Coupled with new technologies, like smaller, affordable, automated equipment and lean manufacturing strategies allowing small production runs and easier changes to production equipment, regional manufacturers will be able to compete more effectively with large firms– a boon to rural areas. There is the potential as a result of this project, for identification of one or more specific niches that our region could play in the statewide advanced manufacturing infrastructure.
By building the robustness of the manufacturing sector in our region, this project will create the opportunities to grow the economy by plugging the leaks of money moving out of the region when external purchases are made as well as by bringing new money through the sale of goods or services outside the region. Compared to rural, urban businesses cross paths much more frequently creating a flow of ideas, spread of new knowledge and the generation of expanded opportunities. By creating a culture of collaboration linked to specific knowledge about production capacities, waste streams, needs for imported parts etc., the manufacturing industry can expand, increasing the economic base, providing much needed jobs and increasing economic resiliency in the region.
What are we doing about it?
- Strengthen manufacturing relationships through peer sharing information, facilitated manufacturer-to-manufacturer meetings, forums covering topics identified by the manufacturers and specialized training.
- Increasing manufacturing efficiency reducing their carbon footprint by focusing on lean manufacturing training, waste stream analysis with zero waste techniques, energy efficiency, and material substitutions.
- NCRMN is creating an expanding directory, growing steadily, with online access.
- Mapping inputs and outputs to the region helping manufacturers identify new opportunities for import substitution and waste stream reuse.
Results So Far: Successes
- Identified, recorded and distributed information electronically and as a web directory on the capacity of regional manufacturers and manufacturing support businesses. Explore the directory
- Matrix of production discards for production use or packaging materials.
- Matrix of products and parts that could be made regionally.
- Inter-Industry Linkages – Facilitated meetings to develop long term relationships.
- List of equipment available and equipment needed.
- Connected manufacturers to financial resources and organizational resources for business expansion and equipment purchases.
- Support the promotion of processes identified include blow molding, injection molding, CNC machines, laser cutters, 3-D printers, machining and more.
- Identified our recycled content manufacturers.
- Initiated a working group of manufacturers interested in the development of an advanced manufacturing equipment MakerSpace
Primary Partners and Funding:
Morgan Family Foundation
Pacific Gas & Electric
Redwood Region Economic Development Commission
CalRecycle Zone Incentive Funds
Humboldt Waste Management Authority