The last post in a series based on the National Center for the Middle Market’s new research report, Middle Market Manufacturing: How to Thrive in a Transforming Environment, this article presents the best practices employed by the fastest-growing middle market manufacturers.

According to our latest manufacturing research study, it’s one of the best times to be a middle market manufacturer. It’s also one of the most challenging times. Major changes in the industry are presenting lucrative opportunities along with formidable challenges and risks.

Manufacturers that are thriving—those that reported year-over-year revenue growth of 10% or more last year—set themselves apart from their slower-growing peers in several notable ways.

  • Their relationships are becoming more collaborative both upstream and down.

    Fast-growing manufactures are more likely to work closely with their business partners. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say their relationship with customers are more collaborative today than they were five years ago while 62% say they work more closely with their suppliers. For the overall middle market, the number are notably lower: 62% and 55% respectively.

  • They offer value-added services and make more money as a result.

    Nearly eight out of 10 fast-growing middle market manufacturers offer services in addition to products, and 62% of them are generating additional revenue through these services. They are not alone in this endeavor—a majority of all manufacturers now offer services. The fast growers have been more successful at making sure these new offerings pay off.

  • They are more focused on new composites and materials and advanced process controls.

    Nearly all manufactures are embracing advanced technologies and benefiting from the investment. Fast-growing companies tend to place greater importance on all types of advanced technologies. Specifically, they have been somewhat more interested in materials and controls in the past year, and that interest will continue to mount over the next five years.

  • Talent is a bigger challenge for them than their peers.

    Fast-growing middle market manufacturers are most likely to say that talent management is extremely challenging and that it’s difficult to find people with the right technical skills. This could simply be because they need more people to support their growth. They are also more likely to believe that adding more technology will increase—not decrease—the need for workers in the future. Executives are responding with expanded outreach to colleges, technical schools, and economic development organizations. They are also offering higher pay and benefits and focusing on training to develop skills internally.

Get the full findings.

For complete details on critical changes in the manufacturing industry and how the best companies are responding, download the Center’s latest report, Middle Market Manufacturing: How to Thrive in a Transforming Environment.

This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: