Last month at the McGladery Manufacturing Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, awards were handed out in recognition of the top small, mid-size and large manufacturing companies in the coastal state. Nominees are judged based on a slew of factors including job creation, growth and innovation, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in North Carolina and the surrounding area can learn new strategies for cost efficient manufacturing, reducing lead times and other supply chain management options to enhance their own businesses.

What set the winners apart
This year, three companies stood out from their competitors in terms of both innovation and growth. The small manufacturer Max Daetwyler Inc. in Huntersville supplies pressroom products for the printing industry, according to the Triangle Business Journal. While the U.S. factory may be small, the Switzerland-based company has a global following that may have aided its expansion into the U.S.

In the mid-size category, Kingsdown, a mattress manufacturer, took the prize for its innovative designs and its diverse and high-quality selection of products. The company has been able to extend its reach across the globe due in part to its dedication to quality testing that ensures customers get what they pay for. It has also put forth effort in bringing on new staff as well as investing in marketing efforts. Kingsdown's employees have played an active role in the company's success as well.

"I am very proud of all our associates for the hard work and relentless attention they've placed on quality and innovation," said the company's president and CEO, Frank Hood.

Caterpillar, though it is based in Illinois, has a factory in North Carolina that led to its capture of the large manufacturer of the year award. The news source named it the second best giant company to work for in 2014, and its staff of over 1,000 workers helped secure its manufacturing victory. Mary Bell, the vice president of the company's building construction products division, explained to the source that having such a large pool of employees allows for more innovation to take place, leading to better products and higher sales as a result.

How can OEMs benefit from this?
Industry leaders set the benchmark for the rest of their competitors, so it would follow that their strategies could serve as solid examples for others to explore. For Kingsdown and Caterpillar, the employee pool has proven highly beneficial in helping both companies develop better products for their consumers. OEMs may want to reach out to their workers for ideas that could enhance the products, production and other processes within the supply chain. This has the potential to reduce waste, and lead to more efficient manufacturing and higher-quality products that could enhance brand recognition, create a stronger customer base and drive up sales.

Innovation does not have to be limited to the products themselves, either. OEMs can turn their focus toward the manufacturing process itself, from improving inventory management to clearing up bottlenecks. Employees who work on the factory floor may provide valuable insight into weaknesses or potential solutions that could otherwise go unnoticed. For instance, by speaking with workers in charge of managing inventory, OEM managers could find that more time is being spent on receiving, stocking and organizing parts like class C components than is necessary. They could then use this information to investigate alternative strategies, such as vendor managed inventory programs that would take the task entirely off site and free up resources. Rather than spending money and time on these tasks, OEMs can reinvest efforts into other aspects of the supply chain.

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