October 29, 2020

Credit: iStock/ipopba

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and create two-thirds of net new jobs that drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness. In recent months, in order to help keep the general population healthy, many small companies were obliged to temporarily close their doors to both customers and employees. The full impact of these closures are still not known. During this difficult time, businesses are looking for any opportunity to not only support their bottom line, but to also ramp up production of critically needed items. Enter the MEP National Network™. In FY 2019, the MEP National Network completed projects with 8,900 unique clients and interacted with 28,213 manufacturers, particularly small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). One of the ways the Network has assisted these SMMs is through Supplier Scouting.

What is Supplier Scouting?

Supplier Scouting within the MEP National Network is a formal process to provide viable business opportunities to U.S. manufacturers and to connect those that have relevant production capacities and capabilities to aid current market and societal needs. The end result is the delivery of necessary products. Originally funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Suppler Scouting was developed in 2009 to assist federal agencies in locating Made in America items, components, and assemblies to satisfy Buy America requirements. Having already developed this “scouting” process, the MEP National Network was able to quickly mobilize and relaunch Supplier Scouting services in response to the current health situation.

Supplier Scouting vs. Supplier Matching

What separates the Network’s Supplier Scouting efforts from other supplier matching networks and agencies? First, there’s the vast technical and manufacturing expertise that is available, but most important, it’s the personal touch that only comes from the Network. MEP Centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico maintain relationships with the SMMs and local organizations with whom they have worked. As of today, the Network has 2,123 active partner organizations. Of those, 1,023 have formal contracts.

When U.S. manufacturers needed to rapidly step-up production of personal protection equipment (PPE), ventilators, N95 masks, hand sanitizer and other critically needed supplies, the Network was there to quickly create supply chain portals to share best practices as well as to assist state and local organizations in locating and procuring these critical items.

The Supplier Scouting service is one of the many tools that the Network has to connect SMMs with local, made in America supply chains. While the MEP National Network answers the call to assist manufacturers in critical times of need, it also is there for the daily challenges such as implementing new technologies, improving shop floor processes and aiding in workforce solutions. To learn more about how the Network helps visit https://www.nist.gov/mep/mep-national-network/how-network-helps or contact your local MEP Center, WMEP Manufacturing Solutions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

samm webb

Samm Webb

Samm is the Project and Resource Coordinator with the NIST MEP Extension Services Division (ESD). Her primary focus areas include Supplier Scouting, where she manages the supplier scouting process…