integrate their own supply chains to reduce redundant inventories and excess manufacturing capacities, thereby freeing cash for other investments.
Based on interviews conducted for this study and the experience of committee members, successful SMEs tend to:
choose customers carefully
react appropriately to salient events that can define success or failure
establish strategic alliances and partnerships with customers and suppliers
cater to customers' needs
focus on quality
treat employees as valuable assets
select and monitor appropriate metrics
document business and manufacturing processes
use the Internet for business communications and education
share information with supply chain partners
Not-for-profit MEC/TRPs (manufacturing extension centers and technical resource providers), chartered specifically to provide advice and counsel to SMEs, can be found in virtually every city and region in the United States. Although these organizations are extremely helpful to SMEs, the committee found that not all of them are fully capable of helping SMEs compete successfully in a rapidly changing integrated supply chain environment, nor are they consistently proficient in providing guidance to SMEs attempting to integrate their own supply chains. Specifically, MEC/TRPs must develop a standard set of supply chain best practices for SMEs and implement uniform integrated supply chain support programs at all of their centers. These programs must be of uniformly high quality because supply chain integration typically involves multiple companies in scattered locations, and inconsistencies among local programs and levels of support can make integration efforts difficult. MEC/TRPs will require sufficient public and private funding so that they can focus their efforts, not on fund raising, but on this important new mission without detracting from other critical SME support operations.