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  • October 21, 2023 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ERP selection is a challenging task and the consequences of poor selection or failed implementation can disrupt a business for years. Success depends on teamwork. The following is the first part of a three-part series on the dos and don'ts of Enterprise Resource Planning systems—what can go right for manufacturers and what can go wrong. Read the full article authored by Carl Livesay here

  • October 03, 2023 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Respect for People—The Fundamental Lean Manufacturing Principle for Improving Operations” is a webinar featuring our Associate Director, Dave Rizzardo!  Dave believes that without alignment with the “Respect for People” Principle, a Lean Culture of Continuous Improvement Is Impossible!

    This event was originally broadcast on August 17, 2023 and is now available for on demand viewing. To access the archived presentation, please click on the following link:

    When presented with the webpage, simply enter your email address and click ‘Log in Now’ to view. If you have questions about this event, please email

  • October 03, 2023 3:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The IndustryWeek Talent Board question for September was: Several employment reports suggest that the labor market has cooled a bit in recent months, rebounding from the massive numbers of people voluntarily quitting jobs last year. What's your take on the quality and availability of talent on the market today?

    To read part one of September's responses, click here.

    Build Teams with Fair Market Wages and Plan for the Long Term—Carl Livesay, General Managery, Mercury Plastics, Inc.

    In South Baltimore, we have noticed a steady decline in the desire for full-time employment. This is exacerbated by the abundance of government subsidies and the failure to support those who are deserving while unintentionally promoting fraud. It is particularly sad to learn that some people refuse 40 hours of work so they can remain below the threshold for one or more government funded subsidies. There are strong financial incentives for people to stay at home and not work. 

    The resulting lack of interest earning an honest living appears to be more prevalent in single adult males under the age of 35. In contrast, single women and single parents supporting a household have emerged as an even stronger workforce resource than before. Recently a surge in business presented an opportunity for a considerable amount of overtime. We were again surprised by the number of people who said they were simply not interested in overtime rates.

    With many of the recent special government giveaway programs now ended, artificially high prices will likely start to normalize. Impulse purchases will slow down. Housing prices and interest rates will return to normal. We are hopeful that people will again be incentive to earn a livable wage at fair market value.

    For many companies, sales are down more than 20% compared to last year. Those that are over-leveraged are struggling to make loan payments and to stay in compliance with bank terms. Cash flow is poor and payments to suppliers are chronically late. Artificially high labor prices are resulting in permanent layoffs.

    In contrast, companies like ours, who resisted the temptation to pay unrealistic wages are on solid ground with their workforce. They continue to build teams earning livable fair market wages with excellent benefits. These companies are planning for the team members’ future long term, so they are naturally selective when hiring and training new people. 

    We are leaning towards the future as we begin building the next generation of senior technical talent and mid-level leaders. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to find career minded people interested in the future. Fortunately, our investment in lean manufacturing has yielded tremendous benefits operationally and financially. Lean has enabled our company and our workforce to be both scalable and sustainable. We are well positioned to scale the business as needed, and we are ready to capitalize on temporary and permanent surges in business at a moment’s notice.

    It bears mention that the quality of the available labor pool is increasingly disappointing. It appears this poor-quality worker resource is consistent with a lack of responsibility from the worker both professionally and personally. A large number are not investing in themselves and their careers with time or money. Absent of interest by the worker becoming better professionally, they risk replacement by someone who is. There is an emphasis and almost obsession with instant gratification and selfishness. People are easy to find, however good team members are elusive.

    We have been very fortunate to attract and retain a solid team. People that care and people that appreciate that we care about them. When the market and the economy look like a zig zag stitch from a singer sewing machine, it is prudent to focus on the team members that work as a team. In this scenario corporate culture matters most. Do team members feel appreciated? Is there trust? Is the company communicating opening keeping the team informed? Does the team believe you?

    If you build your team on a solid foundation of trust, this is where you realize your return on the investment. The same holds true for your partners (customers and suppliers). If everyone works together, communicating openly and honestly, then the results will be more positive. Manufacturing is a team sport.

  • September 20, 2023 1:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chutes International, a leading manufacturer of internal and external plastic and steel chutes and compactors, opened its doors this past week to fellow members of the MWCC for an exclusive plant tour. The event showcased not only the remarkable progress they've made on their Lean journey but also their innovative approach to applying Agile principles in their operations.

    Since 2019, Chutes has been on a transformative journey towards operational excellence, and their commitment to continuous improvement was evident throughout the plant tour. Visitors were able to witness firsthand the numerous enhancements made to the shop floor and manufacturing processes. The company's dedication to efficiency and waste reduction was clearly visible in the streamlined workflow and organized workstations.

    One of the most compelling aspects of Chutes' Lean journey was the application of Lean principles within their sales organization. They demonstrated how a Lean mentality, typically associated with production, can be extended to improve processes and decision-making in other departments. This cross-functional approach emphasized collaboration and waste reduction across the board.

    The plant tour also shed light on the company's innovative use of Scrum and Agile techniques. They introduced their "product improvement team" concept, which brings together leaders from the shop floor, engineering, and research & development. This interdisciplinary team works collaboratively to identify opportunities for improvement, rapidly prototype solutions, and implement changes to enhance product quality and customer satisfaction.  By leveraging Agile methodologies, they have embraced a dynamic and customer-centric approach to product development. This enables them to respond swiftly to changing market demands and continuously refine their offerings, ensuring they stay at the forefront of the industry.

    Their commitment to efficiency, collaboration, and customer-centricity serves as an inspiring example for all those on a similar path towards excellence in manufacturing and product development.

  • August 16, 2023 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Karen Hanna - Plastics, Machinery & Manufacturing

    Big or small, no matter their processes, manufacturers can benefit from lean, proponents said. Training to develop a workplace culture that embraces continuous improvement is available.

    Most of his clients are small to medium-sized companies, said Henry Foppoli, a managing partner at the AMSaxum consulting firm. Some are in distress; others are just looking to improve.

    Many qualify for state or provincial grants for the services offered by his Burlington, Ontario, firm, which has provided consulting about lean to more than 40 companies since its founding in 2017.

    Foppoli said that many times, companies are unaware of the availability of grants, but consulting firms or government liaisons can help them identify and possibly apply for funds.

    “I don’t know if it’s a lack of marketing problem of the government. They have these beautiful programs, but sometimes they don’t spend too [many] resources in advertising them,” he said.

    One example of a company that’s benefited from grants is Parker Plastics, which has had to cover only half the costs of lean manufacturing training at its Hagerstown, Md., blow molding facility. It's partnered with a number of organizations for training, including Hagerstown Community College and the Maryland World Class Consortia (MWCC), a nonprofit lean consulting firm.

    Over two years, Parker Plastics has gotten close to $30,000 in grants, according to plant manager Michael Genevro.

    “I always let people know, to join that workforce development [agency or Chamber of Commerce] because there's lots of grant money out there,” Genevro said. 

    Supported by public/private partnerships as well as member dues, the MWCC offers workshops and extended trainings. Hundreds of people have graduated from its Lean Facilitator Certification Program since it launched in 2005.

    In October, it will welcome the 28th cohort of its Lean Peer Group, a 12-month program, in which Parker Plastics has participated. It brings together groups of leaders from various companies and industries who are seeking to help each other brainstorm ways to make their businesses more efficient. They share problems and successes along their lean journey.

    Some companies participate on an ongoing basis, said David Rizzardo, associate director of the MWCC, who co-developed the peer group program in 2012.

     “I’m most impressed with the companies that are doing well, but they realize that just because you’re doing well today doesn’t mean you’re going to be doing well tomorrow,” Rizzardo said.

    According to its website, the state provides reimbursement for half the cost of the 12-month program. Companies located elsewhere should check with their own states for funding help.

    Karen Hanna, senior staff reporter

  • August 08, 2023 2:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Consultants, company leaders and employees tout lean manufacturing as an approach that empowers employees while helping companies run more productively.  

    Check out this article published by PMM (Plastics  Machining and Manufacturing) featuring member company Mercury Plastics with commentary by Carl Livesay and Dave Rizzardo.

  • July 26, 2023 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored By Jeff Bathurst | Director, Technology Advisory, SC&H Group

    Many manufacturers lack the time and resources to implement the technology upgrades they need to stay competitive. Until now. On May 8, 2023, Governor Wes Moore signed a bill approving the Industry 4.0 Technology Grant Program and Fund (TGF) to help small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) Maryland-based manufacturers invest in Industry 4.0 technology and drive competitive growth in a globalized market.

    The program will allocate $1 million in funds in fiscal years 2024 through 2028. While this grant pool remains the same as the pilot program, the awards are much larger for awardees—at least $25,000 and up to $500,000—which means the competition will be much fiercer.

    Application Timeline and Rules of Engagement

    Our contact at the Department of Commerce has provided us with early access to the following information:

    • July 1, 2023: The application and rules of engagement will be released to the public.
    • July-August 2023: The Department of Commerce will tentatively begin accepting submissions (check back for an updated timeline).
    • October 2023: The final application deadline will likely be in mid-October, the exact date is pending.
    • December 31, 2023: Awards will have been announced.

    Grants will be awarded based on a company’s ability to craft an actionable implementation plan, show a commitment to Industry 4.0 technology, and clearly articulate the positive impact of the proposed project. Building a detailed proposal of this scale requires significant time and resources. If you’re interested in pursuing this grant, the clock is already ticking. 

    Click here for the full article and how to apply!

  • October 27, 2020 2:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join our Silver Sponsor, SC&H Group, for their 2020 Year-End Tax Planning webinar. In order to position your tax strategy to your greatest advantage, you must understand what’s changed and what hasn’t.

    They will cover:

    Expected regulatory changes for the coming year; impacts of current rates and federal aid on your plan; tax mitigation strategies for potential future tax changes; implications of the PPP, SECURE Act and the CARES Act; importance/impact of the Maryland Pass-Through Entity legislation.

    Details: November 17, 1:00-2:30 pm

    Registration information here.

  • July 31, 2020 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Phil Tulkoff’s family has owned a Baltimore condiment company for more than 90 years, and he’s uneasy. Not because business at Tulkoff Food Products is bad — he lived through that this spring — but because it is suddenly good.

    “I don’t know what to expect,” said Mr. Tulkoff, the company’s president, who employs about 100 workers. “I watch the news and think it has to go down again.”

    After a slump in April and May prompted a shutdown of three of four production lines at his factory near the Port of Baltimore, demand roared back in June as restaurants and retailers hungered for products like minced garlic, horseradish and cocktail sauce, which are among Tulkoff Food’s most popular offerings.

    Mr. Tulkoff is grateful for the rebound, but his apprehension is shared by thousands of other business owners: While sales have returned to healthy levels, the surge in coronavirus cases in many parts of the country threatens the comeback.

    Indeed, the economy’s uncertain trajectory is reflected in recent employment data. On the one hand, the Labor Department reported that payrolls grew by 4.8 million in June, including a gain of more than two million in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector, which includes bars and restaurants.

    Yet on Thursday, the government reported that new claims for state unemployment insurance topped one million for the 17th week in a row.

    So even as millions go back to work, millions of others are newly unemployed, threatening both their personal finances — particularly with a $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment insurance about to expire — and their ability to help drive the economy’s recovery.

    The situation at Tulkoff Food Products is especially perilous because half of the company’s orders come from restaurants and bars, a sector that collapsed in March as the coronavirus pandemic spread and stay-at-home orders went into effect.

    After a gradual reopening, indoor dining in many parts of California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, was newly banned this month. In Texas and Florida, bars have been shuttered after initially reopening and attracting hordes of quarantine-weary patrons. Mr. Tulkoff hasn’t seen any impact from these moves, but he knows from the wave of shutdowns in March how rapidly things can change.

    “The downturn came on so quickly, it was like someone pulling the plug from a bathtub,” he said. Orders were canceled so fast that cases of sauce already on their way to customers had to be shipped back to the factory. Some went into inventory while others went to local food banks or were discarded.

    Rather than lay workers off, Mr. Tulkoff took advantage of a Maryland program that allowed him to cut employee schedules to four days a week, with the state picking up the cost of the fifth day. He also received a loan of just over $1 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

    “We definitely had more people than we needed, but we didn’t want to let anyone go,” Mr. Tulkoff said. Working in staggered groups, production employees spent time on the one line that was still in operation during the trough.

    The paycheck protection loan was a welcome cushion, but Mr. Tulkoff intends to return the money because the rebound has made it unnecessary. The company took other steps to survive the lean period: Matching payments on the employees’ 401(k) plans were halted, Mr. Tulkoff took a 20 percent pay cut, overtime was stopped, and temporary positions were eliminated.

    Mr. Tulkoff shut the company’s California plant in May, eliminating 34 jobs, in a move that had been planned for a while but was sped up because of the coronavirus outbreak. Much of that output will be taken over by a new plant that is getting up to speed in Cincinnati. It will eventually employ as many as 70 workers.

    At the main factory in Baltimore, roughly 60 hourly employees are working 40 hours per week, plus overtime. The company is looking to fill five more slots, which start at $12 per hour.

    “It’s been a roller coaster,” said Buddy Dietz, the chief operating officer. “It’s hard for us to tell whether it’s for real or not.”

    “What we believe has happened is that customers depleted their inventories,” he added. “Now they’re trying to refill the pipeline. We’re anticipating that orders will fall off again, but there’s no way for us to know.”

    If things turn down again, the company plans to repeat the cost-saving measures imposed last time, like the elimination of the 401(k) match and overtime. Another option would be to slow spending on the Cincinnati factory, Mr. Tulkoff said.

    To be sure, Tulkoff Food Products has survived other challenges, including the Great Depression and World War II. The company was founded by Mr. Tulkoff’s grandparents Harry and Lena, immigrants from Russia whose freshly ground horseradish was a hit at the grocery store they operated.

    “It’s pretty amazing, but after all these years we’ve stuck to our roots — horseradish, garlic, and cocktail sauce,” Mr. Tulkoff said.

    An engineer by training, Mr. Tulkoff, 59, grew up in Baltimore and graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, but didn’t join the family firm initially, instead working on the space shuttle program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    “I spent 11 years in aerospace engineering,” he said. “Then I ran a software business. But when this opportunity came along, I wanted to take on that kind of challenge.”

    He has two children in their 20s; one is a nurse practitioner in Washington, D.C., the other an industrial designer in Kansas City, Kan. Neither has shown an interest in running the business, but another fourth-generation family member, Jordan Gershberg, is at the company, working on getting the Cincinnati plant up and running.

    As chief executive for the last 15 years, Mr. Tulkoff expanded the firm’s co-manufacturing business, in which it makes sauces and condiments for other brands and packages them for sale in retail outlets under those brands’ names.

    While many consumers may have eaten products made by Tulkoff Foods, they wouldn’t recognize the name unless they lived in Baltimore, where Tulkoff-branded horseradish can be found at supermarkets. Restaurants are supplied through food service distributors like Sysco and U.S. Food.

    “Food service in restaurants was very weak, but co-manufacturing held up OK,” said Ben Sipola, Tulkoff Foods’ chief financial officer. “Those customers that weren’t in restaurants were buying more food in grocery stores.” Co-manufacturing accounts for half of the company’s sales.

    Mr. Tulkoff has run the company conservatively, averse to debt or risky new product lines. When the pandemic hit, the company had enough cash to last a year, and with losses running at $250,000 a month, the Paycheck Protection Program loan bought it four months, if it needed to use the money.

    For now, the company is solidly profitable, Mr. Tulkoff said, and workers in the factory like Maria Bunce say they are more focused on fulfilling the daily quotas than worrying about what they can’t control in the future.

    “I’m in the moment,” said Ms. Bunce, a floor supervisor. “We’re so busy we don’t have time to think about what’s going on.”

    Mr. Tulkoff, on the other hand, finds himself worrying about what the resurgence of the virus could mean for his company and its employees. “It keeps me up at night,” he said. “It’s my biggest nightmare to see all that equipment idle again.”

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