Manufacturing Innovation 2012: A Recap of the Year’s Top MEP & Manufacturing Conference


Innovation – The Key to Manufacturing

The spirit of American manufacturing was alive and well all throughout Manufacturing Innovation 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  From May 5th until May 9th more than 800 MEP Center staff members, manufacturers and industry professionals gathered from all around the nation to learn about innovation and celebrate the progress of our sector. As a system, we are committed on returning manufacturing to the crucial role it can play in our economy; this conference renewed our dedication.

The message was said numerous times in multiple ways, but the key takeaway from the conference is that our country’s manufacturers will only grow and succeed through innovationand now is the time to act. Innovation will help our manufacturers improve their operations, profitability and competitiveness, and our MEP Centers are ready to help immediately.

People have different ideas of what innovation is… what it means to be innovative.  But that’s precisely the point. Innovation is just about finding a creative solution to a problem, and it comes in many different forms. Everyone in an organization can be innovative – it doesn’t require a special position within the company, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Throughout the conference, it was emphasized that innovation is really a mindset, an attitude. We must proactively work together to provide solutions that target the needs of our customers. Whether it’s introducing new products to the market, enhancing the effectiveness of our existing goods, or serving customers at a fast rate… we must believe in innovation to improve our businesses.

Workshops, Seminars and Special Events

Actions speak louder than words. We didn’t just want to tell our attendees TO be innovative… we wanted to show them HOW to be innovative. Over the course of the conference, attendees had the opportunity to participate in workshops led by innovation experts. There were three key tracks: 1) Informing Business Decisions, 2) Leading Innovative Organizations and 3) Implementing Growth Strategies. These workshops provided our attendees with specific examples on how to spark business innovation in numerous areas including product development, marketing, finance and more.

This year, we also introduced two brand new special events to the conference. The Next Generation Rail Supply Chain Forum brought together large railcar builders with smaller, capable manufacturers. The Department of Transportation has a goal of 100% domestic content for future railcars, so we arranged for participants to learn more about the products needed for railcars and other important information about the rail industry.

In the Business Matchmaking event, manufacturing “sellers” were connected with pre-screened “buyers” representing government agencies and large businesses. This unique opportunity allowed our manufacturers to meet with buyers motivated to award contracts and sub-contracts to smaller firms.

Keynote Speakers

The Manufacturing Innovation conference brings together some of the top industry experts in the field, and this year was no exception. Our keynote speakers included:

Rowan Gibson – Rowan is known as one of the most accomplished speakers in the world about innovation. He currently serves as the president of a global innovation consultancy and the co-founder of, the most popular innovation website on the internet. Rowan spoke to the group about innovation and systems.

John Ratzenberger – Best known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on Cheers, John produced and hosted “Made in America”, a show for the Travel Channel which celebrates our sector. He discussed the importance of American manufacturing and creating a stronger manufacturing workforce within the U.S.

Jim Carroll – Jim is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, trends and innovation expert. He helps transform growth-oriented organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes. Jim talked to us about future trends and innovation.

Bill Capodagli – Bill is an accomplished visionary with nearly three decades of management consulting and corporate research expertise.  Bill’s message focused on the importance of cultivating a culture that enables innovation and how all of us have the ability to create an environment that supports it.

Make it in America Wall

As we gathered feedback from our attendees, many people commented on the sense of community at this year’s conference. This teamwork was best illustrated through our Make it in America exhibit. The Make it in America display showcased the innovative products being made from our manufacturers all around the nation. More than 150 different U.S. manufacturers who have been helped by our MEP system sent in their products and videos to be included in the exhibit.

The diversity of these products was an excellent representation of what it means to Make it in America and truly captured the tone of our conference.

The Next Generation of Manufacturing

This conference has confirmed that innovation has always, and will continue to, transform the world of manufacturing. Innovation has helped propel our sector back into the spotlight. Everywhere you turn to, ordinary folks are talking about manufacturing again… and this is because of innovation. The conversation about our sector has transcended demographics, locations and age groups. Yes, innovation will inspire and develop the next generation of manufacturers.

It was honor and privilege to participate in Manufacturing Innovation 2012. Once more, I would like to emphasize that now is the time to embrace innovation. The air of the conference renewed our American Dream that we can continue to Make it in America. Thanks to all of those who traveled down to Orlando.

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1 Comment

  1. Phil Carroll on

    I wish I knew about the Manufacturing Conference, I would love to attend. Will it take place in 2013? Its great to hear the buzz about manufacturing but we have a long way to go. I will do my part to keep the buzz alive as I have done since 2000 when China signed the free trade agreement. 2012 is the year for Reshoring! The next 10 years will be better in manufacturing then the last 10 years because we have no choice. Take care and keep up the Fantastic work! Phil 215-901-1161 (General Metal Company Inc.)

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