At IMEC, we’re all about solutions. And with the invasion of COVID-19 early last year, the world had to scramble to find them. Businesses were shutting down at an alarming rate, affecting supply chains and OEMs locally, nationally, globally. Companies had to quickly find alternatives to keep the wheels turning. For IMEC, that remained especially true here in Illinois.
We quickly pivoted to help manufacturers break through this disruption by offering Supplier Scouting assistance. The mission: To match local manufacturers with local suppliers who can provide the quality products or components needed to keep operations moving along seamlessly. The goal: To help small and mid-size manufacturers (SMMs) expand their capacity, increase sales, create jobs, and gain a competitive edge. Tall order? Not only was it doable, but it is still being done – and will continue long after the pandemic has receded in the rearview mirror.
Mining the COVID Silver Lining
Yes, if there were a silver lining to be found in the pandemic, it’s the effect it had on the Supplier Scouting program at IMEC. As Client Outreach Coordinator Michelle Fossett puts it, “Supplier Scouting did indeed exist before COVID. But it was COVID that raised the stakes and strengthened us into a unified force as we focused on meeting the unprecedented challenges the pandemic had presented.” The challenges:
- How to help suppliers keep their businesses afloat by pivoting and repurposing to create PPE?
- How to help them find new sources when current ones were drying up or closing shop altogether?
Supplier Scouting during the pandemic was a team effort to say the least. IMEC President, David Boulay served on the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and worked in tandem with an expert coalition of the IMEC Supplier Scouting team. All hands were on deck to seek out and fully vet suppliers who can either pivot to produce PPE or who already manufactured it. Concurrently, two portals were created on the IMEC website: one listing those vetted suppliers who met the highest standards, and the other listing OEMs and other businesses and procurement teams, who were also vetted and in search of PPE.
Matching up Manufacturers
With an ever-growing database in place, Supplier Scouts had the technical means and depth of experience to match OEMs with the right local suppliers. The results proved rewarding, to say the least. On the humanitarian front, Supplier Scouts were able to discover Illinois suppliers who could quickly meet the urgent health, safety, and national security needs, thus playing a significant role in saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Equally gratifying is how businesses were saved. By enabling them to adapt to the times and expand their customer base, many suppliers who were struggling have reported that they were once again flourishing.
Beyond COVID: Fanning out Across the Nation...and Oceans
By the time August rolled around, the surge in suppliers’ requests for help that began in March was waning. This time, IMEC had to pivot. PPE may no longer have been as much in demand, but there was and always will be the need for materials and products serving every other sector of civilization. Companies were now looking for everything from motor magnets to plastic injection-molded parts, to yoga mats. Thanks to the processes we’ve set up during COVID, we were able to hit the ground running. Ever since, our team has been searching for matches to meet whatever needs arise for manufacturers right here in the Land of Lincoln.
But we haven’t stopped there. While Illinois suppliers will always get first dibs, should the request necessitate, we extend our reach and work with MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) centers to find the best Supplier/OEM matches across the U.S.
We’ve also teamed up with the Reshoring Initiative® that provides Illinois SMMs with the tools and training on how to sell their products to large OEM’s who’ve been importing parts from overseas. It’s a win-win for everyone: by bringing their business back to the state, OEMs can enjoy savings in costs and shipping times – among numerous other benefits. As for Illinois manufacturers, they can seize golden opportunities to open new sales channels, grow their businesses, and out-play their competitors. You can learn more about Reshoring and what manufacturers need to know here.
Looking for a Match? We’ll Find it.
In little more than a year, our matchmaking capabilities have soared, enabling Illinois manufacturers to extend their reach from local to global, and to not just survive but thrive. With the Buy American executive order and the IMEC vision to ignite Illinois manufacturing excellence and global competitiveness, reshaping our global supply chains will only continue to be vital to manufacturing success.
More than ever, we look forward to the future. And invite you to be a part of it. Whether you’re in need of a particular product or if you’re a manufacturer searching for buyers, let IMEC Suppler Scouting help you meet your match!