Organization Focus: South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions

When it comes to economic growth, manufacturing is a driving force that is often underappreciated. 

According to the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, manufacturing jobs make up ten percent of the state’s workforce, and manufactured output accounts for more than nine percent of the state’s GDP.

With a goal of growing and promoting the state’s manufacturing industry, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions (SDMTS) was established in 2010, as a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center.

MEP is a national network focused on assisting small to medium-sized manufacturing companies. Each state has its own affiliate staffed with experienced business advisors and a variety of resources to drive success for manufacturers at all stages of growth. 

SDMTS’ main office is located in Sioux Falls, at the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship, with satellite locations in Rapid City and Aberdeen.

Services and Resources

Keith Deibert, SDMTS’ interim director, emphasizes the variety of services offered by the office and its advisors.

“We offer a very broad range of assistance for these companies,” he said.

Resources and advising are available on an array of topics including innovation, lean, quality, leadership, finance, workforce development, operations, supply chain, sales and marketing, and technology. 

Explore these services further here.

Startups are welcome and encouraged to reach out to SDMTS, but much of the basic early-stage assistance, like developing a business plan, is often referred to its partner organization, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Deibert stresses SDMTS’ primary mission of continuous improvement for current manufacturers.

For example, a key focus area for SDMTS is assisting manufacturers with the adoption of new technologies. 

According to Deibert, current technologies are much more affordable and user-friendly than they were in the past, and they can offer a powerful impact. However, many companies find the concept intimidating.

“I look at it more as a supplement for the workforce,” he said. “It’s not trying to replace people. It’s there to amplify them.”

For example, one of the greatest challenges facing South Dakota’s manufacturing industry today is workforce availability. SDMTS’ services and assistance aim to leverage the current workforce, all while promoting its development and expansion.

Most of SDMTS’ services are paid, but Deibert says they are willing to work with clients to find a feasible solution based on the size of their business. Additionally, every potential client receives a free consultation and assessment. 

Events and Programs

Beyond advising and counseling services, SDMTS hosts different educational discussions and socials, as often as twice per month. The largest of these events is the South Dakota Manufacturers’ Day Summit.

South Dakota Manufacturers’ Day Summit 2018

The summit is an annual event held at a different tech school each year. However, 2019 will be the first year that SDMTS hosts two separate events—one on September 10 at Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City and another on September 12 at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. 

Mike Hoseus, lean expert and co-author of “Toyota Culture,” will be speaking at both events, and manufacturers will also have the opportunity to reserve one-on-one sessions with him on a first-come, first-served basis.

Another unique SDMTS event is an annual trip to Kentucky to visit world-class manufacturing facilities such as Toyota and Woodford Reserve. Dubbed the Lean Study Mission Trip, attendees have the opportunity to observe excellent operational systems in action and discuss methods of implementation for their own companies.

Lean Study Mission Trip 2018

The 2019 trip will take place from October 21-24, and costs $2,200.00, plus airfare and lodging. Interested parties can register here.

In addition to networking and educational events for current manufacturers, promoting the industry to upcoming generations is also a top priority.

SDMTS hosts an annual “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” video competition for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, to get kids engaged with different manufacturing careers and companies.

Students plan, shoot, and edit two-minute video clips to market different South Dakota manufacturers. The clips are posted online at Dream It. Do It., where people can vote for a winner.

“The goal is to get more students educated about manufacturing careers in a fun and interesting way,” said Deibert. “People don’t understand the benefits and earning power of these careers.”

Students participating in the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” contest, featuring Marmen Energy out of Brandon.

The contest is free and available statewide, with all necessary video equipment and planning resources supplied by SDMTS. Interested teachers can learn more about the program or get involved by contacting Sara Byre, SDMTS’ marketing specialist.

Get Started

If your manufacturing business is ready to take the next steps toward growth or expansion, or if you’re seeking assistance in implementing new technologies or systems, it may be time to reach out to SDMTS.

For those still in the earlier stages, Deibert stresses the importance of analyzing and planning beyond the initial idea.

“We see people with lots of passion around a product, but not enough knowledge on running a business,” he said. “Go beyond your idea before you invest your heart and soul in it. Ask questions sooner rather than later, whether to us or the SBDC.”

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