SME Conference Report: The Truth About U.S. Manufacturing

The Education Imperative:
SME Open House Tech Fair

Bill Ballard of EFI Group at their display table speaking with a conference attendee.

Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, commenced SME’s student-focused Open House Tech Fair with remarks celebrating the power of education:

“[paraphrase] Education is the one thing that can never be taken away from you.
You can lose your job, your house, etc., but once you are educated, you have that forever.”

As big proponents of education ourselves, and as a firm deeply concerned with the skills gap challenge in manufacturing, we at EFI Group truly share Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s sentiment, as well as her vision for a better educated community. Our passion for supporting young people who wish to enter manufacturing-related fields, along with our belief in continuing education, resulted in a very meaningful experience for us during this part of the conference. Several EFI Group team members teach continuing education and certification classes, and it was wonderful be in the company of so many others who share our commitment.

What impressed us the most, though, was the eagerness and excitement of the student attendees. Our table was visited by many young adults who were pursing a future in manufacturing, and we greatly enjoyed answering their questions, providing information and resources and generally getting to know each student who stopped by.

Overall, we were simply blown away by the care and support that was shown to manufacturing’s next generation of workers.

The Truth About Manufacturing in the U.S.:
SME Keynote Address with Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna (left) with Bill Ballard of the EFI Group.
Ro Khanna (left) with Bill Ballard of EFI Group

On the third day of the conference, EFI Group sponsored the SME’s Keynote Luncheon and Book Signing with Ro Khanna, author of Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future.

While Khanna’s presentation centered around the importance of maintaining manufacturing as part of the U.S. economy, he also opened attendees’ eyes to a few surprising and inspiring statistics demonstrating that what’s happening in American manufacturing today is definitely not as bleak as we sometimes hear.

According to Khanna, U.S. manufacturing productivity is six times greater than China’s and India’s, and we are also significantly ahead of Germany and Japan. What’s particularly interesting is that America’s and China’s world-wide manufacturing output are roughly equivalent, but the U.S. accomplishes this with only 10% of its economy, whereas China must use 40% of its economy. Khanna also told the story of a Cleveland manufacturer that produces a blender at the extremely high price point of $500 per unit on QVC. Sounds like a product destined to fail, right? Khanna reported that the blender was not only able to sell on QVC, but has now found a home at Starbucks. The reason? High customization and customer satisfaction — a product manufactured in the U.S. to address customer needs.

These examples and more provided attendees with ample proof of the U.S.’s true strength when it comes to manufacturing.

As Khanna implies, it comes down to becoming ever more practical in our approach and sharper in identifying which practices will be successful and which won’t. We were particularly interested in Khanna’s perspective on what needs to happen as his insights are perfectly aligned with what EFI Group provides to its manufacturing clients. In other words, applying practical, pragmatic and bottom line-conscious solutions to manufacturing challenges for the purpose of strengthening the individual company and the economy as a whole.

Of course, it’s impossible to share all of the insights we gained from Khanna’s presentation, so we encourage you to dive deeper into his work through his book. It is well worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about the state of manufacturing in the U.S. and in the world.

Telling the SME Story to the Public:
EFI Group Featured in the Baltimore Sun Article and Video

EFI Group’s Partner and Project Manager, Bill Ballard

We were thrilled to be part of the Baltimore Sun’s June 9th article covering the SME conference and manufacturing in Baltimore. Reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins joined us for the Tour portion of the event, and also interviewed (print and video) Bill Ballard, partner and project manager at EFI Group for the story.

Read & Watch the Baltimore Sun Article & Video: Baltimore shows off its manufacturing for visiting engineers.

Robert L. Wolff Wins EFI Group’s Craftsman Toolbox

EFI table, portrait image showing work samples

We enjoyed meeting everyone who visited our table during the three-day SME conference and all those who entered the drawing for our stocked Craftsman Toolbox.


Robert is Professor & Program Coordinator of Global Manufacturing Systems Engineering Technology at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Enjoy your new toolbox, Robert!

Our branded water bottles were also a big hit!





More Photos from SME’s Share Manufacturing
Excellence Conference

We hired EFI Group to help us figure out a project and scope it, and I felt confident they would keep a keen eye on it. They had to deliver quickly and they did it well. They are especially good at project management when you don’t have the resources to do it internally. Reliability is the word I would use to describe EFI Group.
— Coatings Industry Professional
EFI Group is timely. We’ve had a lot of situations when we’ve been in a time crunch and they’ve responded very quickly. They are detail oriented and efficient. They’re a good group of people who also have a lot of strength in pre-engineering — the thought process to get to preliminary design and making sure we’ve investigated all the potential asks of a project to ensure we didn’t miss anything. They have great attention to detail up front which is very important to any project because having that detail-oriented deep dive into the pre-engineering phase sets the stage for the success of the rest of the project, making the process smoother and making it much easier to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
— Mike Quigley, Engineering & Maintenance Manager, Food Industry
I’ve worked with EFI Group for a while, so I know they have a good, knowledgeable staff. We know we’re going to get the results from them we expect. From my interactions with all the different EFI team members I’ve worked with, I know they have knowledge across many industries. Equally, I never have to follow up with EFI Group and, in some cases, they keep me on track.
— Ryan Fredsall, General Manager, Pacer Minerals LLC
We view EFI Group as a team that can dimensionalize our capability to execute projects. We can articulate what it is we want to do and they can take that input and run with it without much intervention from us. They’re able to move a project along independently and only engage us when it’s time to bring us up to speed or get more input to drive a project to conclusion. That’s one of the reasons I view them as an excellent contractor.
— Environmental Engineering Industry Professional
EFI Group has good engineers and good customer service. We know when we get an EFI engineer on a project, we’re going to a get a good job from them and it’s been a productive relationship for both of us — I genuinely like the people.
— Corporate Director, Project Management in Food & Flavors Industry
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