IT and Cybersecurity for Manufacturers

USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for February 27, 2020

This week, Joanna Johnston of Estes Group (@EstesGroup) hosted an informative chat for our #USAMfgHour participants on ERP and manufacturing IT security.

Did you know that 43% of cyber attacks are against small businesses with less than 250 employees and that 60% of those businesses will close within six months? Joanna shared this startling statistic from Verizon’s 2019 Cyber Report to start off the chat and then asked what participant companies are doing to keep their IT systems safe. Answers varied, but most people said they either have an in-house IT team, an IT vendor, or a combination of both to help them stay vigilant and safe. @NJMEP said, “We ensure to send out consistent reminders about Cybersecurity tips and best practices. They are sent to all employees. There is also a yearly test all employees must take that reviews the basics of personal #cybersecurity.” [Do you test your employees on their personal cybersecurity?! Let us know in the comments] Joanna suggested that companies start with Good Cyber Hygiene to increase their cyber security. They can do this by requiring dual-factor authentication, employee training, regular data backups, and keeping up-to-date anti-malware deployed on all equipment accessing the internet.

Joanna next asked participants whether they or other businesses they work with have been victims of ransomware attacks after sharing that Accenture’s 2019 study found that ransomware payment demands increased by 21% between 2018 and 2019 and that the average ransomware payment is over 41,000. A few participants said they knew someone who’d been affected, but, thankfully, most of them hadn’t. @DCSCInc said that a ransomware attack nearly shut down one of its $150MM clients for a week and that it took a lot to straighten out. Joanna shared that almost every company has experienced or knows another company that has been a victim of ransomware, yet only 60% of companies have a data recovery plan in place. She said that having a good data disaster & recovery plan will minimize business impact in the case of a breech.

Next, Joanna asked whether participants are protecting themselves from vulnerabilities around IoT and smart manufacturing? Joanna warned that basically anything with a connection can be hacked: computers, smart equipment, medical devices that use transmission. She added that many companies have former users or old computers that still have access to internal company systems that present potential cyber vulnerability points. @CVTPlastics, @AxisNJ, @MezzGate and @SocialSMktg all showed concern around this area and mentioned that they will be looking into it further. @NJMEP expressed how important it is for manufacturers to make cybersecurity a business strategy to ensure understanding of potential risks and increase protection.

Joanna then moved onto the new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for Department of Defense contractors. None of this week’s participants currently work with the DoD, but were interested to learn more about the program. Joanna said, “If your company is a direct supplier to the DoD you might already know you need to comply. But CMMC will affect companies within the supply chain. If you supply a DoD supplier, you too might need to comply with CMMC.” She further stated, “We work with many ITAR compliant companies – and know the depth of requirements for CMMC. Companies cannot self-certify and instead companies are assigned levels & require a Certified 3rd Party Auditor to certify them. Its a big deal coming down the pipe.” Learn more about CMMC in Joanna’s blog post. @NJMEP shared their resource on this, too.

The next thing discussed was whether participants have an all-in-one sales, operations, warehousing, and finance system or whether they’re still separated. Everyone who responded said they are still separated. Joanna responded by saying that 2 out of 3 manufacturers and distributors running #Epicor ERP report efficiency gains over 20%. ERP systems gather & report real-time production metrics, accounting & costs, drive overall company effectiveness, & increase customer satisfaction.

Joanna closed out the chat by asking participants what new policies or practices might you want to deploy to be safer around cybersecurity? @LiftWisco is checking into their IT security/recovery plan to make sure the company is protected. Everyone else who responded said their #1 priority is getting informed on the topic and doing what they can to help make sure proper security is there.

On March 5, 2020, Bill Garland (@BillGarlandSpkr) will host a chat on leadership and finding work-life balance. We hope you can join us. In the meantime, check out Joanna’s blog post on cybersecurity audits.

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @CVTPlastics @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER. Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Tags: @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @witzshared @SERVICECASTER @AxisNJ @CVTPlastics @NJMEP @EstesGroup @LiftWisco @SpaceGuard @rutlandproducts @MezzGate @SocialSMktg

Generating Sales and Building Relationships in Manufacturing

Lead Generation Interest Marketing Business Concept

USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for February 20, 2020

This week, Dan Bigger of CVT Plastics (@CVTPlastics) hosted a #USAMfgHour chat all about sales and relationship building.

After introductions by the participants that included what they do and what industries they primarily sell to, Dan started off the chat by asking what CRM, or customer relationship management systems, they use and what their recommended follow-up time frames are. Act! 365, Salesforce, Pipedrive, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Streak were some of the ones mentioned by participants as helping to track their leads. All the participants had different follow-up procedures. Some reach out fairly consistently while others follow predetermined schedules such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly based on whether the lead is “hot” or “cold”. But @AxisNJ’s comment that, “…it is key to keep in touch continuously even if a project is set to move later on,” summed up the topic nicely.

Next, Dan asked participants to name their best lead sources. Word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals from their networks were, by far, the most popular lead generators. Others included inside and outside salespeople, trade shows, social media, email marketing, SEO, website contact forms, targeted direct mail, data-driven lists, and PPC advertising. @NJMEP stressed the importance of generating leads from various sources so as not to put all your eggs in one basket and @GraphicProducts mentioned it often generates leads by sharing product knowledge for free to new connections.

Dan followed that question by asking how participants develop their leads in hopes of turning them into customers. @GetProdio said, “We regularly improve our product based on customers insight, suggestions, ideas. We are for them, not just to make profit. We are in regular touch (chat, mails, phone calls, social media, visits in person). It’s for us more than just B2B, rather H2H (human to human).” Other participants stated calls, emails, in-person visits, and facility tours as ways to gain trust of potential customers when they’re looking to bid a project or buy a product. @Amatrol stated “Really, we want current and potential customers to see they’re getting the most robust service possible in our market,” so its development activities reflect that goal. Dan added that he developed a survey that enables customers to state when they want to be contacted and in what ways and allows the company to collect testimonials, referrals, and gain insights.

Dan closed the chat by asking the participants to share their 2020 sales goals. Not surprisingly, everyone stated their desire to add new clients to the roster this year. Other goals included expanding into new markets, increasing brand awareness, utilizing digital or traditional advertising, continuing existing marketing efforts and maintaining high levels of customer service to existing customers in order to encourage repeat or referral business.
On February 27, 2020, Joanna Johnston of Estes Group (@EstesGroup) will be leading a chat on ERP and manufacturing IT security. Will you be joining us? The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @CVTPlastics @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER. Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Instagram: @usamfghourchat

Tags: @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @witzshared @SERVICECASTER @AxisNJ @CVTPlastics @NJMEP @GraphicProducts @GetProdio @IndeeLiftInc @Amatrol @dpistulka @specialtaps @socialsmktg @WMPaintingInc_ @EstesGroup @LiftWisco @NesbitMarketing @envmfilter @SpaceGuard @ProTapes @Solution_System

Public Relations (PR) for Manufacturers: A Primer

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for February 13, 2020

This week, Michelle Garrett (@PRisUS) of Garrett Public Relations hosted a chat all about how manufacturers can leverage PR to market their businesses.

After brief introductions where participants got to know a little bit about the people behind the branded accounts, Michelle was off and running, asking whether or not participants are including public relations in their marketing mixes.  The majority of people mentioned being active in their community, through events such as Manufacturing Day, for example, but that they don’t do much beyond that. Michelle concurred, stating that few manufacturing and industrial companies have a PR strategy in place despite the fact that most buyers do research on a company online before buying and that many are 70% through their buying process before contacting a supplier.

Next, Michelle asked participants what type of PR activities benefit manufacturing businesses the most.  The responses included open houses, events, speaking engagements, and placement in trade publications. NJ MEP (@NJMEP) summarized it well with, “It takes a variety of PR activities to make an impact. Videos, print media, digital magazines, are all beneficial.”  Michelle went deeper into the subject, stating: “Outreach to industry trade publications can be extremely worthwhile for manufacturers. Those editors are looking for content to fill their digital pages. Contributed articles, product news and so on are always great to pitch.  Also, if you’re exhibiting at trade shows, check the pre-registered press list to see who’ll be there – and schedule brief meetings with them at your booth. Helps build relationships. That can lead to coverage and opportunities. PR plays a role in many other ways, too, such as helping manufacturers be crisis-ready, helping position the company and the executives as thought leaders in their space, and assisting in reputation management. It’s a long list…  Another way #PR can help – they can advise on internal communications in the event of any changes like acquisitions, layoffs, labor disputes and so on.”

Michelle then asked whether you need a big budget to take advantage of PR and what kinds of initiatives companies can do on a small budget.  The overwhelming response from participants was that PR can be undertaken on a shoestring budget, as most of them were already doing small things on their own using free or low cost means.  SpaceGuard Products (@SpaceGuard) commented that being creative if half of marketing and White Bear Plumbing (@BearPlumbing) said that leveraging free social media platforms is a big one. However, Cleveland Deburring (@cdmcmachine) cautioned, however, that there is definitely a financial commitment involved since consistency is a big factor in success.  Michelle said companies can increase visibility through PR on a small budget by writing a press release themselves and posting it on their websites and social media. Then, for a reasonable amount ($289) they can issue it using a wire service like PR Web and, if you like, send it to editors of trade publications.  

You shouldn’t need to pay for true earned media (= PR). You can factor in paid media/advertising, but PR can work without that, too.

– Michelle Garrett, Garrett Public Relations (@PRisUS)

In a side conversation, our #USAMfgHour Chat Highlights account (@USAMfgHourChat) asked what companies can do to begin integrating PR into their marketing strategies.  She responded by suggesting that they update their websites before doing anything else, as sites are generally the first things reporters check and manufacturing companies are notoriously slow in updating them.  If your site is updated but optimized for e-commerce buyer ease of use and download speed (i.e. not “flashy”), then focus on mobile-friendly pages that are up to date. Michelle then shared an article of five things a company can do to get ready for PR.  View it here: 

How do social media and content marketing factor into PR for manufacturers?  Axis NJ LLC (@AxisNJ) said, “Social media/content marketing goes hand and hand with PR – if you utilize these avenues in conjunction, your efforts and campaigns are more successful.”  Service Caster Corporation (@SERVICECASTER) chimed in, stating, “It pushes it to people who may not see it otherwise and enables you to use your network to help spread the news through RT and sharing.  You can also turn one release into several pieces of social content and re-post often. Stay top of mind.” However, Cleveland Deburring’s (@cdmcmachine) comment of “One avenue for sharing content I feel is overlooked are GMB’s [Google My Business pages]. They work great for getting views and a click thru to the site via local searches. Start with your own backyard and share it outward I always say,” was the winner of the day since not many companies take advantage of them.  Ruby (@SocialSMktg) concurred, “People forget Google My Business, but this is the easiest content distribution channel to manage. And Google uses it in a lot of ways to help businesses including search engines results page.” Is your Google My Business page up to date?

After viewing the responses, Michelle offered some ways companies can combine PR and social to their advantage:  “I believe they all work better together. For example, if you have a product announcement, you’ll want to write a press release and pitch that to trade pubs. Then you’ll want to announce it via social media. Any articles coming out of that effort can be shared on social.  Content-wise, you can publish a blog post about it. You can also shoot a video to post on your site and on social media. And maybe you even pitch a contributed article that relates to the product (perhaps it’s related to a safety issue, for example).” Remember that while producing videos that show consumers your manufacturing processes in action are usually a big hit, it’s important to always create content in the ways your audience wants to consume it, not how you prefer to share it.  [Always do your market research and pay attention to social listening when it comes to content marketing!]

The last question in the chat asked what types of results companies can expect from PR in marketing?  SpaceGuard Products (@SpaceGuard) said, “Positive & strong relationships. Whether it’s through press releases, video, pictures, or simple engaging, always give the end user a reason to come back.”  CVT Plastics (@CVTPlastics) agreed but emphasized the importance of “sales, sales, and more sales.” Michelle concurred, stating, “In general, PR leads to better visibility and awareness – which can result in more leads – and more sales.” She then gave a great example of PR at work in a manufacturing business: “I once worked with a client for whom I scheduled meetings with reporters & editors at a trade show.  Nearly every pub they met with ended up incl them in some type of coverage in following months-in product pieces, feature articles, contributed pieces-& in 1 case, they wound up on the cover of a trade mag. An ex of a VERY successful PR effort on a limited budget.

Overall, we discovered that PR is underutilized, especially by small manufacturing and industrial companies, and that there can be substantial benefits to including it in marketing strategies.  To learn more about how you can integrate PR, you can follow Michelle on social media (@PRisUS) and join her LinkedIn group, Public Relations for Manufacturers, here: 

On February 20, 2020, Dan Bigger of CVT Plastics (@CVTPlastics) will be hosting a chat on sales and relationship building.  Will you be joining us? In the meantime, keep in touch between chats by following us on social media:

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The Signs are Everywhere.

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for February 6, 2020

This week’s #USAMfgHour was hosted by Christine Torres of Graphic Products and discussed facility signage requirements, which is a matter of great importance to manufacturers who rely on signs to keep their workers safe on the floor and in their facilities.

After the first question, an icebreaker asking about the signage funnies and fails participants have seen, we got into the nitty gritty of the chat by inquiring as to whether the style and placement of signs matters in order for workers to see them.  And Phil, Warehouse Flow Advisor (@whitzshared), was right on top of this one, saying “Style and placement are very important. You want their eyes to come right to it especially in a very hazardous area. Language is critical.” Christine followed up this comment with a note that signs can be much more than a requirement by OSHA, they can be an effective tool for providing messages that stick with employees to improve behavior and ingrain into work culture.

Next Christine explained a little bit about signage requirements since most of the participants didn’t know the difference between OSHA and ANSI ones.  She said that OSHA sign meets the regulatory requirements in 29 CFR §1910.145 and that an ANSI sign follows the design recommendations in ANSI/NEMA Z535 (revised in 2017).  However, the best safety signs do both: they use the ANSI recommendations to meet the OSHA requirements. She then went on to describe what signs need to be both OSHA and ANSI compliant, including:

  • A bold header and signal word to help people recognize the sign.
  • A message panel that clearly communicates the needed information.
  • Careful sign placement, to ensure that people have the information they need when they need it.

Ruby (@SocialSMktg) followed up this response by asking whether there are specific dimensions for signage and Christine responded, “From OSHA, no. As long as the sign can be read while the worker is still safe. ANSI has some dimensions required, like the signal word should be the largest text on the sign.”

@witzshared commented, “Outdated signage can also be a fire safety violation.  If there is an old fire extinguisher sign and no longer a fire extinguisher there, that’s a violation,” which sparked a side conversation about when companies should update their signs.  Christine then responded by stating, “As often as needed. If it’s not doing its job, change it! Sometimes changing things up helps refresh the work mindset, too.”

Christine finished out the chat by providing a link to download a free guide on facility signage: after explaining what the difference was between a “CAUTION”, “WARNING”, and “DANGER” sign. 

  • CAUTION marks a hazard that could cause moderate injury. 
  • WARNING marks a hazard that could cause serious injury, or death. 
  • DANGER is for extreme hazards, where serious injury or death are likely unless the sign’s instructions are followed.

Overall, the chat was a big hit with participants, including @SpaceGuard, @AxisNJ, @NesbitMarketing, @MaterialHndling, @CVTPlastics, @SERVICECASTER, @dpitstulka, @SpaceGuard, and @cdmcmachine. 

On Thursday, February 13, 2020, Michelle Garrett (@PRisUS) will be hosting a chat discussing how manufacturing companies can leverage public relations (PR) to grow their businesses. 

In the meantime, keep in touch between chats by following us on social media:

LinkedIn Page:

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Twitter for Highlights: @USAMfgHourChat

Instagram: @usamfghourchat