Manufacturers pleased with results of alliance

Members of Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance may look back and say a lot has been accomplished in the year since it was formed. They also may look ahead and say the future is promising.

Chris Sansone is president of the group, formed in 2010 after the local chapter of the National Tool and Machining Association was dissolved.

“We went from 35 member companies in 2009 to about 75 in 2011,” said Sansone, who added that with a shrinking manufacturing sector locally, “it was difficult to attract new members.”

He said the group exists “to give manufacturing a face in Western New York and allow companies in the manufacturing sector to network and share best practices.”

The alliance has partnered with area employment agencies because finding qualified job candidates is sometimes difficult.

On the website, www.bnmalliance.com, agencies post information about employees they represent for member companies to cull through. Another feature of the alliance website allows machining or manufacturing job specs to be posted for review only by member companies, which can bid on the job.

Looking ahead, the alliance would like to meet with government leaders to address corporate taxes and energy costs, as well as health-care companies to explore the possibility of getting health insurance for membership. That includes about 2,000 area workers.

“We are looking to get some kind of discounted plan in place that would benefit everybody,” Sansone said.

If a 50-member company is paying a certain amount for health insurance and can be part of a plan that would cover 2,000-plus employees, that could be beneficial, he said, adding, “We are in the preliminary stages of this.”

Members of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance benefit from touring Western New York’s larger manufacturers such as Moog, Ford Motor Co.

“This allows us to benchmark, network and learn from companies with more technology – not necessarily about the products they produce but the way they are producing it,” Sansone said.

At the larger sites in the past year, members have learned about such things as methods for materials handling, ERP systems, modern machine technology, robotics and the manufacturing methodology, lean six sigma.

John Goller, president of Arrow Grinding Inc. in Tonawanda, said networking has been one of the most valuable benefits of membership.

“Whether it’s a tour, a meeting at a restaurant or banquet hall, getting everyone together gets people into conversations,” said Goller, whose company provides precision grinding services nationwide to companies, original equipment manufacturers, machine shops and distributors.

“Everyone has similar problems but no one seemed to get together to solve them,” he said. “Maybe something I’m struggling with, someone else has had a similar problem and solved it. This can help me with my business.”

To arrive at solutions, he said some meeting attendees arrive with blueprints, seeking advice and solutions.

“People talk with their peers and other business owners with common problems and can get ideas for solutions that way,” Goller said.

“I think everyone leaves our meetings with something they can bring back to the office.”

Date Published: Friday, September 9th, 2011