Video Blog | Universal Plastics Brings Global Growth Back Home

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Nov 13, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Universal Plastics of Holyoke, winner of the 2018 Associated Industries of Massachusetts Global Trade Award,  manufactures custom thermoformed plastic parts and manages global supply chains for some of its aerospace and medical customers.  Universal Plastics is also “re-shoring,” or bringing back some production from overseas.  The company has five manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and 300 employees in Massachusetts. Watch their story, below.


Topics: International Trade, Massachusetts employers, Massachusetts Manufacturing

The Need to Support Manufacturing

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on Oct 5, 2018 8:30:00 AM

Rep.RoyEditor’s note –  Today is Manufacturing Day throughout the United States. Representative Jeffrey Roy is the House Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus.
He recently met with the AIM’s Manufacturing Committee. 

Manufacturing is vitally important to the Massachusetts economy. It provides pathways to economic prosperity for residents of varied educational levels. Massachusetts’ strong regional manufacturing clusters help anchor regional economies, especially outside the Boston core.

And manufacturing is becoming increasingly reliant on advanced and emerging technologies – a trend that plays to the commonwealth’s strengths.

It is the sixth largest employment sector here. Statistics show that 10.1 percent of the commonwealth’s total economic output is tied to manufacturing. Some $26 billion in manufactured goods were exported from the commonwealth in 2016 alone.

Roughly 250,000 employees work in the manufacturing sector in Massachusetts, comprising 7.8 percent of the total work force in the state.

This local manufacturing capacity helps Massachusetts innovators bring new products to market quickly, and helps innovative companies grow to scale in Massachusetts.

The Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus was formed in 2014 and consists of 60 members of the House and Senate. As the House Chair working with the Senate Chair Eric Lesser, this caucus serves as a link for issues that affect the manufacturing industry.

We came together in particular to address problems faced by the commonwealth's manufacturing industry in filling technically demanding jobs with people who have the right skills. 

ManufacturingWorkerSmallAs lawmakers, we focus on training for manufacturing employees. We encourage innovation by helping start-ups access resources, and by expanding apprenticeship opportunities, among other things. We set policies and allocate budget dollars to bolster the economy and build upon the renaissance of manufacturing here.

We passed legislation to form an Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, made up of industry leaders, innovators, and government officials.  Our mission is to make Massachusetts the most complete, connected, and fastest ecosystem for applying advanced technology to commercialize products from innovation through production.

And it is working. We have created a great ecosystem for manufacturing, and we are committed to strengthening it.

We understand that during the next decade, baby boomer retirements and economic expansion will lead to job openings in manufacturing. Manufacturers will struggle to find skilled employees to fill these positions.

On top of that, manufacturers are faced with overcoming a negative image of the industry among young people. While most Americans consider manufacturing one of the most important domestic industries for maintaining a strong national economy, young people rank it low as a career choice for themselves.

Eighty percent of manufacturing executives report that they are willing to pay more than market rates in areas reeling from a talent shortage. It takes an average of 94 days to recruit employees in the engineering/research/scientific fields and an average of 70 days to recruit skilled production workers.

Facing these time frames for recruiting, it is no surprise manufacturers report the most significant business impact of the talent shortage is their ability to meet customer demand.

To address these needs we are fostering collaboration between manufacturers, community colleges, technical high schools and regional work force boards in order to create regionally-specific talent pipelines.

We are aligning education programs, the state work force system and economic development to meet employers’ needs for workers in each region of the state. And we are putting money behind our objectives, funding the following programs:

  • The Workforce Training Fund Program;
  • The UMass Lowell Innovation Hub;
  • The UMass Innovation Center;
  • Mass Tech;and
  • The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP).

We have created a MA Manufacturing website, which I urge you to visit regularly. It focuses on, among other things, the resources manufacturers need to access creative financing solutions, save on energy costs, attract qualified workers, and take their businesses to the next level.

We do this work because we believe “making it” in Massachusetts is critical to economic prosperity and success for all of our residents. And because it is one of the keys to maintaining the commonwealth as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

If we look at our nation’s history, times of big growth have always been fueled by manufacturing revolutions. Look at the steam engine in the middle of the 19th century, the mass-production model in the beginning of the 20th century, and the first automation wave in the 1970s. Those resulted in tremendous growth. Fifty years later, we are on the verge of another huge change, and once again, manufacturing is leading the way.

We are seeing manufacturing converge with large technological innovation. And harnessing these technologies in the manufacturing space is the next revolution that will boost industrial productivity and create growth. And Massachusetts can lead the way.

Along with you, we are writing the next chapter in manufacturing history, and I am happy to be able to join you on this journey.

Please contact Bob Paine at for more information about the AIM Manufacturing Committee. 

Topics: Technology, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

A Positive First Step for Manufacturing Education

Posted by Katie Holahan on Dec 18, 2017 8:30:00 AM

The Baker Administration last week took a first step toward addressing the shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts by unveiling a program that allows residents interested in advanced manufacturing careers to take classes at local vocation schools.

manufacturing.jpgThe Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Program will train adults at 10 Massachusetts vocational schools during the evenings and on week-ends, when equipment would typically not be in use.

Adults who complete the manufacturing training will be eligible for college credit when enrolling at partnering colleges and universities. The certificate they earn during evening classes at the high schools will be worth a specific number of college credits that can be applied toward an associates’ degree.

A planning team, made up of vocational school, public and private higher education officials and workforce and industry partners, will work on curriculum, align credential agreements, and develop internships and hiring opportunities.

“The program provides another opportunity for students to pursue an affordable education in advanced manufacturing to learn a skill set and find a good paying job in this growing industry,” said Governor Baker. “This unique program leverages state and federal resources and offers much needed flexibility to give people better career options and a path toward a college degree.”

Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said the initiative address one of the most pressing impediments to growth faced by employers.

“The AIM Blueprint for the Next Century economic growth plan identifies the shortage of skilled workers as a real issue across manufacturing and many other industries. The Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Program will give people valuable skills using resources that already exist,” Lord said.

Participating schools include:

  • Assabet Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Marlborough
  • Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical High School in Taunton
  • Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River
  • Essex Agricultural and Technical High School in Danvers
  • Greater Lawrence Technical High School in Andover
  • Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School in New Bedford
  • Minuteman Regional Technical Vocational High School in Lexington
  • Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford
  • Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton
  • Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill

Students will enroll in vocational classes in September, with expected enrollment in the first year to be between 200 to 300 students. 

While the first year of the program will be focused on advanced manufacturing, state and local education officials plan to eventually expand the strategy into other fields, such as HVAC, auto technicians, and electrical professions. 

Topics: Skills Gap, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

Manufacturing Month Shows the Future of Industry

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Jun 29, 2016 2:13:14 PM

What's the best way to remind Massachusetts residents that manufacturing is alive and well in the Bay State?

The answer is for manufacturing companies to take part in National Manufacturing Day on October 7 and Massachusetts Manufacturing Month during the entire month of October.

Go to to register an event for free publicity and helpful ideas for hosting an event. And check out MassDevelopment’s AMP it UP! to view videos of manufacturing events. Then contact me for more information and ideas - or 617-262-1180 Ext. 322. 

Why is manufacturing important? Check out these numbers:


Topics: Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

A Welcome Political Consensus on Manufacturing

Posted by Rick Lord on Sep 25, 2015 5:10:22 PM

The commonwealth’s top political leaders agree that manufacturing has a bright future in Massachusetts - and that’s great news for the state economy.

manufacturingGovernor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg today joined a bipartisan group of business leaders, cabinet secretaries and legislators to kick off Manufacturing Month in Massachusetts from now through the end of October.

The event was organized by the Legislature's Manufacturing Caucus, chaired by Rep. John V. Fernandes, D-Milford, and Senator Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow.

The observance is intended to highlight the importance of the manufacturing sector; to encourage students and workers to consider manufacturing as a pathway to a successful career; and to recognize the world-class companies, maker spaces and startups that make up the manufacturing sector from Boston to the Berkshires.

For me, as the CEO of the state’s largest employer association, the sight of elected officials from both parties standing together at the State House to celebrate the 7,500 manufacturing establishments in Massachusetts was heartening. Some political leaders may dismiss manufacturing as a dying industry, or overlook it entirely in the pursuit of the “technology sector,” but there is a clear and unified view in Massachusetts that manufacturing and technology are part of the same equation for success in creating jobs.  

More than 250,000 Massachusetts residents work in manufacturing businesses, which accounted for more than 10 percent of gross state product (GSP) - $45.06 billion - in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available. Manufacturing workers in Massachusetts earn an average pay of approximately $93,862 per year, among the highest in the country.

And manufacturers invest a far higher percentage of sales in research and development than non-manufacturing companies.

The six companies that took part in today’s ceremony underscore the diversity and promise of making things in Massachusetts – from biopharmaceutical leader and AIM member Biogen to clean-tech startup Greentown Labs, to Maybury Material Handling to grinding firm Boston Centerless to contract machining company Accurounds to another AIM member, officer furniture maker AIS.

The State House event is the first in a series of events scheduled throughout the month of October that will highlight best practices in workforce training, showcase programs that are available to employers and workers, and advance dialogue to address current work force challenges.

The observance will be broken up into five weeks, representing five regions of the state. AIM encourages manufacturers to participate in the celebration by hosting a tour, making a presentation at a local school, or attending one of the many events scheduled across the commonwealth. The weeks will be assigned as follows:

  • Week 1 (September 27-October 3): Central Mass/495/MetroWest 
  • Week 2 (October 4-10): Western Mass/Berkshires/Pioneer Valley
  • Week 3: (October 11-17): Northeast
  • Week 4: (October 18-24): Southeast/Cape & Islands
  • Week 5: (October 25-31): Greater Boston

Employers or school districts interested in participating in an open house in October can visit the following sites for more information, including guidance on how to successfully host an event.

Announcement of Manufacturing Month came one day after Governor Baker and several key administration officials discussed the challenges of training and educating the next generation of manufacturing workers during a meeting of the Massachusetts Workforce Professionals Association. I had the opportunity to introduce the governor at that event and to talk about AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century, which recommends elevating the role vocational education and other steps to close the skills gaps that threatens to impede the growth of manufacturers in years to come.


Topics: Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

Manufacturers, Vocational Schools Get on the Same Page

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Oct 1, 2014 9:47:25 AM

A group of Massachusetts manufacturing companies is reporting significant progress in efforts to ensure that vocational high schools are teaching students the skills that employers need.

ManufacturingDay2014This spring, 14 of the 30 Massachusetts vocational schools offering machining technology accepted an invitation from the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Initiative Collaborative (MACWIC) to test the proficiency of students enrolled in their machining programs.

Results of the testing are to be announced Monday in Northampton. By passing the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification exam, students will earn a Level 1 MACWIC certificate in Basic Manufacturing Skills.

MACWIC designed the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification to create a standard instruction and evaluation process to help employers evaluate the skills of a job applicant. The first of the five levels of instruction includes shop math, blueprint reading, metrology and quality inspection, safety and work readiness.

Completion of levels one and two of the Pathway can lead to a pre-apprentice certificate, while completion of all five levels can lead to an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology.

The ultimate objective is for vocational schools to adopt all or a portion of the MACWIC machining curriculum. The Pathway is also designed for use in incumbent and dislocated worker training programs.    

The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are giving Massachusetts vocational high schools that validate their Machine Tool Technology programs against the MAWIC credential access to the Pathway curriculum and online programing to support certificate instruction. The total value of the grant is $2.5 million.

The MACWIC program has been endorsed by AIM and received the association’s Gould Education & Workforce Development Award in 2013. 

Massachusetts Vocational Schools with Machine Tool Technology Programs participating in the curriculum, testing, and online programing include:

  • Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Marlborough
  • Bay Path Regional Vocational School, Charlton
  • Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Upton
  • C.H. McCann Regional Technology School, North Adams
  • Franklin County Regional Technical High School, Montague
  • Greater Lowell Regional Technical High School, Tyngsboro
  • Essex (North Shore Regional) Technical High School, Middleton
  • Putnam Vocational Technical High School, Springfield
  • Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Billerica
  • Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School, Northampton
  • Somerville High School, Somerville
  • Taconic High School, Pittsfield
  • Whittier Regional Vocational High School, Haverhill
  • Worcester Technical High School, Worcester

Several AIM member companies will assist MACWIC during the next year in efforts to secure participation in the certificate program by the remaining 16 vocational and technical schools that offer machining technology.  

Topics: Skills Gap, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

LoJack Exec: Planning, Integration Key to M&A

Posted by Gary MacDonald on Aug 22, 2014 12:02:00 PM

An increasingly competitive world virtually demands growth strategies accelerated through mergers and acquisitions, but achieving M&A success is daunting.

HandshakeThe chief executive must set the context for M&A strategy and focus the organization on forward integration of new resources, processes and values, a corporate development expert told the AIM CEO Connection recently.

Doug Flood, Vice President of Corporate Development at LoJack Corporation, said that M&A requires new metrics, leadership and capabilities. The CEO must communicate relentlessly, Flood said, to integrate the new business successfully with the core business.

It is that integration that drives most value in M&A, according to Flood.

He made his comments during a discussion on Growth Strategies with a dozen chief executives taking part in the CEO Connection in Medway. Flood told the CEOs that integration planning and process are critical to handling the surprises that inevitably arise in the rapid-change environment of a merger or acquisition.

The CEO must:

  • Define the corporate plan that is the foundation for M&A strategy as a means to reach the envisioned future of the business;
  • Commit the necessary senior leadership time;
  • Build relationships to mitigate risk as the new business is explored and change is executed;
  • Define and follow a disciplined M&A process with deliberate speed and passion; and
  • Drive focus on integration according to plan, and according to what the team discovers including the unanticipated.

“Above all else, the CEO must drive the focus on appropriate integration of the new business,” Flood said.

“That means preparing the company to be changed amid accelerated growth - ensuring the right leaders and champions are in place, and communicating the strategic context and execution progress to all stakeholders so they can understand and contribute.”

Veda Ferlazzo Clark, the former chief executive who moderates CEO Connection, said participants choose the topics for each meeting and that there was keen interest in the management role in M&A. Each session of the CEO Connection includes a presentation from an outside expert, open discussion and a company tour.

“These CEOs learn a tremendous amount from one another. It’s a uniquely valuable exercise for people who are sometimes very much on their own in making important decisions,” Clark said.

Manufacturing CEOs interested in joining the AIM CEO Connection should contact either Brian Gilmore ( or Gary MacDonald (


Topics: Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing, Mergers & Acquisitions

Small Manufacturers Need Reliable Quality System to Compete

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Aug 10, 2012 10:59:00 AM

Manufacturing often calls to mind global companies like Raytheon, General Electric and EMC.

ManufacturingBut 98.5 percent of Massachusetts manufacturers are classified by the Federal government as Small Manufacturing Enterprises (SMEs). About 7,000 of the almost 8,000 manufacturers in the Bay State employ fewer than 100 people. Some 5,200 manufacturers (69 percent) employ fewer than 20, and 2,590 (34 percent) have no more than five employees.

These smaller companies, like the giants, survive and thrive in a national and global marketplace.  Their success, measured by indicators such as the high volume of Massachusetts products exported to international markets, reflects great credit on the thousands of small manufacturers operating in the commonwealth and on their ability to maintain a competitive edge.

Remaining competitive is, however, becoming more challenging. In a survey of small manufacturers by the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University about changes in customer expectations over the past 10 years, 62 percent of employers cited increased pressure for lower prices, 60 percent saw demand for improved service and timely deliveries, and 55 percent said customers are seeking better product quality. 

Price, service and quality are simultaneously the top three requirements and the top three challenges across all manufacturing sectors. Manufacturers both large and small still find quality problems at the shipping docks. As to price, there are still too many small manufacturers that understate their cost of quality, writing down off-spec products at material costs and not at value added costs. Indeed, there are still companies that throw away more value than they make.

Proper quality management leads to lower costs, increased productivity and a better competitive position. Large companies are developing systems to manage this important aspect of their operations and pushing responsibility down the supply chain. Demand by large manufacturers that their suppliers have a certified quality management system in place is nothing new. What is new are the demands for the suppliers to take on more responsibility and accountability in the design of the products they are supplying in addition to establishing systems for traceability of their products or components. As a result, today’s small manufacturers are finding it difficult to have the arm’s-length transactions of the past, where they just made a part to print and ship.

ISO 9001 certification provides the framework of methods that allow any organization, regardless of size, to fulfill the requirements of today’s manufacturing environment. Not only does an established ISO 9001 system provide a framework for Quality Management, but its “Plan-Do-Check-Act” process provides the user with a built-in continuous improvement process that is often absent in the average operations of a small manufacturing enterprise.

AIM and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) have teamed up to create a training collaborative that will help companies to become “one in a million” by obtaining ISO 9001 training at fraction of the usual cost and in a minimum amount of time. The AIM/MassMEP ISO Collaborative is a workshop-based program that focuses on providing systems, documentation and training in a classroom as well as on-site consultation for companies wanting or needing to comply with the ISO 9001:2008 Standard.

Four to eight companies work together to establish and/or upgrade their quality management systems via seven off-site, one-day training workshops held over a period of seven months – one workshop per month – and five to seven on-site consulting days (based on company size). In addition, a Gap Assessment of each participating company is provided to set the benchmark criteria for ISO 9001: 2008 certification.

The fee to participate in the AIM/MassMEP ISO Collaborative is based on the firm’s size and ranges from $11,000-$22,000. AIM members, thanks to a grant from MassDevelopment, are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on the fee from MassMEP. Participants in the collaborative may also be eligible to receive partial funding from the state’s Workforce Training Fund.

For more information, contact MassMEP at 508-831-7215 or AIM at 617-262-1180 ext. 322 

Topics: Business Center, Massachusetts Manufacturing, Training

BuyMass to Conduct Supplier Matchmaking Event with Pratt & Whitney

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 27, 2012 10:26:00 AM

Pratt & Whitney, the Connecticut-based global designer, manufacturer and servicer of aircraft engines, industrial gas turbines and space propulsion systems, will meet on August 6 with potential Massachusetts business partners at a supplier matchmaking event sponsored by the BuyMass initiative.

PrattPratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation, will meet privately with more than a dozen pre-qualified companies at a BuyMass matchmaking event sponsored by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), the Economic Development Council (EDC) of Western Massachusetts, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Pratt is looking for potential suppliers with expertise in:

  • Five-Axis Milling
  • Plasma
  • Splining
  • Heat Treat
  • EB Weld
  • Laser drill/weld house for large CAN liners and nozzles
  • EDM drilling with inspection capability

Participating companies will be evaluated based upon the demonstrated quality of their manufacturing process, the equipment they use and their experience providing products and services under the exacting standards of the aerospace industry.

“The matchmaking event gives Pratt & Whitney the opportunity to find innovative and world-class suppliers in Massachusetts while allowing companies here to speak directly about their technologies and products to one of the world’s foremost companies,” said Richard C. Lord, President of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and Chief Executive of the BuyMass initiative.

The event will take place at Pratt & Whitney’s offices in East Hartford, Connecticut.

There is still time for Massachusetts companies to apply to participate in the matchmaking event with Pratt and Whitney. Companies that apply will be notified by Thursday, August 2, whether they have been approved for a meeting.

Click me

BuyMass is a public/private collaboration to encourage companies to develop regional supply networks and commercial relationships with other employers in the commonwealth. The initiative maintains a statewide supplier directory called and arranges focused business-to-business meetings throughout Massachusetts between global companies and best-in-class suppliers.

There is no guarantee that a meeting at BuyMass matchmaking will lead to a contract or business relationship with Pratt & Whitney – it merely provides an opportunity for a company to introduce itself.

Topics: Business Center, Massachusetts Manufacturing, BuyMass

Digital Espionage Stroke Raises Issues for Massachusetts Manufacturers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 3, 2011 2:32:00 PM

An extraordinary stroke of digital espionage by the United States may forever change the way manufacturing companies look at the security and vulnerability of their operations.

Manufacturing SecurityThe New York Times reported on January 15 that American and Israeli intelligence were apparently behind a computer worm called Stuxnet that severely damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2010, setting back that nation’s controversial nuclear weapons program by several years. The Times asserted that Stuxnet, the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever developed, caused the centrifuges to spin out of control while playing back recordings of normal operations so technicians were unaware of what was happening.

It marked one of the first instances in which nations used computer malware to cause physical damage to the machinery of another. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence began by obtaining information about the vulnerabilities of the Siemens P.C.S.-7 controllers used to operate the Iranian centrifuges and then tested the scheme on Iranian-type machinery kept by by Israel.

The Siemens controllers are the same ones used by thousands of manufacturing companies around the world to operate industrial machinery. Computers drive virtually all advanced manufacturing by translating the electronic engineering of products and parts to computer numeric controlled (CNC) machinery to fabricate everything from paper to jet engines with astonishing tolerances.

“It’s like a playbook,” said Ralph Langner, an independent computer security expert in Hamburg, Germany, who was among the first to decode Stuxnet. “Anyone who looks at it carefully can build something like it,” he told the Times. Mr. Langner is among the experts who express fear that the attack legitimized a new form of industrial warfare, one to which the United States is also highly vulnerable.

The vulnerability of computer-controlled manufacturing machinery is especially troublesome for Massachusetts, where the manufacturing sector is both highly automated and global in scope. Walk around any Massachusetts factory floor and you’re likely to see five-axis machining centers, printing presses or plastic injection-molding machines with almost as much computer hardware and software as tool bits.

The Stuxnet attack ultimately opens up a broad new set of security concerns for manufacturers who until now thought the worst consequence of a computer virus was crashed laptops. What happens now that a business competitor, a disgruntled employee or some hacker sitting in an Internet café in Asia can write computer code capable of making multi-million dollar production machinery run off the rails?

There is, unfortunately, a growing body of answers to that question. Cyber attackers in recent years have shut down nuclear plants, municipal water systems, a tram system in Poland and even the traffic lights in Los Angeles.

As early as 2008, Siemens and the Idaho National Laboratory told a conference: “Currently, a cyber attack on industrial control systems is one of the only ways to induce real-world physical actions from the virtual realm of the Internet. This is leading to an increased level of interest in industrial control systems by ‘black hat’ groups.”

The message to manufacturers – you’re going to need a bigger lock.


Topics: Cybersecurity, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

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