A business development opportunity for Rhode Island manufacturers

Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Phases


Rhode Island Manufacturers have been focusing intently on their businesses, often for generations. Yet, the last decade or two have brought unprecedented change: global competition and the opening of global supply chain markets, advancements in lean manufacturing, advancement in the tools of innovation, research and development, and shifts in the methods used to communicate with customers.

The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge (MIC) offers Rhode Island manufacturers the chance to work alongside a team of consultants to accurately frame challenges they face, define priorities, and bring clarity to their strategic focus. Often, the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge strategic assessment is the first time a company has had an outside-in view of their business in decades, or even a generation.

Are you ready to move your company forward?

To schedule a Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Strategic Assessment, contact us today

The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, a program of Polaris MEP, in partnership with Commerce RI, is made possible by a grant to Commerce RI from the Office of Economic Adjustment, U.S. Department of Defense.

Strategic Assessment

“The questions forced me to think about my business in ways I may not have previously. The structured process allowed a review of all business aspects, and then narrowed down to a list of priorities. My plan is to review the priorities and develop a roadmap to break through the barriers.”

Rick Becker, President
Garland Writing Instruments

The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge assessment helps leadership develop organizational clarity, making action and change easier. During the 360-degree business review, company leadership and the MIC team pinpoint areas ripe for change and advancement, and galvanize the leadership around a set of priorities they helped create.

The process culminates in a report that provides insight on the company’s current state, identifies at least 3 opportunities to improve processes, innovate or diversify, and provides a list of resources to get the projects started.

Since 2015, 48 Rhode Island Companies have participated in the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge or its predecessor, STEAM Engine. The companies have median revenue of $8.5 million. Recommendations range from redesigning manufacturing processes to reduce waste and improve product quality, undertaking ITAR and EAR training for export compliance in order to expand a brand globally, and developing brand strategies and marketing materials that accurately reflect the company’s strengths.

Case Study

Revealing Niche Markets and Solutions for Diversifying

The Assessment:

Through the 360 degree strategic assessment, the MIC team identified a niche that the product fills in the retail market, but the product doesn’t have a brand strategy or packaging that is appropriate for retail.

The Result:

The company received a growth implementation award to work with a marketing expert and a product design firm to develop new packaging that highlights the product is made in the U.S.A and of superior quality. The company projects they’ll receive $600K in new revenue from wholesalers who will sell the product into sporting goods stores across the country.

Growth Implementation

Since 2016, funding from the Office of Economic Adjustment through the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Polaris MEP has allowed Polaris MEP to invest almost $700,000 in 49 high priority projects at 24 companies, leveraging the companies to leverage expertise and act on opportunities identified during the strategic assessment. Projects include:

  • Create process protocols and work instructions that will reduce rejected product and scrap. This process is estimated to save the company more than $300,000 annually.
  • Develop a process improvement training and defect reduction project for one part that early testing indicates will save the company $70,000 annually.
  • Formulate a strategy to leverage a company’s high precision manufacturing process and expand production into the aerospace industry.

Polaris MEP estimates an economic impact of $3.5M or more from the $700K investment in Manufacturing Innovation Challenge implementation projects.

From Stodgy and Small to Expanding the Customer Base

The Challenge:

A contract manufacturer in the defense, medical, and industrial sectors was looking for insight and advice to expand their market and increase operations and revenue.

The Process:

The MIC team conducted a total business review of the company, and made recommendations for areas ripe for innovation and growth. The team found the company’s website was not an accurate representation of the company – instead, the dated, non-responsive design created an image of a stodgy, small company that did not have the attention to detail or quality necessary to handle large or complex orders.

Taking the MIC teams suggestions, the company implemented this actionable project by partnering with a local web design solution provider to create a brand strategy communicated through a responsive website with SEO optimization, enhanced search, and inbound marketing opportunities, SEO optimization and online branding.

The Result:

The new website generates inquiries from qualified leads capable of placing six-figure orders over the course of a year. This has allowed the company to expand their customer base, and develop relationships with companies that invest significantly more annually on the kinds of services the company offers. As a result, the company has increased the average order size significantly.

Structures and Strategy for Next Generation Leadership

The Challenge:

A Rhode Island manufacturer moving into the 3rd generation of ownership saw significant opportunities for expansion and the development of new product offerings. However, the current work processes and management structure was not well developed.

The Process:

After completing a 360 degree strategic assessment with the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge initial strategic team, the company worked to implement their recommendations. They worked with a MIC consultant with expertise in to create a succession planning and workforce development strategy. The effort created training opportunities for key employees to develop new skills that will allow them to take on increased responsibility in the company.

The Result:

The company has become a Raytheon approved vendor. They are expanding product offerings into composites, metrology, and metal detail work, adding diversity, stability, and profitability to the business. The company became a Raytheon approved vendor and will add 3 or 4 new employees in 2018. Revenue is expected to increase by more than $1 million.

Take a fresh look at your business with the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge

Contact Polaris MEP

Meet the MIC Team

The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge team of consultants and academics, include an industrial engineer, a design engineer, as well as professionals with expertise in branding/marketing, the manufacturing supply chain, and organizational development professional.

Catalyze and Educate

Funding from the U.S. Office of Economic Adjustment through the RI Commerce Corporation also supported these design for manufacturing innovation opportunities:

Design Catalyst

is helping three Rhode Island manufacturers toward new product development, enabling them to diversify their production portfolios and potentially enter new markets.

Design for Manufacturing Innovation Certificate Program

developed by Rhode Island School of Design Executive Education in consultation with national manufacturers and designers.

Design Thinking Certificate Program

developed by Bryant University Executive Development Center offer a innovative and contemporary approach to the world of design.


enhances the potential that sits at the intersection of industrial design and advanced manufacturing by helping companies realize the benefits of new manufacturing technologies.

mic logos

The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, a program of Polaris MEP, in partnership with Commerce RI, is made possible by a grant to Commerce RI from the Office of Economic Adjustment, U.S. Department of Defense.