Interview with Eli Broad College of Business' Demmer Center for Business Transformation's James Franz
This article appeared in the July 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Most manufacturers know the experience: business is going well, customers are happy, processes seem to be working, yet you find yourself waking up one night in a cold sweat. Something is keeping you up and it could make or break your company’s future. While you may struggle to pinpoint the exact challenge, many resources exist to identify potential barriers and help implement tailored solutions.
Michigan State University is home to the nation’s top-rated supply chain management program and the Demmer Center for Business Transformation at the Eli Broad School of Business. The resources available can, as their name suggests, transform a business from struggling to successful and from good to great. All it requires is a manufacturer brave enough to ask for help.
“We serve as a connector and take on all types of real-world business challenges from the strategic to the tactical — most manufacturers don’t realize the tremendous amount of intellectual firepower at their disposal,” said James Franz, managing director of the Demmer Center. “MSU researchers and issue specialists can help all types of manufacturers understand if they are moving in the right direction and, if not, what needs to change.”
The Demmer Center is one of eight institutes at MSU’s Eli Broad School of Business and was founded through financial support from Bill Demmer after university faculty helped his company, Demmer Corporation, reimagine its business strategy following the economic downturn. Dedicated to supporting Michigan businesses, the Center leverages the working knowledge and insight of its faculty to develop real-world solutions for local employers.
“Here you have access to top-of-mind people — the very experts who teach the people most businesses hire as consultants at the cost of a massive check,” says Franz. “The Demmer Center provides manufacturers access to that knowledge and resources without the major cost.”
While few locations in the world offer the types of services available at MSU’s Demmer Center, Franz encourages all manufacturers to connect with local educators or the resources at East Lansing’s campus to make sure your business is in moving the right direction. That process, he says, begins by asking some simple questions that often don’t have easy answers.
As Franz recommends, “even as you are positioning yourself to ask for help — which is a huge step most companies don’t have the courage to do — start asking yourself questions. What is keeping me up at night? What drives me to that cold sweat? What is my biggest concern? Start with your current set of problems. Once you can define that, MSU and other regional organizations are well-positioned to help.”
Designed to treat each business as its own unique case study, there’s no defined 12-step plan. The Demmer team makes everything customizable because what affects one business may be wholly different than the challenges faced by someone across the street or on the other side of the world.
“Our team is committed to helping manufacturers and guide their growth but getting them to step forward hasn’t been easy,” admits Franz. “Our biggest mountain to climb is awareness. What we offer isn’t something an employer is really conditioned to seek out. We aren’t consultants, we’re coaches and there’s a big difference between the two. I just want to sit down, dig deep and get you moving in the direction you’ve always wanted to go.”
The Eli Broad College of Business’ Demmer Center for Business Transformation is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since July 2017. Visit online: broad.msu.edu.