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California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) California

Written by: Craig Scharton, CMTC Solutions

The first two questions that I am often asked are:

1) What is CMTC?

CMTC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We are primarily funded through the U.S. Department of Commerce and the State of California. We are part of a national network of organizations (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) that is focused on helping manufacturers. CMTC is the entity that is focused on connecting California’s manufacturers to resources.
President Reagan and Senator Hollings helped to create this network because they found that there were many programs to help the manufacturing sector, but few knew that these programs existed. Just as there are extension agents in agriculture, we are client advisors for small to medium-sized manufacturers.

2) What is a manufacturer?

People often imagine big industrial buildings with welders and conveyor belts. But really, a manufacturer is a business that makes a product. Wineries and breweries are manufacturers. An almond farmer who packages her own seasoned nuts is a manufacturer. We have clients who make a product in their garage or kitchen and we have clients who make parts for fighter jets. Sometimes we even have clients who didn’t know that they were a manufacturer like a restaurant that makes salsa or salad dressing as a side business.
The first thing that I recommend to any manufacturer is to set up an Assessment and a Plan of Action with one of our two incredible, local experts. The assessment takes 1-2 hours of the business’ time and is free. One of our resources has a financial background and the other has an operational background. The manufacturer can choose whichever they think would be the most helpful. Our financial expert is a C.P.A who is also a Chief Financial Officer for several companies. The Operations expert has run manufacturing plants around the world and is a mechanical engineer, with an M.B.A. in Management and is a Black Belt in Lean manufacturing. We are very fortunate to have this level of expertise available to help our local manufacturers.

Regions of Service

My region is the Central Valley, from Tulare County up to San Joaquin County, and over to the Nevada state line. I have experienced colleagues that can help if you are in another part of the state, I’m always happy to make the introduction. It’s a great group of people who, like me, really enjoy helping our businesses.

Beyond the 60+ people who work for CMTC, we also have over 150 trainers and consultants who also help our manufacturing clients. We’ve added quite a few in the Central Valley so that we can pair local professionals with our local businesses. As I look up at my dry erase board, I see local companies who will be using local consultants and trainers to help with: ISO 9001 certification, High Performing Teams training, English as a Second Language, Lean Manufacturing, SQF/HACCP for food safety and audits, SolidWorks training, and forklift safety. Those are just the ones on my current To Do list!

In Fresno County, I work very closely with the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board (FRWDB). The FRWDB has prioritized training for manufacturing businesses. This business-focused organization works closely with our clients to help their businesses to grow by helping to underwrite the cost of improving the skills of their employees. This is a huge win for our community because the businesses are stronger, and their employees have more skills that can help them to grow in their careers.

CMTC also has formal partnerships with two outstanding local organizations, the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and the Water, Energy, Technology (WET) Center at Fresno State. The SJVMA and WET Center provide many great resources for their respective (and often overlapping) members. We work with many other agencies from EDCs to community colleges, the SBDC and city and county economic development departments.

While I like to find resources to pay for some or all of the training or consulting costs for a client (depending on the business location, size and sector) I often provide other services to help our businesses. I helped one client to find a lender to help them to buy their building. I’ve helped others by connecting them to a consultant to help them get a Research and Development Tax Credit. Often I help by connecting two local manufacturers who can help each other meet supply chain needs locally.

Many manufacturers also use our services as a neutral, third party provider. We can analyze a business’ cyber security needs or which types of technology will help them to become more automated. We often evaluate which type of ERP system a manufacturer needs. Because we aren’t selling a product or software, we can assess a company’s needs and make recommendations and present options.

Love of Local


Hopefully, you can read my enthusiasm for helping our local businesses. It’s been a passion of mine for over three decades. Many of the problems that we face in our region are the result of the disconnection between the resources and the need. Businesses don’t have the time to start calling government agencies to find out which programs might be helpful to them. The programs are often buried deep inside a division within an agency within a department. Even if the business owner managed to find the programs, they wouldn’t know how to find out which was the right one for their needs. This is where I come in. I learn about the resources so a business can find out which programs fit their needs.

Business leaders are often the type of people who like to forge ahead and solve every problem on their own. They often forget to look around to see how many resources there are to help them, their business, and their employees. But it is important to use every resource to help your business to grow. There are many forces making it difficult to operate a business, so it is imperative to take advantage of the programs and services that are here to help. These resources come and go, so stay informed so that you can use them while they are available and find out what the next opportunities are on the horizon.

Finally, local businesses should be supporting other local businesses, if we want our economy to grow. Consider using a local bank. Look around to see if you could source parts or materials in our region. Use a local web designer or mechanical engineer (we have both). Attend some local trade meetings to find out what other manufacturers are doing, so maybe you could connect them to a customer, too. Find local wine or chocolate to give as gifts to your clients. I believe that we have all of the resources that we need, it’s up to us to figure out how to make them work for us effectively.


I’m happy to schedule a zoom meeting with any manufacturers in our region to see if CMTC can be helpful. Please send an email to me at cscharton@cmtc.com

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Volt Institute

Written by Tyler Richardson and Kevin Fox

It’s an exciting time at VOLT Institute. Two years of planning for scaled-out manufacturing training is finally coming to fruition. New equipment is arriving and being assembled. Additional instructors are coming onboard. Guided by an advisory board comprised of local employers, the organization seeks to adjust and move forward quickly. This includes changes to allow for operations amidst a global pandemic.

While the debates over masks, indoor dining, and county-specific guidelines continue, VOLT Institute never missed a beat. VOLT staff developed and implemented a comprehensive plan to keep students engaged and progressing toward in-demand careers in manufacturing with higher wages and job security. When school closures began in late March, VOLT had remote learning in place and students transitioned seamlessly. By April, other VOLT Institute training opportunities also moved into the virtual realm. 

The Supervisor Development Academy operated in partnership with Ag Safe began meeting online with workshops adjusted to two hour time blocks instead of four. Admittedly, there were concerns that this training for frontline supervisors to tackle real world situations while managing teams would not be as effective in a virtual space, but Ag Safe trainer Angelina Ceja reported that feedback from participants in this workshop remains positive. Volt’s Supervisor Development Academy gives supervisors a foundation to develop skills essential to furthering their personal and organizational success. The program addresses leadership, communication, conflict resolution, planning, and team building with an emphasis on building peer-to-peer relationships.

VOLT Institute’s popular efficiency training, Career Accelerator Program (CAP), taught by Beaudette Consulting INC. was made available remotely as well. This valuable curriculum focuses on organizational change management, continuous improvement, employee engagement, process improvement, and critical thinking problem solving are the “soft skill” training industry demands. Student survey results indicated that the length of time for each of the online training sessions was appropriate and engaging and either met or exceeded expectations. 

VOLT Institute campus reopened June 15 it was with strict COVID-19 protocols in place including mandatory wearing of masks. To ensure social distancing, students comfortable returning to the downtown Modesto campus continued their training on campus by appointment. One-on-one instruction is being offered by VOLT instructors to help students make up time lost during the mandatory shutdown.

Through it all, VOLT administration continues developing new partnerships with regional manufacturers such as the new internship program with Flowers Baking Co. This partnership gives VOLT students an opportunity to receive valuable work experience. Recently, two VOLT graduates have been accepted into E. & J. Gallo Winery’s maintenance apprenticeship program. Other VOLT graduates have started new careers in manufacturing at California’s oldest family-owned dairy, Crystal Creamery and the world’s largest plastic pipe manufacturer, JM Eagle.  Reports from VOLT alumni about promotions and wage increases are too numerous to list but VOLT is especially proud of its 96% job placement rate. 

VOLT also partnered with Valley First Credit Union to provide loans to students. This allows students looking to improve their long-term wage outcomes to apply for funding with most payments deferrable until the program is complete. The application process is online and very user-friendly. In addition, students get to participate in financial wellness training. Before the availability of the loan program, some potential students were deterred by the cost, which is low compared to similar programs of VOLT’s caliber but still represented a modest financial investment.

VOLT’s Senior Leadership Series in partnership with Next Gear Consulting is back. The series is designed to teach top level manufacturing and other executives important skills in strategic planning, building a positive company culture and leadership. Taught by Kristi Marsella, CEO of Next Gear Consulting, and former VP of Human Resources at G3 and E. & J. Gallo Winery, this series is a great opportunity to improve leadership skills. 

One of the most in demand technical skills for plant maintenance mechanics to have as the fourth industrial revolution progresses is a solid understanding of the internet of things. The implementation of complex automation has become the standard throughout industry. VOLT Institute’s partnership with Automation Group to teach both introductory and intermediate Programmable Logic Controls (PLC) courses as part of the award-winning industrial maintenance mechanics programs in a 20-hour boot camps are efficient and helpful for participants. Three boot camps are being offered for the summer session through August and September with assistance from California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC). Reduced student capacity for the training helps accommodate social distancing protocols.

As VOLT continues to receive deliveries from Amatrol, unpack and install new mechatronic, process control, and advanced electrical training equipment from the shipping crates, the vision first conceived three years ago starts to fall into place. Unskilled or semi-skilled workers have the opportunities to acquire the aptitude and the attitude to be competitive in a fast-paced manufacturing environment. They can earn higher wages with job security while fueling a vibrant, healthy economy in the Central Valley Region by strengthening each company’s most valuable asset: their people. All this happens while simultaneously hearing the voices from the advisory board and responding to the needs of investor partners in a rapidly evolving manufacturing industry. Training in electro-mechanical work with advanced programmable logic controls experience and access to nationally-recognized certifications such as National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) coupled with the new technology training are a pathway for long term sustainability for California’s Central Valley manufacturing industry. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, one thing stands out. Strategic planning is how to move forward. The ability to be nimble is a key component to the success of any strategic plan. If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal. VOLT Institute is proud to be part of the solution for California’s Central Valley manufacturing industry. Higher wages and job security are very good ways to attract new talent to the California manufacturing industry and grow quality of life for those already living in the area. Whether the talent is new to the area or locals with deep roots one thing is certain: VOLT will continue to thrive and provide the quality of training everyone in the area deserves. 

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The Case For a Makerspace in Downtown Fresno

Written by Janelle Smith Ozeran

Fresno Ideaworks, established in 2012 in downtown Fresno, California, is a source of a myriad of tools and creative opportunities. But, like makers everywhere, we also value our friendships, collaborative projects, the comfort of our “third space”, and the therapeutic value of getting our hands dirty as we mold clay, wood, metal, textiles, electronics, or plastics into something new and wonderful. 

Over eight years Fresno Ideaworks has grown from a small group of friendly hackers into a community workshop full of curious and creative people, eager to learn and hone new skills and share them with anyone who comes through our doors.  But since the 16th of March 2020 our doors have been closed to all regular activity – a crushing situation for people who come to the Shop for any reason, and a threatening blow to our survival as a non-profit, all-volunteer, member-driven organization. 

We immediately joined the ranks of makerspaces all over the country, manufacturing PPE for healthcare professionals and other essential workers. Collaborating with two other non-profits in Fresno – Root Access Hackerspace, and Pi Shop Fresno – we designed, manufactured, and delivered more than 4000 pieces of PPE by the first week of May to everyone from hospital nurses to bus drivers, and from mail carriers to food service workers.  We are very proud of our role in helping protect our neighbors and caregivers, but we are also very proud of the collaborative effort. We are already trying to imagine what new projects we can undertake together when our spaces are open again! 

Meanwhile, we have lost nearly 15% of our membership, and watching our family shrink is breaking our hearts. A goal for the immediate future is to establish a sponsorship fund for those former members facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 experience. Although our membership fees are among the lowest for similar spaces, they are suddenly an impossible luxury for some, even though the emotional health benefits of making and creating would go a long way to ease the anxiety those same people are experiencing. 

We also have to focus more intently on the facility upgrades that will enable us to welcome more members with a greater diversity of skills and abilities throughout the entire space. Maintaining a historic building is already a huge challenge (one we makers welcome), but opening the whole structure to more makers will require the help of angels that embrace our mission. Downtown Fresno, and our Cultural Arts District neighborhood in particular, have suffered the adversity of economic downturn for several decades now. Ideaworks is relentlessly dedicated to being part of the growth of both the economic health of the neighborhood, and, through skill-building and fellowship, part of the economic and emotional well-being of everyone who comes through our doors. 

Please help however you can. Donations to Ideaworks general fund can also be made through our website at https://ideaworksmakerspaces.org/Donate, through Venmo at @Fresno-Ideaworksthrough, or through Givebutter (https://givebutter.com/KbPYYR). And thank you, in advance, from all of us at Fresno Ideaworks.

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