Honeywell Joins Atlanta-Based Engage to Help City Grow as a Leading Innovation Hub

Honeywell Connected Enterprise President and CEO Que Dallara joins Engage’s Board of Directors.

 

Honeywell announced today it has joined Atlanta-based Engage, a collaborative innovation and corporate venture platform that is dedicated to promoting the city as a technology hub. Honeywell Connected Enterprise is based in Midtown Atlanta and is one of the city’s leading businesses in the enterprise software industry.

 

Honeywell and other leading Atlanta companies in Engage are helping high-growth startups accelerate their enterprise go-to-market strategies through collaboration with Fortune 500 organizations. As an Engage partner, Honeywell will work with entrepreneurs who are developing new business ideas and participate in its bi-annual Enterprise Go-To-Market program. Additionally, getting plugged into this innovation ecosystem will create experiences for Honeywell employees to advance their entrepreneurial capability and gain exposure to leading innovators, top researchers, and ambitious startup founders.

 

“Honeywell is proud to call Atlanta home for our software business, and we share a common goal with Engage in helping businesses grow through new technology,” said Que Dallara, president and CEO of Honeywell Connected Enterprise. “We believe this is an important partnership to assist organizations here and in the surrounding region as Atlanta rapidly expands as an innovation hub.”

 

In addition to Honeywell Connected Enterprise’s investment into the Engage Venture Fund that is managed by Tech Square Ventures to support the Engage program, Dallara will join Engage’s board of directors. Usman Shuja, vice president and general manager of Connected Buildings, will become a member of the advisory board.

 

“Honeywell is a leading innovator in enterprise software and brings valuable leadership, future-forward ideas, and strategic execution to Engage,” said Daley Ervin, Engage managing director. “We are looking forward to the expertise that Honeywell will bring to our network of senior executives and entrepreneurs working together in the pursuit of industry-changing technology.”

 

“Supporting startups and entrepreneurs through Engage is an opportunity for Honeywell to invest in Atlanta’s innovation ecosystem,” Shuja said. “By advising and partnering with some of nation’s newest transformative companies, we aspire to help them become well positioned for long-term growth. We believe the success of these new startups will strengthen the city’s international leadership as a center for innovation, particularly in the software and technology industries.”

 

By partnering with Engage, startups and entrepreneurs gain fresh insights to help them better achieve their strategic goals, understand new growth opportunities, and explore solutions to key business challenges. Engage also provides entrepreneurs with access to new customers and markets.

 

“As a founding partner of the Engage program, Georgia-Pacific is pleased to see the continued commitment by leading enterprises to work with startups and grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Engage board member Jim Hannan, Koch Industries executive vice president and CEO-Enterprises. “With Honeywell joining the platform, Engage will further accelerate its mission of strengthening corporate connectivity and fueling economic development across Atlanta and the Southeast.”

 

About Honeywell
Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) is a Fortune 100 technology company that delivers industry-specific solutions that include aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings and industry; and performance materials globally. Our technologies help aircraft, buildings, manufacturing plants, supply chains, and workers become more connected to make our world smarter, safer, and more sustainable. For more news and information on Honeywell, please visit www.honeywell.com/newsroom.

 

About Engage
Based in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, Engage is a first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation and corporate venture platform where category-leading corporations in the Southeast have joined forces to support startups building the future of enterprise. Engage partners include Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Inspire Brands, Intercontinental Exchange, Invesco, Invest Georgia, Tech Square Ventures, UPS, and Wellstar Health System. The Engage Fund is managed by Tech Square Ventures. As an affiliate of Georgia Tech, a top 10 public research technology and commercialization university, Engage has direct access to Tech’s startup, innovation, and research initiatives. Learn more about Engage at engage.vc.

Success Story: Innovation Commercialization Technology Commercialization for Professionals Pilot Course in China

by Lynne Henkiel

 

Customer Profile
The Economic Development Lab in the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Tech recently developed and launched the Associate Level Innovation and Technology Commercialization Professional (ITCP) course through Tech’s Professional Education program.

This asynchronous course contains the latest instruction of best practices in technology commercialization, and utilizes the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC)’s Handbook specifically developed for its members’ use and reference of technology commercialization practices. The International Technology Transfer Network (ITTN) developed this handbook at the request of the APEC. The Georgia Tech ITCP course launched its pilot cohort in March 2021. Working with ITTN, EDL was able to create the course and translate it into the Mandarin language for the Chinese speaking population that was identified as the intended test audience. Delivered on-line in China, the course targets Chinese professionals with two years or less of relevant professional experience in the field of technology commercialization. It is intended to provide Chinese researchers, innovators, technology transfer professionals, technology commercialization professionals, and others in the field with a fundamental understanding of how to:

  1. feed more innovation and talent into research institutions and the local innovation ecosystem,
  2. energize technology transfer practices with leading edge commercialization methods to insure that more innovation is successfully commercialized in the market and society in an equitable manner,
  3. nurture the growth of local innovation ecosystems across a country to stimulate commercialization between industry, academia, government, and startups, and
  4. foster cross-border collaborations to move innovation into global markets. The educational materials will be applicable to professionals regardless of size of economy, development status, and location (Asia, Europe, Africa, Americas, Oceania).

 

Part of the target audience for the ITCP Course: 2021 Teacher Training Course on Transformation of Scientific and Technological Achievements, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Higher Education.

Situation
China was selected as the pilot location for a variety of both strategic and opportunistic reasons. China is a rapidly growing market for technology commercialization professionals with well over 100,000 potential ITCP students.  As the world’s two leading economies, it is critical that the United States and China work together in practical ways to establish globally accepted best practices. This can be accomplished through the ITCP training program. The U.S. State Department, Tech’s EI2, and the International Technology Transfer Network (ITTN) were closely involved in developing and vetting the APEC Handbook of Technology Commercialization which has been a key underpinning of the pilot ITCP program. This handbook establishes a consensus on some of the most important terminology, best practices, and know-how for innovation and technology commercialization professionals around the world. In addition, the ITCP program is strategically aligned with Georgia Tech’s commitment to global service, international impact, and economic development. While the pilot course was launched in China, the intent is to establish the ITCP program as an international standard to level the playing field for smaller and less developed countries. These objectives are directly connected to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Particularly, goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; goal 8 – to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; goal 9 – to  build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; and goal 17 – to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, convergence of unique capabilities, global connections, and impactful opportunities. Finally, China is a thought and opinion leader in the region which could lead to a rapid and smooth expansion of ITCP to other Asia Pacific countries.

 

Solution
As one of the largest and most comprehensive, university-based organizations in the world focused on the practice of innovation-led economic development and technology commercialization, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is globally recognized and uniquely qualified to champion the ITCP program. Additionally, Georgia Tech Professional Education has instructional design capabilities and technical framework for developing and delivering asynchronous remote learning at the scale needed in China. The city of Shenzhen is home to one of Georgia Tech’s flagship international campuses outside of Atlanta; the ITCP program will bring added reputational awareness and potential collaborations to this campus from across China. As Chinese is one of the strategic languages taught by Georgia Tech’s School of Modern Languages, the ITCP program will provide practical, cross-cultural, and enriching experiences for Tech graduate students learning Chinese, especially students enrolled in the Global Media and Cultures program.

 

Results
Through this collaboration, the EI2 and ITTN teams have asynchronously executed four pilot cohorts containing 960 total students coming mainly from technology (40 percent), university, research and development (17 percent) and government (12 percent) careers. With an average student age of 36, and with more than half of all students having less than 5 years of experience, this program has been validated by its initial targeted audience. Even though this course targets students with almost no experience, students with vast experience also benefited from the course structure and content and reported they were not previously exposed to a formal and standardized course that covered the main topics a technology transfer professional should know. In terms of gender, the course has been almost equally attended by highly educated males and female students, with 11 percent of all students who participated in the pilot programs having a doctorate degree, 52 percent earning a master’s degree, and 31% having a bachelor’s degree. The role of entrepreneurs and startups in an innovation ecosystem (52 percent) and the role of universities and research institutes in an innovation ecosystem (57 percent) have been the two most learned topics and skills among the enrolled students. Nearly 80 of the total students who graduated from the ITCP course reported they were extremely likely (42 percent) and very likely (37 percent) to recommend this course. 

 

In total, 785 Chinese learners have completed the ITCP Course to date and received a certificate from Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

 

Based on the positive feedback and interest in the technology commercialization topic expressed by the Chinese students, a principal level and senior level is under consideration for future development.

 

Wellstar invests in Engage corporate venture platform to fuel innovation

Innovation is vital to the Wellstar mission, says Candice Saunders (pictured), the health system’s president and CEO.

Building on a rich history of innovation and impact in healthcare delivery, Wellstar Health System has launched Catalyst by WellstarTM, a global digital health and innovation center.

 

As part of the center’s work, Wellstar has partnered with corporate innovation and venture platform Engage to connect and collaborate with industry-leading corporations, enterprise startups, and universities to fuel innovation. To foster meaningful discussion, action, and philanthropy around healthcare innovation, the Catalyst by Wellstar leadership team will participate in a Wellstar Foundation-hosted Innovation Series virtual event on June 15.

 

Catalyst by Wellstar is the first-of-its-kind global digital health and innovation center created and operated within a health system to holistically address healthcare disruption by harnessing problems, solutions, investments, and partnerships across industries. The center defines and drives leading-edge, transformative solutions that enhance the health and well-being of people and communities with world-class results and impact.

 

As technology continues to advance and consumers become more empowered by digital solutions and information access, innovation to solve problems and seize opportunities will evolve and impact how healthcare is delivered and used. Wellstar is committed to transforming healthcare through problem sourcing from patients, community members, physicians and team members, and partners to lead mission-driven innovation. Catalyst by Wellstar is designed to harness, accelerate, optimize, and scale people-centric solutions that:

  • Disrupt how Wellstar delivers care to create better patient and provider experiences.
  • Maximize quality and safety to improve outcomes while reducing the total cost of care.
  • Enhance health and well-being for people through access, engagement, and empowerment.
  • Optimize enterprise performance excellence, efficiencies, and productivity.
  • Impact communities and the world by designing the future of healthcare.

 

“Innovation is vital to our mission of enhancing the health and well-being of every person we serve, today and into the future,” said Candice L. Saunders, president and CEO, Wellstar Health System. “Catalyst by Wellstar positions us to lead change across our system, communities, and the healthcare industry.”

 

Catalyst by Wellstar convenes and activates best-in-class entrepreneurs, philanthropists, innovation ecosystems, research and development experts, corporate partners, academicians and scientists, and thought leaders inside and outside of the healthcare industry. The center will encompass innovation that drives positive impact related to:

  • Sustainability
  • Aging and children
  • Health equity

 

“There is endless opportunity to transform healthcare in positive and meaningful ways,” said Dr. Hank Capps, executive vice president and chief information and digital officer, Wellstar Health System. “With Catalyst by Wellstar, our system is poised to purposefully drive innovation faster than the speed of change through thought leadership and collaboration. Our global digital health and innovation center will equip Wellstar to transform the way healthcare is delivered for years to come.”

 

The first Catalyst by Wellstar partnership is an investment in Atlanta-based Engage, a first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation and corporate venture platform at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Engage brings together industry-leading corporations, enterprise startups, and universities with the shared mission of elevating Atlanta and the Southeast as a leading technology and innovation hub. Wellstar is the only healthcare company to partner with Engage. Saunders has joined Engage’s board of directors and Capps has been named to the Engage Advisory Board.

 

“As a regional and national healthcare leader, Wellstar brings critical industry perspective to the Engage platform,” said Daley Ervin, managing director of Engage. “Our corporate partners are facing challenges posed by large-scale digital transformation and rapidly evolving customer expectations. Through this partnership, Wellstar will benefit from the expertise of a broad network of industry-leading companies while also leveraging the startup and university research ecosystem on their journey to design the future of healthcare.”

 

As a result of Wellstar’s investment in Engage, the system will have the opportunity to collaborate with startup technology companies as part of the innovation process, alongside other Engage partners: Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, the Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, Inspire Brands, Intercontinental Exchange, Invesco, Invest Georgia, Tech Square Ventures, and UPS. The Engage Fund is managed by Tech Square Ventures. Engage’s exclusive partnership with Georgia Tech, one of the country’s top research and technology commercialization universities, provides unique access to its startup, innovation, and research initiatives.

 

“Healthcare is one of the strategic areas of focus for UPS and I am thrilled to welcome Wellstar to the Engage partnership,” said Matt Guffey, president of Global Strategy and Transformation at UPS and Engage Advisory Board member.

 

The second Wellstar Foundation Healthcare Innovation Series virtual roundtable will take place on June 15, 2021 from noon to 1:30 p.m. The event will focus on “Designing the Future of Healthcare,” with emphasis on the role of technology and innovation. The Series convenes community, philanthropic, and thought leaders to facilitate conversation and collaboration to propel the transformation of healthcare. More than 100 participants attended the inaugural event and engaged in discussion about how to enhance health equity. For more information, contact gro.ratsllewnull@evig.

Inspire Invests in Engage to Further Fuel Innovation in Atlanta

Inspire Brands announced that it will be joining Atlanta, Georgia-based Engage, a first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation and corporate venture platform. Founded in 2018, Inspire Brands, based in Sandy Springs, Georgia, is the the second-largest restaurant company in the United States and its holdings include Arby’s, Dunkin Brands Group, Jimmy John’s, and Sonic Drive-In.

 

Engage — an offering of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of the Georgia Institute of Technology — brings together industry-leading corporations, enterprise startups, and universities with the shared mission of elevating Atlanta and the Southeast as a leading technology and innovation hub. Through Inspire’s investment, the company will collaborate with B2B enterprise technology startups, work with entrepreneurs in pursuit of industry-changing ideas, and participate in Engage’s bi-annual Enterprise Go-To-Market program.

 

Paul Brown

Paul Brown, Inspire Brands’ CEO and co-founder.

In addition to Inspire’s investment, Inspire CEO Paul Brown will join Engage’s board of directors, while the company’s chief growth officer, Christian Charnaux, has joined Engage’s advisory board.

 

The company sees the partnership as an opportunity to collaborate with Engage and help its portfolio startups scale while propelling innovation at Inspire. “Atlanta has built a reputation as a city that successfully incubates companies and attracts talent, especially in the technology sector,” Brown said. “Engage builds upon that reputation by bringing together early-stage ventures and established companies across Atlanta.”

 

Engage Managing Director Daley Ervin noted how Inspire Brands will complement what the venture platform and its existing corporate partners are doing and propel efforts even further.

 

Engage Managing Director Daley Ervin.

“Inspire Brands enhances our industry coverage and helps our entrepreneurs access new markets in key industry verticals. By working closely with our corporate partners, we derive sourcing insights that allow us to invest in startups with an unmatched fit and applicability to their strategic and innovation roadmaps,” Ervin said. “We’re very fortunate to have partners like Inspire Brands, which leads its industry and is truly leaning in from the executive suite on down.”

 

Engage is strengthening corporate innovation and venture capital by introducing a collaborative venture investment model for corporations. “Adding Inspire Brands, the nation’s second-largest restaurant company, as a partner firm helps bring more disruptive startups in food service and customer experience verticals to Engage,” said Marty Flannagan, president and CEO of Invesco, and chairman of the Engage Board of Directors.

 

“Executives and senior leaders in our partnership will also benefit from the Inspire team’s unique insights in building long-term brands with rewarding customer experiences. This will further enhance the connective tissue between Atlanta’s ecosystem of startups, corporations, and universities — strengthening the virtuous cycle of attracting more disruptive startups across the board to the Southeast and further establishing Atlanta as an innovation hub.”

 

In addition to Inspire, Engage’s partners are AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Intercontinental Exchange, Invesco, Invest Georgia, Tech Square Ventures, and UPS. The Engage Fund is managed by Tech Square Ventures. Engage’s exclusive partnership with Georgia Tech, one of the country’s top research and technology commercialization universities, provides unique access to its startup, innovation, and research initiatives.

Siemens to Award $140K in Grants to Black-Owned Businesses Across Seven U.S. Metropolitan Cities

Effort is to support the building of more resilient supply chains and is in partnership
with the Atlanta Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Centers at Georgia Tech.

 

Siemens Logo

Siemens USA announced it will provide a total of $140,000 in grants to Black-owned businesses to support diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship and business development. Siemens and its partner, the Atlanta MBDA Business and Advanced Manufacturing Centers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, will select businesses to receive the grants across seven U.S. cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Orlando and Pasadena.

 

“To build resilient supply chains, and to expand our own business opportunities, we need a marketplace that’s diverse and inclusive,” said Nichelle Grant, head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Siemens USA. “These grants are intended to help Black-owned companies develop their businesses to be in the best position to compete for contracts and become part of supplier bases like ours.”

 

The minority business community, and Black-owned businesses in particular, have experienced numerous hardships during this time of the pandemic, social unrest and economic downturn. The Siemens grants demonstrate the company’s support of minority businesses and mission to advance supplier diversity.

 

“For many years, Siemens Supply Chain Management has strategically sourced from diverse businesses to benefit from the innovation and creativity these suppliers have to offer.  Any resilient and successful supply chain needs to invest in cultural diversity as part of its vision,” said Patric Stadtfeld, head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas, Siemens USA. “We’re proud to continue supporting and growing our supplier base of more than 6,000 small and diverse businesses.”

Donna Ennis is project director of the Atlanta MBDA Centers’ at Georgia Tech.

 

The MBDA Centers will nominate up to five businesses for the grants in each city based on their financial challenges and alignment with Siemens’ supply chain needs, and all candidates will be entered into Siemens’ supplier database. Grants in the amount of $20,000 will be awarded to each of the seven winners in late February. The seven cities were chosen based on Siemens footprint and supplier partner needs.

 

“The MBDA Centers are proud to partner with Siemens as the company strategically provides financial support to minority-owned businesses during this critical time,” said Donna Ennis, director of the Atlanta MBDA Business and Advanced Manufacturing Centers.  “By providing the support our businesses need during these unique times, Siemens further demonstrates its commitment to greater diversity within the marketplace and an understanding of the importance of Black-owned businesses to the overall health of the today’s business climate and economy.”

 

These grants align with Siemens’ ongoing commitment to drive meaningful, measurable impact towards closing the opportunity gap in the Black business community. The company recently expanded its longtime partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) in Atlanta by offering guided virtual tours for employees and HBCU students to explore the powerful exhibits of social change. The company and its partners also deployed its air filtration and thermal imaging technology at NCCHR to help them remain open safely to the public during COVID-19.

 

This mission is also advanced through the work of the Siemens Foundation, the non-profit organization established by Siemens USA, and its recent $2 million pledge to Community Development Financial Institutions Funds to support social and economic equity in racially diverse communities. The Foundation, with support from Siemens Healthineers, also committed $2 million to 20 community health centers across the country to help them respond to the COVID-19 crisis and continue to provide care for millions of Americans in underserved populations. Additional donations are supporting historically black colleges and universities in their plans to safely reopen campuses.

 

About Siemens Corp.
Siemens Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 170 years. Active around the world, the company focuses on intelligent infrastructure for buildings and distributed energy systems and on automation and digitalization in the process and manufacturing industries. Siemens brings together the digital and physical worlds to benefit customers and society. Through Mobility, a leading supplier of intelligent mobility solutions for rail and road transport, Siemens is helping to shape the world market for passenger and freight services. Via its majority stake in the publicly listed company Siemens Healthineers, Siemens is also a world-leading supplier of medical technology and digital health services. In addition, Siemens holds a minority stake in Siemens Energy, a global leader in the transmission and generation of electrical power that has been listed on the stock exchange since September 28, 2020. In fiscal 2020, Siemens Group USA generated revenue of $17 billion and employs approximately 40,000 people serving customers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

 

About the Atlanta MBDA Centers
As part of a national network of over 40 centers and special projects, the Atlanta MBDA Business and Advanced Manufacturing Centers help minority business enterprises access capital, increase profitability, and scale their businesses. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency, the Atlanta MBDA Centers are part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. To learn more, visit mbdabusinesscenter-atlanta.org.

For the state’s food manufacturers, a Georgia Tech partnership is the secret ingredient to growth

Just add engineers to the mix.

 

Damon Nix inside the facilities of Project Open Hand, which prepares and delivers 4,500 freshly meals a day to seniors and people with chronic diseases. GaMEP helped the nonprofit reduce the time it takes to find and prep a meal in their cooler from 45 minutes to 1 minute.

By Michael Baxter

You would expect a building where vinegar is made to have a sour smell, highly pungent, perhaps with a whiff of apple. World Technology Ingredients (WTI) smells nothing like this. Their manufacturing facility, off a county two-lane in Jefferson, Georgia, has a vaguely mineral aroma. More dry than dank, and not altogether unpleasant.

 

Maybe that’s because the vinegar made here isn’t destined for grocery store shelves, but for food preservation. It’s called buffered vinegar, an all-natural additive that protects meats and other products from microbes. WTI makes a lot of this vinegar, more than they used to in fact, and that’s partly because of Damon Nix.

 

On this Friday afternoon, Nix is taking a visitor through WTI’s plant, pointing out its sectors and stations. Here’s the wet vinegar, seven titanic tanks and even more smaller ones, emitting a hiss-and-motor chorus of mechanized blending. Over here’s the powdered version, mixed in towering contraptions on chalky floors (that will later be cleaned), then heated, blended and bagged.

 

Nix stops at a white board with dry-erase markings that tell another story of what’s going on inside the plant — one of continuous improvement. Sketched out are five days of the work week, four areas of focus (safety, performance, schedule, issues) and an assortment of metrics. One of WTI’s workers happens by, and after glancing at the white board, Nix congratulates him.

 

“I think y’all are doing great,” he says. “These are good numbers.”

 

Nix doesn’t work for WTI. He’s an industry manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or GaMEP, a Georgia Tech-based, engineering-centric program that helps small and mid-sized manufacturing companies in the state perform better. As the partnership’s food and beverage point person, Nix applies his industrial engineering education from Tech to help manufacturers up their game and lower their costs.

 

“What I really do is facilitate problem solving,” says Nix (B.S., ISyE, ’01). He is careful to emphasize the facilitation part. He doesn’t arrive as the dreaded efficiency expert, handing down mandates and new processes to those on the floor. Rather, he operates as the quintessential engineer — conducting research, listening to people, and fostering ownership of change. When he introduces new knowledge, such as time-tested principles of lean manufacturing and quality control, it’s more as a coach guiding a player who’s motivated to improve.

 

“In organizations that really succeed, teams are empowered by top management,” he says. “The team has to own the process. I could go to a meeting and offer a bunch of ideas, but half of them wouldn’t be nearly as good as what people inside the company put forward and act on.”

 

Rise of an engineering partnership

 

Georgia Tech has been in the game of helping small and mid-sized manufacturers for a long time. A century ago, the idea of creating an engineering counterpart to America’s agricultural experiment stations was being debated in Congress. But the Georgia General Assembly didn’t wait for the debate to conclude — it voted in 1919 to launch an “engineering experiment station” (EES) at Georgia Tech.

 

Curiously, lawmakers didn’t fund the new enterprise. It wasn’t until 1934, midway through the Great Depression, that EES got its first state allocation of $5,000 and was assigned an acting director, Harry Vaughn, who described the experiment station as “Georgia’s first agency designed to aid in a comprehensive development of industry.”

 

In 1960, the General Assembly ratcheted up Georgia Tech’s assistance to industry, passing a bill to form an Industrial Extension Service as part of the earlier EES. That authorized Georgia Tech to create field offices around the state to provide “technical advice and assistance to local development groups and to establish(ed) business and industry.” The new service was the forerunner of today’s GaMEP. The partnership sharpened its focus on manufacturing in 1988 after Congress passed a national program, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The Industrial Extension Service was later designated GaMEP as one of 70 MEP affiliates. (EES, by the way, later became GTRI, the Georgia Tech Research Institute.)

 

GaMEP, which turns 60 next year, is today housed inside Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute — a good fit, given its economic development focus. With 10 offices throughout Georgia, it now has a solid track record of helping small and mid-sized manufacturers grow. One of these is Dalton-based Precision Products, which manufactures a wide range of parts to order and has achieve two crucial ISO certifications that opened the door to new customers and industries. Sales grew by more than $3.5 million. And Goldens’ Foundry and Machine Co., a 130-year-old enterprise, wanted to strengthen employee communication and problem solving. GaMEP helped them introduce a management system designed to bring company conversations to the plant floor and improve information flow.

 

Packaging insight into food processing

 

One area historically underserved by GaMEP is the food and beverage industry. “It’s the state’s top manufacturing sector,” Nix says, “yet it had not been our number one customer.” So, in 2016, he was assigned to develop an initiative to broaden and deepen partnerships with businesses in the industry.

 

Driving much of the food and beverage industry’s growth in Georgia are companies of 50 or fewer employees. These are the makers of local craft beers, hometown jellies and artisan mustards. Nix says about eight of 10 food processing companies fit that size profile, though they are dwarfed in sales by the other 20 percent, the larger manufacturers.

 

So he developed a market analysis and concluded that super-sizing a commitment to food and beverage would be a good fit. The demand was there, too. Food processing employs nearly 70,000 Georgians and accounts for $12 billion of the state’s GDP every year, according to a 2016 report from Georgia Power. Since GaMEP stepped up efforts to serve the industry in 2017, the average number of projects with food and beverage companies more than doubled, from 20 to 45.

 

When asked to describe the greatest problems facing these manufacturers, Nix quickly cites compliance with safety regulations, which, to a small food business, run from complex to bewildering. “If you’re in a business of 10 to 20 people, you may not have a food scientist on staff,” he says. “So, you’ve got to figure out compliance on your own, or else bring in consultants.”

 

Safety, he notes, is more than just following protocols in production. It involves attending to details in reporting and paperwork, all the way down to the product label. Nix shares the cautionary tale of an Oregon maker of seasonings that neglected to include hazelnuts in its list of ingredients on the label. “Of course, nut allergies are a huge issue,” he says. “That one mistake could have ruined their entire product distribution. The damage to the brand, and the cost of bringing back the brand, is so significant.”

 

While GaMEP knew it could help food companies in an array of ways — from process management to energy usage to business growth — leaders found they had a gap in food science expertise. Food science determines the safety profile of every jar, tin, box and bag of product. So they brought in a food manufacturing safety whiz, Wendy White, who had experience overseeing a portfolio of food products. White is now leading a new GaMEP program on safety, funded by a three-year grant totaling nearly $1 million.

 

For the ingredients company WTI, the primary challenge has not been safety but improving processes and efficiency. When asked what impact he’s seen from GaMEP’s help, Stephan Georg, the company’s director of strategic sourcing, recounts a conversation between a shift foreman and consultant in front of one of the Gemba white boards.

 

“The foreman said the plan was to make two batches of a product,” Georg says, “but the consultant answered, ‘Well, I think you can do five batches. The foreman thought that was unrealistic. So we brought in Georgia Tech, and the first thing Damon does is conduct time studies. It gave us that baseline information we needed. After that groundwork, we determined that three batches would be a good goal.”

 

Since then, Nix has visited with workers from WTI’s round-the-clock shifts and consulted with management. Together, they work through improvements born out of lean manufacturing, which are processes engineered to reduce waste and improve customer satisfaction. The goal is to reach 40 percent overall equipment effectiveness for producing buffered vinegar, a metric built on several components of the manufacturing process.

 

More recently, Nix introduced a new tool to these efforts: A software platform called Impruver, developed out of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). It’s designed to help small and mid-sized manufacturers of consumer products spot trends in metrics, track performance and monitor ongoing issues. “It’s great to have another entity inside ATDC working with us and our clients,” Nix says.

 

While all of GaMEP’s contributions are welcomed, Stephan Georg has special praise for the non-engineering side of Damon Nix. “While he looks at the facts and explains things in a scientific way, he also treats people here with respect,” Georg says. “They see that he’s not here to get them fired. He’s the guy who’s here to help.”

December Face of Manufacturing

DSC_0150-1024x680

Wes Jones, Khatera Ballard, and Jackson Smith

‘Friends since elementary school, they each had ties to working in education.’

Jackson Smith and Wes Jones have been friends since second grade. The pair attended the same elementary, middle, and high schools, and even went to college together. They met Khatera Ballard in their early adult years, when she married one of their high school friends. They each began their careers on different paths. After attending Harvard University for her graduate studies, Ballard aspired to a career in higher education. Smith enjoyed writing, taught school in China for two years, and knew he wanted to use his creativity in a future career. Jones said he jokingly longed for a future in sports. “I wanted to be a basketball player, but my height and skills didn’t match up,” he said, laughing. “So I majored in business and began working for Teach for America.”

‘I basically talked my way into a job with a leader in the Gelato business.’

After leaving China, Smith moved to New York City in 2010 and began working as a tutor for the No Child Left Behind program, while searching for a permanent job. Finding work in the economic downturn was difficult and after applying and never hearing from hundreds of postings, Smith saw an ice cream production manager position on a local job board. Though he had an interest in the food industry, Smith did not have a culinary background, making him a long shot to receive a response to his application. To stand out, he filled the cover letter with his personality, including his wit and a hint of sarcasm. He was shocked when he received an interview and ultimately the job.

Impact 11

Select EIprogram success highlights: 2021

Impact 10

Number of clients served by EI2 programs: 15,506

Impact 9

Number of jobs created or saved by EI2-assisted clients: 11,329