Georgia Tech Helps Paulding County Get Down to Business

When Paulding County Commission Chairman David Austin took office in early 2009, he knew his county had a lot going for it. Located about 25 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, Paulding has long been one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, and a new jet-capable airport had opened there the preceding November.

Economic Development Organization

But Paulding wasn’t a popular destination for businesses, and Austin knew that had to change.  To achieve that goal would require creating an economic development organization (EDO) – Paulding was the largest county in the state without one.

For help, he turned to Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), and today Paulding has the organization and strategy in place to become a business hotspot.

Getting Started

Since 2000, Paulding’s population has grown by a whopping 75 percent and now totals more than 143,000 residents. That trend would please any local government official, but another statistic takes some of the shine off the county’s remarkable growth: 76 percent of its residents travel outside Paulding to work. “We needed to change from being a bedroom community to being a business community,” Austin said.

Thomas Glanton, a local insurance businessman and former state legislator who is currently a member of the Paulding Planning Commission, urged Austin to contact Georgia Tech about overseeing the development of an EDO. After Georgia Tech was hired, the institute immediately worked with Austin to form a leadership team of nearly 100 county officials, business leaders and educators to provide input and serve as a decision maker during the creation of the organization.

“We interviewed a lot of individuals, both on the leadership team and others, to see how they wanted economic development in Paulding to proceed – the structure, the focus,” said Dana King Brewer, a senior project manager with EI2’s Community Innovation Services team.

Paulding County's new hospital
Paulding County officials are working to attract medical device firms to a 100-acre wellness park near this new hospital, set to open in Hiram in 2014.

Brewer and her colleagues at Georgia Tech also researched successful EDOs across Georgia and the country, and presented their findings to the Paulding leadership team. As for the structure of the EDO, the county had numerous options, according to Brewer. For instance, the EDO could be a department within the county, part of the local chamber of commerce or a separate non-profit entity.

EI2 officials and members of the leadership team visited four different EDOs in Georgia – in Bartow, Carroll, Floyd and Hall counties – before deciding to set up the Paulding EDO as a non-profit funded through a public-private partnership. The EDO receives funding from Paulding County, the cities of Dallas and Hiram, and the Paulding Chamber of Commerce. Each entity appoints two board members from the private sector. The Paulding County Industrial Building Authority names the ninth board member.

In Business

The EDO’s board first met in the summer of 2010, at which point Georgia Tech began assisting the initial organizational activities of the new entity, now called Paulding Economic Development Inc. One board member works for the Georgia Power Company, and the utility largely oversaw the search for an executive director for the organization.

In early 2011, Jamie Gilbert, previously head of the Douglasville (Ga.) Development Authority, was hired. “This was an incredible opportunity: the chance to become economic development director in one of Georgia’s most attractive counties for economic development,” said Gilbert, who has 20 years of related experience.

Brewer said the Paulding EDO has found a great leader. “Everyone’s incredibly happy with how it turned out,” she said. “Jamie has more energy than you could possibly imagine in a person.”

On the Recruiting Trail

Paulding County Courthouse
Paulding County’s population has grown 75 percent since 2000 and now totals more than 143,000 residents. Shown here is the historic Paulding County

Gilbert noted that since Paulding primarily developed as a bedroom community, the size of the existing industrial base is relatively small, with only a couple of companies having more than 100 employees. “Existing industry is critically important to us but they can’t be expected to shoulder the responsibility for fundamentally changing our economy in a way that will begin to reduce our high percentage of ‘out commuters,’” he said. “That change will come from attracting new industry to Paulding that complements those companies already here.”

During the formation of the EDO, Georgia Tech helped the Paulding leadership team identify which industries to target. Armed with the research and Gilbert’s expertise, Paulding Economic Development Inc. is recruiting aerospace companies, which can take advantage of the new airport, and healthcare firms, which officials hope will locate in a 100-acre “wellness park” that will surround WellStar’s new state-of-the-art hospital, set to open in Hiram in 2014.

Other targeted industries include automotive suppliers, which Gilbert believes will find the proximity to Southern car-assembly plants appealing; renewable energy firms; metal fabricators; and medical equipment manufacturers. The county also will continue to push itself as an ideal spot for Hollywood filmmakers to make movies. Several recent major motion pictures – including the remake of “Footloose” and “Joyful Noise”– were filmed in Paulding, and the Atlanta Film Studios, a full-service production facility, opened in Hiram early this year.

Since assuming his role last spring, Gilbert’s days have been filled with meetings with economic development allies at the regional and state levels and with travel to trade shows for Paulding’s targeted industries. He is realistic about how long it could take to transform the bedroom community into a business mecca but said early returns are encouraging. “The results are coming in quickly as far as interest in Paulding, and we had two new businesses locate to the county at the end of 2011 that were the direct result of our economic development efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Austin said he couldn’t be happier about the guidance provided by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “This has absolutely been a fantastic partnership,” he said. “I can’t sing the praises of Dana and her team enough.”


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Green Nanotechnology Investment: Researchers Help Assess Economic Impact of Nanotech on Green & Sustainable Growth

In the United States alone, government and private industry together invest more than $3 billion per year in nanotechnology research and development, and globally the total is much higher. What will be the long-run economic returns from these investments, not only in new jobs and product sales, but also from improvements in sustainability?

Examples of nanogenerators
Image shows nanogenerators developed in the laboratory of Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The devices contain 700 rows of nanowire arrays, which produce enough power for nanometer-scale sensors. (Credit: Gary Meek)

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers Philip Shapira and Jan Youtie helped answer that question through research presented March 27th at the International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology held in Washington, D.C. The researchers highlighted the importance of full lifecycle assessments to understand the impacts of nanotechnologies on green economic development in such areas as energy, the environment and safe drinking water.

“Nanotechnology promises to foster green and sustainable growth in many product and process areas,” said Shapira, a professor with Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy and the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom. “Although nanotechnology commercialization is still in its early phases, we need now to get a better sense of what markets will grow and how new nanotechnology products will impact sustainability. This includes balancing gains in efficiency and performance against the net energy, environmental, carbon and other costs associated with the production, use and end-of-life disposal or recycling of nanotechnology products.”

But because nanotechnology underlies many different industries, assessing and forecasting its impact won’t be easy. “Compared to information technology and biotechnology, for example, nanotechnology has more of the characteristics of a general technology such as the development of electric power,” said Youtie, director of policy research services at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “That makes it difficult to analyze the value of products and processes that are enabled by the technology. We hope that our paper will provide background information and help frame the discussion about making those assessments.”

Researcher Jan Youtie
Jan Youtie is director of policy research services at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. (Credit: Georgia Tech).

The symposium is sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. Support for Georgia Tech research into the societal impacts of nanotechnology has come from the National Science Foundation through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society based at Arizona State University.

For their paper, co-authors Shapira and Youtie examined a subset of green nanotechnologies that aim to enable sustainable energy, improve environmental quality, and provide healthy drinking water for areas of the world that now lack it. They argue that the lifecycle of nanotechnology products must be included in the assessment.

“In examining the economic impact of these green nanotechnologies, we have to consider the lifecycle, which includes such issues as environmental health and safety, as well as the amount of energy required to produce materials such as carbon nanotubes,” said Shapira.

Environmental concerns have been raised about what happens to nanomaterials when they get into water supplies, he noted. In addition, some nanostructures use toxic elements such as cadmium. Energy required for producing nano-enabled products is also an important consideration, though it may be balanced against the energy saved – and pollution reduced – through the use of such products, Shapira said.

Research into these societal issues, which is being conducted in parallel with the research and development of nanotechnology – may allow the resulting nano-enabled products to avoid the kinds of the controversies that have hindered earlier technologies.

“Scientists, policy-makers and other observers have found that some of the promise of prior rounds of technology was limited by not anticipating and considering societal concerns prior to the introduction of new products,” Youtie said. “For nanotechnology, it is vital that these issues are being considered even during the research and development stage, before products hit the market in significant quantities.”

Researcher Phil Shapira
Phil Shapira is a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy and the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom. (Credit: Georgia Tech)

The nanotechnology industry began with large companies that had the resources to invest in research and development. But that is now changing, Youtie said.

“A lot of small companies are involved in novel nanomaterials development,” she said. “Large companies often focus on integrating those nanomaterials into existing products or processes.”

Among the goals of the OECD symposium are development of methodologies and approaches for estimating the impacts of green nanotechnology on jobs and new product sales. Existing forecasts have come largely from proprietary models used by private-sector firms.

“While these private forecasts have high visibility, their information and methods are often proprietary,” Shapira noted. “We also need to develop open and peer-reviewed models in which approaches are transparent and everyone can see the methods and assumptions used.”

In their paper, Youtie and Shapira cite several examples of green nanotechnology, discuss the potential impacts of the technology, and review forecasts that have been made. Examples of green nanotechnology they cite include:

Nano-enabled solar cells that use lower-cost organic materials, as opposed to current photovoltaic technologies that require rare materials such as platinum;

  • Nanogenerators that use piezoelectric materials such as zinc oxide nanowires to convert human movement into energy;
  • Energy storage applications in which nanotechnology materials improve existing batteries and nano-enabled fuel cells;
  • Thermal energy applications, such as nano-enabled insulation;
  • Fuel catalysis in which nanoparticles improve the production and refining of fuels and reduce emissions from automobiles;
  • Technologies used to provide safe drinking water through improved water treatment, desalination and reuse.

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Pindrop Security: Georgia Tech Spinoff Secures Silicon Valley Funding & Prestigious Recognition for Telephone Security Technology

How can you be sure that an incoming phone call is really from a customer and not an overseas criminal intent on fraud? For major financial services companies, that’s a growing concern as the telephone system adopts Internet technologies – and the security issues that come with them.

Researchers behind Pindrop
Pindrop Security is using “acoustic fingerprint” technology developed in the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) to address security concerns of the telephone network. Shown are (left to right) assistant professor Patrick Traynor, GTISC director Mustaque Ahamad and Pindrop CEO Vijay Balasubramaniyan. (Photo: Justin Law)

A startup company based on technology developed at Georgia Tech offers a solution to that challenge, and is quickly gaining traction from investors, financial services companies and the security industry. Using “acoustic fingerprint” detection techniques developed in the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), Pindrop Security says it can restore trust to the telephone network and help stem the tide of phone fraud.

Supported by a broad range of Georgia Tech initiatives, the company is currently raising a round of funding that includes California venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz – which has also backed Facebook, Groupon and Twitter. It has also been chosen as a top ten “most innovative company” at one of the most prestigious information security events, the RSA Conference.

“We provide a way to detect, mitigate and stop phone fraud by identifying the characteristics of any phone call based on the device making it or the path the call takes,” said Vijay Balasubramaniyan, Pindrop’s CEO, who helped develop the technology as a Ph.D. student in the Georgia Tech College of Computing. “This information is useful in providing both forensic information about the call – whether it is from a landline, cell phone or voice-over-IP device – and the geography of the origin.”

Financial services companies depend on caller ID and other services to be sure callers making transactions such as activating credit cards are who they claim to be. But the advent of simple technologies for spoofing caller ID has raised major security concerns.

In the fall of 2010, Balasubramaniyan, GTISC director Mustaque Ahamad and School of Computer Science assistant professor Patrick Traynor raised the visibility of telephony security issues – and their proposed solutions – in a paper presented at a top security conference: the ACM Conference on Computer and Communication Security.

“The research project was to understand the security challenges of this new environment in which telephony, voice-over-IP, cellular and wireless technologies all come together,” explained Ahamad. “We all know about the security problems of the Internet. Telephony is increasingly going the way of the Internet and using many of the same protocols that we use for everything else.”

The paper sparked international media coverage, and after the conference, Balasubramaniyan, Ahamad and Traynor began getting phone calls from companies that were experiencing precisely the problems the researchers described. Because Pindrop’s solution doesn’t require changes to existing telephone networks, the technology was especially attractive.

“The fact that so many companies were asking about it suggested there was a definite need for this,” said Balasubramaniyan. “The banks reached out to us with their own specific issues. That showed us that they were already looking at various embodiments of the product.”

Convinced that they had something the commercial world needed, the researchers worked with the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) to protect the intellectual property with patents.

In the spring of 2010, Keith McGreggor, director of the Georgia Tech VentureLab program, read the invention disclosures on the research, and reached out to Balasubramaniyan. VentureLab evaluates technology developed at Georgia Tech and helps faculty and research staff launch startups that are based on technology developed in the research program.

The researchers also had lunch with Stephen Fleming, a Georgia Tech vice president and executive director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which houses Georgia Tech services for startup companies – including VentureLab.  Fleming, a Georgia Tech graduate and former venture capitalist, began his career in the telecom industry and quickly understood both the technical issue and the potential startup opportunity.

With VentureLab staff connecting the fledgling company to relevant resources at Georgia Tech and elsewhere in the Atlanta community, Balasubramaniyan began what is often most the daunting challenge: raising money. Pindrop sought a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and received help in developing the application from the SBIR Assistance Program that is part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute. The company received $150,000, and was among approximately 10 percent of the submitted proposals to be funded by NSF.

VentureLab also connected Pindrop to additional early-stage funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), and supported it in winning the startup competition operated by the GRA and Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Beyond the additional $50,000 in funding from the competition, the GRA/TAG competition introduced Pindrop to the Atlanta community and provided important visibility with investors.

The company also obtained office space in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) incubator in Technology Square. The space allowed it to hold down costs while expanding staff to six full-time and three part-time people.

In spring 2011, Pindrop was accepted into the inaugural class for Flashpoint, a new Georgia Tech accelerator that offers early-stage technology companies educational programs and mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs. That led to advice on a broad range issues that the founders were seeking to address.

“When we ran into an issue, such as how to create a marketing campaign with very little money, a person introduced to us by Flashpoint helped us with that,” recalled Balasubramaniyan, who has adeptly made the transition from researcher to entrepreneur.  “The collective wisdom of that group of entrepreneurs has been a significant help.”

The company was also connected to its new chairman, Paul Judge, a Georgia Tech alumnus and entrepreneur with experience in security companies. And the connections made during the startup process brought Pindrop to the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, leading to the California firm’s first investment in the Atlanta technology community.  To allow use of the acoustic fingerprint technology, Pindrop received a license from the Georgia Tech Research Corporation.

“Pindrop is a textbook example of how all the components of Georgia Tech’s commercialization infrastructure can work together to support researchers developing technology that has commercial applications,” said Fleming. “The founders of Pindrop have worked very hard to build the company. They took advantage of all of Georgia Tech’s entrepreneur services and used each one to build momentum.”

Pindrop’s accomplishments, including opening the door to Andreessen Horowitz, should provide encouragement to other Atlanta technology entrepreneurs, McGreggor said.

“Beyond helping Pindrop, this rare early investment from this prestigious Silicon Valley firm will offer others in the community a hopeful reminder that they could potentially also get this kind of investment,” he suggested. “Not every company has the potential to do that, but the community needs to see a local startup based on Georgia Tech research get this kind of a hit.”

Pindrop is the second company arising from the Georgia Tech Information Security Center to attract venture capital funding. The first, Damballa, is a network security company launched in 2006 by College of Computing professors Wenke Lee and Merrick Furst.

“We are in a space where the problems are real and the solutions we can produce offer a path to real impact, solving real problems,” said GTISC’s Ahamad. “We can produce innovations that go beyond writing papers for our peers.”
Atlanta has become a center for cyber-security companies, led by the success of Internet Security Systems, which was purchased by IBM for $1.3 billion.

“Pindrop is right in Atlanta’s sweet spot, building on the strengths of not only Georgia Tech, but also the city,” said Ahamad, who serves as the company’s chief scientist. “Atlanta is a great place to launch a security company.”

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Startup Receives $4 Million to Develop Drug Delivery Targeted to the Back of the Eye

Technology developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University for delivering drugs and other therapeutics to specific locations in the eye provides the foundation for a startup company that has received a $4 million venture capital investment.

Microneedle for treating eye diseases
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. The technology could allow doctors to target drugs to locations in the eye that are now difficult to reach. (Credit: Gary Meek)

The Atlanta-based startup, Clearside Biomedical, plans to develop microinjection technology that will use hollow microneedles to precisely target therapeutics within the eye. If the technique proves successful in clinical trials and wins regulatory approval, it could provide an improved method for treating diseases that affect the back of the eye, including age-related macular degeneration.

The technology was developed in collaboration between the research groups of Mark Prausnitz, a Regents’ professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Henry Edelhauser, a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Emory School of Medicine. Research leading to development of the technology was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program helped launch the company and connect it to initial funding and its CEO and president.

“We expect that targeting drug delivery within the eye will be helpful because we should be able to concentrate drugs at the disease sites where they need to act, and keep them away from other locations,” said Prausnitz. “This could reduce side effects and possibly also decrease the dose required.”

Microneedles for treating eye diseases
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. Image behind him on the screen is a magnified view of a site where yellow dye was injected into the suprachoroidal space using a microneedle.   (Credit: Gary Meek)

Prior to this development, drugs could be delivered to the retinal tissues at the back of the eye in three indirect ways: (1) injection by hypodermic needle into the eye’s vitreous humor, the gelatinous material that fills the eyeball, (2) eye drops, which are limited in their ability to reach the back of the eye, and (3) pills taken by mouth that expose the whole body to the drug.

The technology developed by Georgia Tech and Emory uses a hollow micron-scale needle to inject therapeutics into the suprachoroidal space located between the outer surface of the eye – known as the sclera – and the choroid – a deeper layer that provides nutrients to the rest of the eye. Preclinical research has demonstrated that fluid can flow between the two layers, where it can spread out to the entire eye, including structures such as the retina that are now difficult to reach.

By targeting this suprachoroidal space using microscopic needles, the researchers believe they can reduce trauma to the eye, make drugs more effective and reduce complications. The new delivery method could help advance a new series of drugs being developed to target the retina, choroid and other structures in the back of the eye.

“This is a significant advance in the field of ophthalmology,” said Edelhauser. “Until now, it has been difficult to target drug delivery to specific locations within the eye. This new microneedle technology enables precise drug targeting to the suprachoroidal space and other locations within the eye.”

Microneedle drug delivery for the eye
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. The technology could allow doctors to target drugs to locations in the eye that are now difficult to reach. (Credit: Gary Meek)

In research reported in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pharmaceutical Research, the Georgia Tech-Emory team demonstrated for the first time that this technique can be used to deliver nanoparticles and microparticles to specific parts of the eye. In later research, they also showed that microneedle injections into the suprachoroidal space rapidly resulted in concentrations of drugs and particles that could be maintained for several months.

Between two and three million eye injections are made each year, many of them to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  The researchers believe that the microneedle-based technique could be useful for treating both AMD and glaucoma, as well as other ocular conditions related to diabetes.

The $4 million in funding for Clearside Biomedical will come from Hatteras Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Hatteras focuses on seed and early-stage investments in companies developing products in biopharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic and related human health areas.

“Clearside Biomedical represents an ideal fit for Hatteras Discovery as the platform technology is highly innovative, based on elegant science and the lead product is expected to be in clinical trials in the United States in less than 18 months,” said Christy Shaffer, Ph.D., venture partner and managing director of the Hatteras Discovery Fund.

So far, the technique has been tested only in animals. The Hatteras funding will allow the company to conduct additional efficacy and safety testing needed to seek regulatory approval. The company’s first product is expected to address macular edema and retinal vein occlusion.

Clearside was formed with the assistance of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program, which helped obtain early-stage seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance.  Georgia Tech VentureLab also helped the founders connect with the company’s president and CEO, Daniel White, a veteran ophthalmic entrepreneur. Before joining Clearside, White was a co-founder of Alimera Sciences, an Atlanta company that is developing ophthalmic pharmaceuticals.

Two researchers from the Prausnitz lab who have been involved in development of the ocular drug delivery technique will also join the company. They are Samirkumar Patel, a postdoctoral researcher and Vladimir Zarnitsyn, a research scientist.

Research leading to the development of the technology has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official view of the NIH.

Henry Edelhauser, Samirkumar Patel, Mark Prausnitz, Vladimir Zarnitsyn, Emory University and Georgia Tech have financial interests in Clearside Biomedical and its ocular platform. Edelhauser, Patel, Prausnitz and Zarnitsyn own equity in Clearside and the terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Emory University or Georgia Tech in accordance with their conflict of interest policies.

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Preparing for Growth: Georgia Tech Helps Custom Orthotics Manufacturer Increase Production by 200 Percent

LAGRANGE – OrthoCare Labs was preparing to move into a new manufacturing facility when it contacted Derek Woodham, a Georgia Tech regional manager who serves west Georgia companies. The collaboration that resulted helped the company expand its sales by more than $1 million per year, add seven jobs, save nearly a quarter million dollars – and make a big investment in the LaGrange, Ga. community.

OrthoCare production
Dr. Ric Hollstrom (left), owner of OrthoCare Labs, discusses the company’s products with Derek Woodham, Georgia Tech regional manager. Woodham helped the company redesign its manufacturing process to increase production.

The seven-year-old company, which makes custom orthotics – shoe inserts – for athletes, diabetics and others, is now poised for additional growth.

“We would not have been able to grow at the rate we have grown if we were still making our product the way we did before Derek helped us,” said Dr. Ric Hollstrom, the company’s owner. “Derek helped us change the complete flow of our process to make it smoother.”

Orthotics are by their nature custom products. Physicians make molds or take three-dimensional measurements of patients’ feet, then send the casts or data to OrthoCare. The company’s first production step is to carve a wooden replica of each patient’s feet using a precision router. From a variety of orthotic-grade polymer sheets, the devices are then vacuum-formed around the replica feet, finished and packaged for shipping.

Prior to the move, Dr. Hollstrom’s five staff members produced the orthotics in a departmental-type flow, in which one person was responsible for each aspect of the production, and would pass the products on to the next department in batches. This batch process created the potential for quality issues, and sometimes order confusion, because hundreds of individual products had to be kept separate.

“One of the issues was consistency of our product,” said Dr. Hollstrom. “Maintaining consistency when each product was custom-made was difficult.  It was also difficult to judge if the required consistency was there every time.”

Woodham, who is part of Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), visited the company’s old facility to learn the production process and talk with the staff. He listened to Dr. Hollstrom’s concerns and heard his interest in adopting lean processes, which systematically reduce wasted time and resources. And Woodham understood the company’s potential for growth.

OrthoCare computer specifications
Dr. Ric Hollstrom (foreground), owner of OrthoCare Labs, and Derek Woodham, Georgia Tech regional manager, examine computer-based specifications for the company’s custom orthotic products. Woodham helped the company redesign its manufacturing process to increase production.

What he recommended was a complete change in the organization of the manufacturing process.  Instead of producing the orthotics departmentally and in batches, Woodham recommended creating flow cells in which a small team works together to complete products in one continuous operation.

Because a pair of orthotics could be made by the same group of workers in a continuous process, quality issues could be identified and addressed immediately. Having fewer products in process reduced the potential for mix-ups. In the new system, most orders were completed and shipped in a single day, besting the old process, which could take a week or more.

“The flow cell creates a better communications path from the beginning to the end,” explained Woodham.  “It’s easier to keep up with custom orders because you don’t have a large number of products waiting to be completed.”

For a fast-growing company, switching to manufacturing cells also had an important benefit: production could be ramped up simply by adding cells following the plan Woodham designed.

“The company felt an urgency to get this right before they moved into their new facility,” he explained. “Our work was a matter of understanding their processing steps and developing what would be the best layout for the equipment and the best way for the staff to work together.”

Dr. Hollstrom said the flow cells allowed the company to expand production from approximately 80 sets of orthotics per day to 250 – a more than 200 percent increase.  The improved product quality reduced the number of products returned by the doctors ordering them, and faster turnaround time increased customer satisfaction.

The improvements also caught the attention of a company that sells footwear for people who have diabetes. That customer has already sent some business to the company, and is discussing the possibility of expanding its orders. If that happens, OrthoCare’s sales could again grow dramatically, putting as many as 25 more people to work.

Dr. Hollstrom believes that growth can be accommodated without changing the processes Woodham established. He’ll just add more workers and cells.

Not surprisingly, he is pleased with the work done by Georgia Tech and Derek Woodham.

“We added more than a million dollars worth of business to the company as a result of Derek’s work,” Dr. Hollstrom said. “Derek always told me what I needed to know, even though I didn’t always want to hear it.  For instance, I thought batching was better than the cell process, but he timed it and convinced me otherwise.  What we are doing right now works very well.”

About GaMEP: The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and is a member of the national MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The GaMEP, with offices in nine regions across the state, has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960.  With a broad range of industrial expertise, the GaMEP helps manufacturing companies across Georgia grow and stay competitive.  It offers a solution-based approach through technical assistance, coaching, education, and connections to Georgia Tech, industry and state resources designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost.

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Writer: John Toon

Hoshizaki Boosts Productivity and Cuts Costs with Continuous Improvement System

PEACHTREE CITY – The Peachtree City, Ga. facility of Hoshizaki America — a manufacturer of commercial ice makers, dispensers, refrigerators and related products — recently cut its costs by more than $7 million and increased productivity by 75 percent through implementation of a continuous improvement system.

Studying processes at Hoshizaki
Derek Woodham (right), Georgia Tech’s west Georgia regional manager, confers with Hoshizaki’s Jim Quo (left) and Kevin Sanders at the company’s facility in Peachtree City.

The impressive results, produced with assistance from Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), came about after the company had labored for a number of years to sustain a continuous improvement system. These earlier improvement efforts had focused on large projects using a team-based approach, which highlighted both the existence of activities that didn’t add value and the invisible walls between departments. For competitive reasons, the company felt the need for improvement was critical.

In 2007, Derek Woodham and Larry Alford, Georgia Tech lean specialists, conducted a lean assessment of the company’s operations.

“When the results came back from the lean audit, we began questioning our business,” said Jeff Tatum, Hoshizaki’s director of manufacturing improvements. “Our CEO decided to implement the lean approach, and each person in a leadership role was required to complete lean reading material. This helped our leadership team fully understand the difference between value-added and non-value-added work.”

In-house lean simulation training class for executives and other key personnel added to this foundation. By the end of the courses, Hoshizaki staff had mapped current and future value streams, identified appropriate techniques for improvement, developed a lean strategy and planned the application of specific lean techniques.

Woodham then proposed a series of kaizen events. Kaizen, or rapid improvement, focuses on a particular process or activity that identifies and quickly removes waste. Tatum and other members of the leadership team decided to focus their efforts on four product lines in the plant.

“The results of the kaizen events were so remarkable that a Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO) was established to implement lean across the organization,” Tatum said.  “It really became the lean training center and the change agent for the organization.”

Hoshizaki also began implementing 5S in each manufacturing area. 5S (sorting, straightening, shining, standardizing, and sustaining) is a method for organizing the workplace. The “sort” phase led to the establishment of a red tag system for sorting unused items from each work area. Visual control aids were made available to each area during the “set” phase, and time was allocated for cleaning and inspection during the “shine” phase.

In 2009, Hoshizaki began to see double-digit productivity improvements that company officials expect to see continue.

“Georgia Tech training allowed each of the KPO members to understand the use and implementation method of the lean tools,” said Jim Procuro, senior vice president of manufacturing at Hoshizaki. “By using employee ideas to identify and eliminate waste, we have been able to establish a successful continuous improvement system.”

Tatum noted that more than 2,700 employee ideas were submitted last year and 43 percent of the suggestions were implemented. He expects that number to increase as Hoshizaki employees become more engaged and kaizen becomes a way of life.

Hoshizaki America was also the first company to join the Georgia Tech Lean Consortium, a forum for organizations to advance their knowledge and effective use of lean principles. According to Tatum, the monthly events have allowed companies to share and learn from each other and helped tremendously with Hoshizaki’s benchmarking.

“The learning tours have been fantastic and the Georgia Tech training — whether it’s a value stream mapping event or a lean boot camp — has been very useful in helping our employees understand the tools and applications,” Tatum explained. “But there’s a lot of activity with Consortium members that takes place outside of Georgia Tech. It’s turned into a natural support function for continuing to learn.”

Both Tatum and Procuro attribute Hoshizaki’s success to support from the CEO and his executive team for the lean initiative and for the flexibility to adjust goals and measures as the project developed. Tatum noted that while other companies were worried about jobs and survival last year, Hoshizaki was able to give bonuses to its employees.

“Something like that encourages the employees to push that much harder, because they know the honesty and integrity are there on the part of the leadership team,” he said. “Now lean is internalized and is just part of our own way of doing things in every project we do now. We are thankful that Georgia Tech continues to be there to support our journey.”

About GaMEP: The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and is a member of the national MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The GaMEP, with offices in nine regions across the state, has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960.  With a broad range of industrial expertise, the GaMEP helps manufacturing companies across Georgia grow and stay competitive.  It offers a solution-based approach through technical assistance, coaching, education, and connections to Georgia Tech, industry and state resources designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Empowering Patients: Rome Project Joins 38 U.S. Organizations Making Commitments to Health Information Improvement

Representatives of a groundbreaking community health information demonstration project based in Rome, Ga., traveled to Washington, D.C. on September 12th to pledge their commitment to a national effort aimed at better engaging consumers in health care through the use of health information technology.

The goal for the project, which is being managed by Georgia Tech health care specialists, is to improve patient health and outcomes.  The Rome consumer-mediated health information exchange (CMHIE) project aims to put personal health information into the hands of patients — beginning with those who have cancer — so they can better manage their own health.

Representing the project at the Washington ceremony were Angie McWhorter, chief information officer of the Harbin Clinic in Rome, and Alan Wills, associate director of health at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. The group was among 39 organizations participating in the Consumer Health IT Summit, which was sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Rome project will add modern communications technology to the relationship among patients, doctors and hospitals. It will provide the tools to give patients access to their health information and enable secure two-way communication between providers and patients for outcomes reporting, subsequent treatment and other information.  The new CMHIE will allow individual health data to be sent to a patient’s personal health record (PHR), and patients will also be able to decide who will have access to their information.

The ONC has provided approximately $1.7 million in funding for the Rome demonstration project, which involves Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center.  The project is being administered through the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“Cancer is a complex disease that involves care from multiple providers,” explained Wills. “We believe that putting the patient into the equation is extremely beneficial to addressing the challenge of coordinating cancer care.”

The first component of the Rome initiative will focus on breast cancer patients.  Services for patients with other types of cancer will become available later, and the system could ultimately be made available more broadly to help all persons in the Rome community manage their health.

“The better informed that patients are about their health and the more involved they are in their care, the better the outcomes generally are,” McWhorter said.  “Our goals are to help patients have better access to their personal health information and to enhance communication with health care providers by building on the technology already established in our community.”

Organizations providing health care to Rome patients who have cancer are working together to implement the new project, which could show other communities around the country how to improve community health while delivering services more effectively.

“Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center have been collaborating on information technology initiatives for many years now for the benefit of our patients in an indirect way,” noted Brian Barnette, chief information officer of Floyd Medical Center. “The three entities collaborating on extending access to personal health information directly to the patient is a natural evolution of our efforts. The healthcare industry is going through a major technological shift right now, but we can’t lose sight of the real goal. Our three organizations compete on many levels, but we all have the same goal in mind – to improve the health and care of our patients.”

By facilitating the use of technology, organizers of the project expect it to give patients a better overall experience.

“The challenge grant is just another avenue that the health care community in the Rome area has taken to improve patient care,” said Brad Treglown, director of Information technology and services at HCA Healthcare, which operates Redmond Regional Medical Center.  “By facilitating the use of technology, the grant allows patients to be involved at every level of their care.  It will help to improve patient outcomes as well as the entire health care experience.”

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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Media Relations Assistance: John Toon (404-894-6986)(

Writer: John Toon

Georgia Tech to Offer New Professional Certificate in Lean Healthcare

To help address rising costs and improve patient care, Georgia Tech will begin offering a new professional certificate in lean healthcare this September. Medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, quality mangers, laboratory personnel and health care executives will learn lean management principles – a set of tools derived mostly from the Toyota Production System widely used in manufacturing – that helps identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations.

Participants will work one-on-one with a lean health care expert to discover lean principles through health care simulations, apply lean thinking to their organizations and begin identifying areas of opportunity. The certificate program consists of four courses: Lean Healthcare Introduction – A Case Study Review, How to Apply Lean Thinking to Healthcare Organizations, Applying Value Stream Mapping and A3 Problem-Solving Methods, and Turnover Time Reduction.

“In this era of decreasing reimbursements and increasing costs, lean methodology can ensure that health care organizations remain viable and safe,” said Richard Mitchell, M.D., medical director of Georgia Tech’s Healthcare Performance Group. “Obtaining your certification as a lean practitioner can put you in a position to help lead your organization into the future.”

For six years, Georgia Tech has been working with health care professionals to conduct lean assessments, teach basic lean concepts, develop value stream maps to analyze the flow of materials and information, and implement rapid process improvement projects. The Healthcare Performance Group has worked with more than 15 hospitals across the state.

“Lean helped us get to the root of our problems in health care: waste. Until you can see it, you don’t appreciate how rampant it is,” said Leigh Hamby, M.D., chief medical officer of Piedmont Healthcare. “Lean tools help you identify and eliminate waste.”

The first hands-on course in the certificate series – How to Apply Lean Thinking to Healthcare Organizations – will be held Oct. 3 through 7 in Atlanta. Enrollment in the courses, totaling 5.4 CEUs, is $3,780. Each paid attendee can register a colleague at no cost. For more information or to register, call 404-385-3501 or visit

For more information on health care performance improvement services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Kelley Hundt (404-894-4607); E-mail: (


About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.


Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA


Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (


Writer: Nancy Fullbright


Atlanta Company Uses Georgia Tech Innovation to Provide Stronger Security for Wireless Financial Transactions

Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.
Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.

The quality of signals transmitted from devices such as smart phones can degrade dramatically with distance.  Whisper Communications is taking advantage of that basic law of physics to provide more secure wireless communication, including protection for financial transactions that use the “digital wallet” technology now under development.

Based on patent-pending technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta company has developed an encoding methodology that makes data signals transmitted beyond its “cone of silence” useless to any eavesdroppers.  Whisper is now working with First Data, a major payment processing provider, to demonstrate this layer of security using two of the newest Android phones.

“Our product will give consumers a higher degree of confidence that their private information is being protected during transactions, without them having to do anything,” said Steven McLaughlin, co-developer of the technology and a Ken Byers Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Digital wallet technology will enable consumers to use their smart phones and other devices to make financial transactions, replacing traditional plastic credit cards.  But without strong security, transferring data from the phones to merchant terminals could expose it to theft from “sniffer” devices that can capture wireless information.

Whisper’s software would be installed on mobile devices carrying the digital wallet technology, said Jeffrey McConnell, CEO of the company.  It would automatically encode the users’ credit card information, which would then be decoded by similar software on the merchant side of the transaction.  Because of the company’s proprietary coding, the information would only be readable within two or three feet of the merchant terminal – and hopelessly garbled beyond that distance.

“Once you get outside of that cone of silence, communications is no longer possible,” McConnell explained.  “An eavesdropper hoping to get confidential information would get nothing.  This allows us to set a defined zone within which secure communication can occur.  Once you get beyond that boundary, no usable information can get out.”

The company believes that mobile financial transactions are the most compelling first application for the product, but the technology could be used wherever data traveling wirelessly needs to be protected.  Other uses might be in medical devices that transmit wirelessly, in the electronic check-in pads being developed to gather patient information in medical offices, and in streaming video played via wireless devices, McConnell said.

“Our technology is an encoding methodology, so the methodology is the same with any application, whether it’s for mobile payments or high-speed video,” said McConnell, who has a background with payment processing companies including American Express, First Data and Western Union.

Whisper Communications has so far received seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) VentureLab program, Atlanta-based Imlay Investments and the Georgia Tech Edison Fund.  It has also received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The company has been working with First Data to evaluate the new product.  A full demonstration is planned for this summer, and McConnell said the software could be ready for the marketplace within six months.

The company expects to license its product to the developers of digital wallets, and to the makers of merchant terminals. Worldwide, there are about 20 million terminals in operation, and most of them would be candidates for the Whisper software.  In the United States alone, there are 150 million smart phones.

With its strong roots in financial services and information security, Atlanta is a good place to build a company like Whisper, McLaughlin noted.

“Atlanta is an ideal city for the mobile payments and security approach that Whisper is taking,” he said.  “It has always been known as a go-to place for cybersecurity and has the largest concentration of credit card payment companies in the United States, so the combination of security and payments is a natural.”

Whisper’s original technology was developed by McLaughlin and Georgia Tech alumni Cenk Argon and Demijan Klinc.  It has roots going back to “quantum key distribution” research done at Georgia Tech’s Lorraine campus with collaborators from Portugal.

McLaughlin, who is also Georgia Tech’s Vice Provost for International Initiatives, realized that technology developed for the earlier project could have applications in securing wireless communications.  But he didn’t have a startup company in mind until he was approached by staff from the Georgia Tech VentureLab program.  The VentureLab team, which included Paul Freet, Keith McGreggor and Stephen Fleming, learned of the technology and approached McLaughlin about forming a company.

“VentureLab has been nothing less than fantastic for us,” said McLaughlin.  “From the very beginning, we felt high interest, support and a push to succeed.”

VentureLab introduced McLaughlin to McConnell, and was instrumental in obtaining funding to support early commercialization studies.

“We have created a good product, none of which would have been there without what VentureLab did,” said McConnell.  “They helped the researchers and pushed them to explore how this technology could be turned into a viable company.”

VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s comprehensive center for technology commercialization, open to all faculty, research staff and students who want to form startup companies based upon their research. Part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, VentureLab transforms innovations into companies by developing engaging business models, connecting researchers with experienced entrepreneurs, locating sources of early-stage financing and preparing these new companies for global markets.

Many companies created within VentureLab become part of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator.  ATDC has been helping to launch and build successful technology companies for more than 30 years.


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