U.S. Department of Agriculture Awards Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Grant to Address Food Safety

Grant to be used to train food and beverage entrepreneurs in underserved communities in best practices

The pandemic upended the food and beverage industries in ways that are just coming to light, such as the destruction of the peer and mentoring networks new entrepreneurs rely on to learn how to grow their businesses from basement to production.

To help rebuild those essential learning networks and revive some of the training they once offered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a three-year, $550,000 grant to Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

GaMEP, housed in the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, will train food industry entrepreneurs in Georgia and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico in food safety practices and regulations. The grant funding will also be used to train the trainers, which will help rebuild those critical networks.

This is the largest sponsored grant the Enterprise Innovation Institute has received from USDA, marking the importance of the food sector in Georgia.

“The food manufacturing industry is a focus area for GaMEP, as it is the largest manufacturing industry sector in Georgia,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have increased our food-industry specific services significantly over the past five years, and this grant will allow us to expand our reach to serve more small and underserved companies to coach them on safe and efficient production processes that will help them grow.”

Expanding GaMEP’s reach to minority and underserved populations is an essential element of the grant.

“The purpose of this grant is to provide free — and this was really important to us — free food-safety training,” said Wendy White, industry manager, food safety and quality, at GaMEP and grant manager. “We’re also coupling that with business development training.”

The training will be focused on entrepreneurs in underserved communities in metro Atlanta, Middle and South Georgia, and Puerto Rico, all areas that have experienced a lot of growth in the food sector.

“Puerto Rico has this amazing cultural heritage around food. Because it is an island, they have concerns about food sovereignty — that is, making enough food to support themselves,” said Brandy Nagel, co-manager on the grant and program manager in the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Part of why we’re including Puerto Rico in this grant is to build capacity on the island for food entrepreneurs to be safe and to scale up their businesses so that they can be successful and profitable.”

Grant partners Fort Valley State University, in Middle Georgia, and PRiMEX, the MEP center in Puerto Rico, will work with GaMEP to reach entrepreneurs in their regions.

The grant also includes funding for capacity building, in the form of train-the-trainer education in the three regions. “Our trainers will continue to disseminate this information to their communities after we’re gone,” White said. “What’s exciting about that is that it will continue to have impact for years to come as more entrepreneurs get this training, which will only serve to strengthen the ecosystem.”

Learn more about GaMEP’s commitment to food manufacturing companies in minority and underserved communities in this video.

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, whose purpose is to help manufacturers improve their performance in the global market. GaMEP offers coaching and training in operational excellence, technology implementation, leadership and strategy, marketing, energy management, and sustainability, to manufacturers across the state to help increase top-line growth, reduce bottom-line costs, and boost the economic well-being of Georgia. GaMEP is part of the MEP National Network, a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing. To learn more, visit gamep.org.

About the Georgia MBDA Business Center
As part of a national network of 64 centers and special projects funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Georgia MBDA Business Center helps minority business enterprises (MBEs) obtain capital, access markets and business opportunities domestically and globally, increase profitability, and scale operations. By providing technical assistance, coaching, education, and contacts, the center has helped MBEs create more than 7,000 jobs, and achieve nearly $6.4 billion in contracts and finance, while remaining competitive economic engines in their respective markets. To learn more, visit georgiambdabusinesscenter.org

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.

New Faces of the Enterprise Innovation Institute

This month, we’re launching a feature to introduce new colleagues at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. With remote work continuing, it’s often hard to get to know one another, so we’re looking for new ways to make connections. If you run into some of these people or someone else you don’t know at a meeting or on Zoom or Teams, introduce yourself. Work relationships are important to well-being, and this is just one way to help cultivate those relationships.

 

Carnellia Ajasin

Carnellia Ajasin, Entrepreneur in Residence, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)

In her role, Carnellia will support, cultivate, and advise ATDC member companies in ways to help them grow and scale. A particular focus will be companies working in automation and robotics in support of the partnership with Amazon Global Robotics.

 

Carnellia is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Mind Katalyst, a humanity-centered, tech-innovation, and sustainability venture studio. She was named a 2022 Georgia Titan 100, which recognizes business visionaries in the state.

 

She stays active outside of work, pursuing interests that include travel, cycling, yoga, and cooking. A graduate of Drexel University in Pennsylvania, Carnellia has a bachelor’s in computer science and a master’s in information science and computer technology.

 

Marc Carson

Marc Carson, Lead Startup Catalyst, ATDC

Marc will lead a team of startup catalysts that provides services to help ATDC companies grow, connect, and scale.

 

Marc was the founder, president, and CEO of startup Keystone Industries and founder, president and CEO of HOTPACK. He also serves as chair of the planning commission for the city of Braselton, Georgia.

 

His extensive business experience will go a long way at ATDC, where he looks forward to helping mentor young tech entrepreneurs as they make the tough decisions that will move their companies forward.

 

A fan of the outdoors, Marc enjoys hunting, fishing, playing golf, and spending time with family. He graduated from Gannon University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

 

“ATDC provides business coaching to help startup founders reach scale,” said ATDC Director John Avery. “We look for coaches who have broad backgrounds in both startups and in large companies. These two worlds are very different, but our goal is to help founders get from one to the other. Both Marc and Carnellia have very successful careers, including experience in both large and small companies. We couldn’t be more excited to have them on the ATDC team.”

 

Katerina Dimovski

Katerina Dimovski, Project Manager, Energy and Sustainability Services, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)

Katerina will provide technical assistance to manufacturers in the areas of energy management and sustainability.

 

A native of the Republic of North Macedonia, Katerina brings expertise in energy efficiency that will help GaMEP clients manage energy challenges. She worked for nine years as an energy manager in steel production and most recently as a national energy management and energy efficiency consultant for UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in North Macedonia.

 

Outside of work, she enjoys fencing, cycling, and running. She is a graduate of Saints Cyril and Methodius University, in Skopje, North Macedonia, with a bachelor’s in computer system engineering and automation and a master’s in mechanical engineering.

 

“Katerina’s experience and perspective from working as an energy efficiency consultant for UNIDO and as an energy manager in the steel manufacturing industry, will allow her to advise our clients on energy management best practices and international standards,” said Tim Israel, director of GaMEP. “We are very happy to have her join our team, allowing us to continue to grow our sustainability service offerings for manufacturers.”

 

Vance Merritt, Project Manager, Process Improvement, South Georgia, GaMEP

Vance Merritt

Vance will focus on manufacturing clients in South and Central Georgia, by providing services in lean manufacturing, process improvement and stability, lean six sigma, and leading cross-functional teams.

 

Vance, who lives in Perry, Georgia, has years of leadership experience in manufacturing, most recently as Tennessee plant manager at Metalpha, Bridgestone Tire’s U.S. supplier of steel tire cord.

 

At the end of the day, World War II history and John Grisham books command his attention. He also enjoys travel and being outdoors. A Georgia Tech grad, with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Vance is also a certified lean six sigma black belt.

 

“We are thrilled that Vance will help us expand our network of resources in the south part of the state,” Israel said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge from his previous experience as a plant manager and in other manufacturing leadership roles, that will allow him to help companies navigate many challenges from process improvement to workforce development.”

 

Kayla Burns, Program and Operations Manager, Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership)

Kayla Burns

Kayla will oversee development and implementation of the Partnership’s programs and operations. She will work with research, academic, and administrative staff, along with vendors and sponsors, as well as other internal and external partners.

 

Kayla has nearly a decade of experience in business development, program management, and operations for BlueSprig, which offers services to children with autism, and at HNCS, a company that specializes in home podiatry care for diabetic, geriatric, and other home-bound patients.

 

She is pursuing a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program at the University of North Georgia in psychology and industrial and organizational psychology.

 

Cody Cocchi, Student Engagement Manager, Partnership

Cody Cocchi

Cody will oversee the advancement of student engagement efforts for the Partnership, helping to develop a more inclusive Georgia and the next generation of leaders across the state.

 

Before joining the Partnership, Cody, who lives in Brunswick, Georgia, served as the interim director of service learning and undergraduate research at the College of Coastal Georgia. He looks forward to bringing the skills he developed there to the Partnership as he works to enhance opportunities for all Georgians.

 

Working at Georgia Tech is a dream come true for Cody, who grew up a Georgia Tech football and basketball fan. He also enjoys the beach, running, and landscaping. He has a doctorate in education in leadership from Valdosta State University, a master’s in higher education administration from Georgia Southern University, and a bachelor’s in history from Georgia State University.

 

Polly Sattler

Polly Sattler, Strategic Relations Manager, Partnership

Polly will develop strategic relationships across the state and work to increase awareness of and support for Partnership programs.

 

Before joining the Partnership, she worked as the sustainability manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where she directed sustainability initiatives at the world’s busiest airport. She looks forward to bringing her enthusiasm for and expertise in sustainability to her work with the Partnership.

 

She enjoys kayaking and canoeing, travel, taking art classes, and playing Wingspan. Polly has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and a master’s in environmental and resource policy from George Washington University.

 

“We are thrilled that Cody, Polly, and Kayla have joined our leadership team,” said Partnership Executive Director Debra Lam. “Together they will deepen our student and strategic engagement and strengthen our operations so that we can continue our mission of accelerating innovation, opportunity, and shared economic prosperity across the state and beyond.”

Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech Launches Center for MedTech Excellence

Center to provide expertise in concept-to-commercialization of medical device technologies that can compete globally and improve the human condition

 

ATLANTA — The Center for MedTech Excellence, created to support and address the unique needs of early-stage medical device technologies, launched today with its first cohort of early-stage biotech companies.

 

Housed in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and funded by a federal grant, the Center will provide expertise in product realization, technology, medical device manufacturing, biotechnology, life science, and therapeutic innovations to early-stage entrepreneurs.

 

It is a collaborative effort of two Enterprise Innovation Institute programs — the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) — and the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI), a Georgia Tech affiliate.

 

Nakia Melecio, founding director of the Center for MedTech Excellence

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the life science, medical device, therapeutic space, and what I saw was great programming,” said the Center’s Founding Director Nakia Melecio. “But there wasn’t any programming focused on taking companies from idea all the way to commercialization and including everything in between. There are a lot of accelerators and incubators, but none are focused, like we are, solely on developing, growing, and building life science companies.”

 

With its home in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, it was natural to partner with ATDC, GaMEP, and GCMI, says Melecio. “Georgia MEP, with its focus on manufacturing, can help companies navigate manufacturing strategy. GCMI’s expertise in the medical technology industry can help on the clinical side. While ATDC will be home to ScaleUp Lab, MedTech’s incubator.”

 

Georgia boasts a robust and growing medical technology and health ecosystem with metro Atlanta being a national leader in health information technology, vaccine research, clinical trials, and medical device development.

 

The state is also home to the CDC, the American Cancer Society, the Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and the Medical College of Georgia.

 

The Center, joining that network of resources, will support the sector’s continued expansion and job growth in the state, Melecio said.

 

“The MedTech Center supports and empowers innovators across a broad life-sciences and healthcare range to produce and accelerate the delivery of life-saving health and wellness solutions to people worldwide.”

 

The Center’s mission, he noted, is aligned with Georgia Tech’s goal to “develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.”

 

Supported by a $3 million Economic Development Administration Build to Scale grant, the Center will provide services at no cost to clients, who must be developing medical devices for human or animal use. They must be located in Georgia and intending to grow their employment in the state.

 

During the 16-week program, the Center will provide services to the cohort companies, including coaching/mentoring, capital raising, financial literacy, networking, site selection, cybersecurity, production scaling, product design, and development processes. There are 17 companies in the inaugural cohort.

 

The Center also includes Scaleup Lab, an incubator for developing and startup companies to catalyze growth and enhance research and development by introducing companies to industry leaders, delivering entrepreneurial programs, and providing a capital-efficient, flexible stage to convert today’s scientific discoveries into tomorrow’s breakthrough healthcare solutions. The accelerator classes will include eight to 12 companies that have been recruited, qualified, and advised by the Center’s expert network.

 

A second program, MedTech Center Health Innovation Hub: Life Science MedTech, is designed for science and healthcare companies seeking growth funding and connections to experts and strategic partners for product development and expansion. Through this program, select Scaleup Lab companies are matched with a personal team tasked with advising on the company’s next growth stage. The year-long, virtual program features presentations from advisors and investors on topics such as biotechnology, healthcare, and hospital systems; medical devices and diagnostics; therapeutics; pharmaceuticals; rare diseases; and consumer healthcare.

 

“I see the MedTech Center as a support and addition to the current life sciences and entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Melecio said. “It’s a place for businesses to get everything from customized program content to grant and investor support, all geared specifically toward life science companies.”

 

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.

 

About ATDC

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the state of Georgia’s technology startup incubator. Founded in 1980 by the Georgia General Assembly, which funds it each year, ATDC’s mission is to work with entrepreneurs in Georgia to help them learn, launch, scale, and succeed in the creation of viable, disruptive technology companies. Since its founding, ATDC has grown to become one of the longest running and most successful university-affiliated incubators in the United States, with its graduate startup companies raising $3 billion in investment financing and generating more than $12 billion in revenue in the state of Georgia. To learn more, visit atdc.org.

 

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership 

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, whose purpose is to enhance global competitiveness for Georgia manufacturers. Each year, GaMEP offers coaching and training to more than 700 manufacturers across the state to help increase top-line growth, reduce bottom-line costs, and boost the economic well-being of Georgia. To learn more, visit gamep.org.

 

About Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI)

GCMI’s mission is to bring new medical technologies to market that improve quality-based outcomes and delivery of care for patients worldwide. To learn more, visit gcmiatl.com.

 

For media inquiries, contact Péralte C. Paul, 404.316.1210, peralte.paul@comm.gatech.edu

 

For information about the Center for MedTech Excellence, contact Nakia Melecio,  678.478.2422, nakia.melecio@innovate.gatech.edu

You asked. We listened.

GaMEP now offering marketing services to manufacturing clients

 

Katie Takacs, GaMEP group manager for marketing

From automobiles and their components to food production, technology, and floor covering, manufacturing is a huge sector in Georgia. In fact, manufacturing represents 10 percent of state gross domestic product (totaling nearly $62 billion in 2019), according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Manufacturing. The industry accounts for 92 percent of exports and employs more than 380,000 people across the state.

 

The sector’s importance is no accident. It’s the result of Georgia’s pro-business climate, a well-trained workforce, and a location and logistics network that allows companies to reach 80 percent of the United States in hours by truck, train, or plane, and access the world via the ports.

 

Given the huge economic impact manufacturing has on Georgia, it might seem that marketing isn’t essential for manufacturing firms in the state. They just need to sit back and let the dollars flow to them. But that’s not the case. According to the biannual Georgia Manufacturing Survey, over the past 12 years manufacturers have continuously identified marketing as one of their top needs.

 

That’s where the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech comes in. The GaMEP, a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, has been in operation since 1960, with the singular goal of enhancing global competitiveness for Georgia manufacturers. Now, GaMEP has added marketing services to its tool kit, which has long included services such as leadership development, technology adaptation, quality systems, energy, sustainability, and implementation of lean tools to improve processes across the plant.

 

“What we’ve found is that many small to mid-size manufacturers either don’t have an internal marketing team, have one person supporting marketing, or the company is project managing multiple agencies,” said Katie Takacs, GaMEP group manager for marketing. “GaMEP has a robust internal marketing team and great partners we’ve worked with over the years, so we knew it was time to begin support manufacturers in this area and helping them meet their growth goals.”

 

The marketing services GaMEP offers include everything from strategic plan development through tactical execution, as well as improving a company’s digital presence.

 

Oneda Corp., a Columbus, Georgia-based precision metal stamping manufacturer primarily for the automotive and heating and air industries, worked with Takacs to develop and implement a strategic marketing plan for the company. The project grew to include writing customer success stories, launching a new website with improved usability and content, planning, and creating LinkedIn content, and training Michael Brooks, Oneda’s manager of marketing, customer service, and logistics, to manage the company’s social media.

 

Brooks, an engineer, recognized the importance of a strong, relevant social media presence, and knew he needed help to create it. “If you’re not on social media, and you’re not keeping up with that, you will lose your audience,” he said. “The audience now is younger and more savvy. They turn to your website and look at your social postings to determine if the content meets what they are looking for. Then they determine if they sense a business relationship before they even contact you.”

 

Learn more about the work GaMEP does with manufacturers around the state and the ways GaMEP can help manufacturers strengthen relationships with their customers at gamep.org.

 

For more information about GaMEP’s marketing services for Georgia manufacturers, contact: Katie Takacs at katie.takacs@innovate.gatech.edu.

Delegates from Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech Meet with Congressional Leaders on Capitol Hill

Tim Israel, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, in Washington, D.C. for the 2020 “Hill Day” at the U.S. Capitol.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) convened with members of the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) during its annual “Hill Day” in Washington, D.C.

 

The two-day event, held on March 3 and 4, was an opportunity for ASMC members and their manufacturing clients to meet with their respective Congressional delegation and educate them about the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program during the annual appropriations process.

 

The MEP National Network works with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers through designated MEP Centers, including the GaMEP at Georgia Tech. They are charged with assisting manufacturing clients to help them, to help create and retain jobs, increase profits, and promote innovation and growth for the future.

 

The intent behind Hill Day is to call attention to the importance of small and medium-sized manufacturers’ effect on rebuilding the economy.  By showcasing the achievements of this sector to elected officials, ASMC members are able to demonstrate a return on investment of the federal funding generated through the MEP program.

 

“As a part of the MEP National Network, the GaMEP works with manufacturers throughout the state offering solution-based approaches to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have a unique responsibility to boost Georgia’s economy by enhancing our clients’ competitiveness. I was excited to share these results with our congressional leaders so they can see our key successes this past year.”

 

In Georgia, the GaMEP worked with more than 700 manufacturers across the state to increase manufacturing sales by $317 million, reduce clients’ operating costs by $121 million, invest more than $159 million back into their plants, and create or retain 2,074 jobs.

 

As a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the MEP offers its clients resources centered on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce, and continuous improvement. In 2019, MEP generated a 14.4:1 return on investment, according to an Upjohn Institute for Employment Research study.

 

Nationally, in 2019, MEP clients reported $15.7 billion new and retained sales and the creation or retention of 114,650 jobs. Considering that the average U.S. manufacturing worker earns more than $87,185 in wages and benefits per year, MEP clients are economic drivers in their communities. MEP clients are also increasing their capacity for the production of goods. MEP clients reported $4.5 billion in new investments directly attributed to their work with MEP.

 

“The MEP National Network continues to significantly improve the productivity and competitiveness of America’s small and mid-sized manufacturers,” said Dave Boulay, ASMC board chairman and president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.  “Hill Day provides us an opportunity to showcase those impacts to our congressional representatives and allow our clients to share their stories directly.”

 

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in nine regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost. For more information, visit: gamep.org.

About the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC)
The American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) is a trade association of manufacturing extension centers that work to improve the innovation and productivity of America’s manufacturing community. ASMC advocates for legislative and programmatic resources that allow our small manufacturing clients to better compete in the global marketplace. The Coalition and its members do this by increasing awareness of the importance of American small manufacturers, the challenges which they face, and the federal legislation and programs that affect them. Learn more by visiting smallmanufacturers.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.”

Tim Israel named director of Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Tim Israel
GaMEP Director Tim Israel.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, has named Tim Israel, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

 

Israel, who had been GaMEP’s associate director and group manager of process improvement, will be responsible for the manufacturing resources and regional staff located across Georgia.

 

He succeeds Karen Fite, who was named interim vice president of EI2in July of 2019.

 

The GaMEP, EI2’s longest running and largest program, works with manufacturers across the state to offer innovation- and solutions-based approaches via consulting, couching, and education.

 

A member organization of the National MEP network and supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the GaMEP’s main goal is to help manufacturers increase top line growth and reduce bottom costs.

 

“Tim has done an outstanding job in leading our efforts to work with Georgia manufacturers in increasing their efficiencies and process improvements, especially in waste reduction, streamlining operations, and quality control systems implementation,” Fite said. “His experience and expertise, as well as his vast and deep relationships within Georgia Tech and with our GaMEP partners ensures continued success of our mission.”

 

Israel, a 30-year veteran at Georgia Tech, began his career as a project engineer in Tech’s Gainesville Regional Office. He also served as a project manager in Georgia Tech’s Georgia Productivity and Quality Center (GPQC) and the Center for International Standards and Quality (CISQ).

 

An expert in lean manufacturing, quality management systems, and supplier development, Israel earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech.

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership taps Wendy White to Lead Statewide Efforts in Food Safety Program

Wendy White headshot
Wendy White is a food safety project manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Wendy White, a nationally known food safety expert, has joined the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) as a food safety project manager.

 

In that capacity, she will provide educational outreach and support to help Georgia food manufacturers improve their food safety and quality systems.

 

Prior to joining the GaMEP, White was director of corporate food safety and quality at Golden State Foods, a food manufacturer and distributor in the industry with more than 35 sites around the world.

 

“I will work to help Georgia food manufacturers comply with government regulations for food safety and to be in compliance with those rules to avoid heavy fines, delays, and shutdowns,” White said.

 

She also will lead GaMEP’s new Food Safety Cohort Program, helping companies achieve compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA,) through a series of six 1-day group training sessions and additional one-on-one coaching sessions.

 

“Wendy brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise which will be especially critical for our small- to medium-sized food manufacturers in Georgia,” said GaMEP Associate Director Tim Israel.

 

Many large companies have the resources to devote strictly to their compliance activities, but our small companies, don’t always have that, he said.

 

“Through her efforts, Wendy will help those smaller Georgia food manufacturers develop and expand robust compliance activities so that they’re sustainable over the long term as well as, easy to understand and implement into their operations,” Israel said.

 

Georgia is among the nation’s leading agriculture states and the industry accounts for nearly $75 billion of the state’s economy each year.

 

Food manufacturing, or food processing, is a related and growing segment of the Georgia economy. This sector, which includes 69,000 jobs across Georgia, generates $11 billion to $12 billion each year in total output.

 

White has overseen food safety operations at multiple facilities where she implemented Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and related quality programs.

 

Her experience also includes overseeing internal audits, implementing corporate programs, ensuring regulatory compliance, elevating food safety culture, and supporting global supply chain management. She successfully implemented multiple Global Food Safety Initiative (GSFI) Certification Programs and is on the editorial board of Food Safety Magazine.

 

White is also a highly sought-after speaker at food safety conferences and is very involved in the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP). She’s held multiple leadership positions, and currently serves as vice chair of the Meat and Poultry PDG and sits on its Foundation Committee.  White is past president of the Georgia Association of Food Protection (GAFP) and currently is an IAFP board delegate.

 

She received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in food science from the University of Georgia.

 

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP): 

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in nine regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost. For more information, visit: gamep.org.

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership recruiting companies to participate in new energy management improvement program

Federal award supports targeted focus on energy management system implementation and improvements for manufacturers in six southern states.

 

Randy Green, GaMEP project manager in the Energy and Sustainability Group, performs an energy audit with one of his clients in Emanuel County in Georgia.
Randy Green, GaMEP project manager in the Energy and Sustainability Group, performs an energy audit with one of his clients in Emanuel County in Georgia.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech has launched a new program to help manufacturers boost their competitiveness by implementing energy management best practices in ISO 50001.

 

A 12-month effort, the Southeast MEP Energy Management Program is being funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

 

“The program aims to help companies in the Southeast accelerate their energy and cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating best practices as outlined by ISO 50001,” said Bill Meffert, the GaMEP’s group manager for energy and sustainability projects.

The ISO 50001 Energy Management System — an international standard in which the GaMEP had a role in developing when first drafted in 2011 and its 2018 revisions — provides business and industry with an energy performance improvement framework.

“That’s the focus of the ISO 50001 training and coaching. We’re assisting companies in their efforts to bring energy costs under control and make smart energy usage part of their daily processes,” Meffert said.

 

Participants in the Southeast MEP Energy Management Program will take a series of classes and webinar sessions, and receive on-site coaching over a 12-month period. Completing the program allows them to be certified by the U.S. Department of Energy as 50001 Ready by showing they’ve implemented the standard into their operations. They can also take an additional step to become certified, Meffert said.

The class for the first cohort launches in early 2019 and applications are being accepted at this link: https://gamep.org/southeast-energy-management-program/.

 

The federal grant covers most of the cost for the training, but participating companies will pay about 25 percent of that. As part of the grant, the GaMEP will partner with MEPs in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Texas. Those sister MEPs will find clients in those states to work with them to implement the ISO 50001 management system.

“For many companies, energy use is a critical component of their ability to maintain a competitive edge,” Meffert said.

 

A medium- to large-sized company with 250 employees or more could spend more than $1 million a year on energy, including electricity, natural gas, fuel, and water.

 

“What we see with the companies that we’ve worked with to adopt the ISO standard in the past is that they achieve energy performance improvements that go beyond the typical approaches,” he said. “Roughly 70 percent of the savings achieved are through operational controls and behavior change.”

 

Since the ISO standard’s adoption in 2011, the GaMEP has helped more than 70 facilities in North America to implement ISO 50001, with most becoming certified, including nine in the Southeast.

 

“This energy management system is applicable to a whole host of industries from textiles and floor coverings to food and beverage to automotive manufacturing,” Meffert said. “One of the reasons we sought to get more companies in the Southeast to adopt this energy standard is because we have such a strong manufacturing presence in all of these sectors.

 

“Incorporating these standards and changing processes for energy usage can really make a difference to the bottom line, while also helping companies meet their competitiveness and sustainability objectives,” Meffert said.

 

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in 10 regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost. For more information, please visit gamep.org.

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech awarded grant for food safety modernization program

U.S. Department of Commerce award will support targeted 

focus on small food and beverage manufacturers in four states.

 

GaMEP Associate Director Timothy D. Israel.
GaMEP Associate Director Timothy D. Israel.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech was awarded a $986,805 grant to create a food safety program that will serve small food and beverage manufacturers in Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, and Oregon.

 

This four-state MEP effort, led by the GaMEP, is aimed at helping these small manufacturers comply with the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. The law, enacted in 2011, seeks to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by shifting regulators’ attention to contamination prevention to reduce outbreaks.

 

The grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)will support the effort over a three-year period. The award was part of $7 million in total grants NIST gave to MEP centers in seven states and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.

 

The GaMEP is designing an affordable FSMA compliance and food safety management system implementation program with its partners for small and very small food and beverage manufacturers within each state.

 

“Agriculture and industries related to food are critical to the economies of Georgia and to the states that we’re partnering with, both in direct financial impact, and jobs,” said GaMEP Associate Director Timothy D. Israel.

 

“But as large as the sector is, it’s chiefly comprised of small companies or very small family-run businesses or partnerships that don’t always have the resources or expertise to meet all the requirements for safety compliance.”

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017 it monitored between 18 and 37 potential food poisoning cases and clusters each week and almost 200 weekly cases of outbreaks affecting multiple states.

 

Protecting the nation’s food supply chain is critical, but even more so for small and very small food processors that are responding to consumer taste trends, are often processing high risk foods that include fresh produce, dry ingredients, and dairy, he said.

 

“All of those types of foods have experienced outbreaks in the last few years and most of the small food processing businesses in Georgia and those of our partner states simply can’t afford the financial toll of a recall or disruption,” Israel said. “This is one of the reasons this critical need has to be addressed.”

 

The program services will first target FSMA compliance in the development of food safety management systems for human consumption, Israel said. It would then potentially be expanded to support manufacturers of pet food, as well as food safety management system certification, third-party certification audits, food defense compliance, and technology insertion for hazard controls.

 

“Agriculture contributes $73 billion to Georgia’s economy each year, and food processing manufacturing adds another $11 billion to $12 billion each year to it,” he said. “That’s why it’s imperative we focus our efforts on ensuring these small companies and very small companies have the tools, resources, and training to be in compliance.”

 

About Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)

GaMEP exists to serve manufacturers and advance Georgia manufacturing. GaMEP is a program within 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). With offices in 10 regions across the state, GaMEP has served Georgia manufacturers since 1960. Through coaching and training, GaMEP offers solutions-based approaches designed to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost. For more information, visit: gamep.org.