EI2 Programs Help Keep Georgia Businesses Lean and Healthy

by Jerry Grillo

Trey Sawyers, Katie Hines, and Sean Castillo are helping keep Georgia businesses lean and safe. (Photo: Jerry Grillo)

Sean Castillo is in the win-win business. As an industrial hygienist in the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), his job is to ensure that employees are safe in their workspaces, and when he does that, he simultaneously improves a company’s performance.

That’s been a theme for Castillo and his colleagues in the Safety, Health, Environmental Services (SHES) program and their partners in the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), part of EI2’s suite of programs aimed at helping Georgia businesses thrive.

“A healthier workforce is healthy for business,” said Castillo, part of the SHES team of consultants who often work closely with their GaMEP counterparts to improve safety while also maximizing productivity.

This team of experts from EI2 assist companies trying to reach that critical intersection of both, combining smart ergonomics and safety enhancements with lean manufacturing practices. This can solve human performance gaps due to fatigue, heat, or some other environmental stressor, while helping businesses continue to improve their production processes and, ultimately, their bottom line.

These stressors cost U.S. industry billions of dollars each year — fatigue, for example, is responsible for about $136 billion in lost productivity.

“Protecting your employee — investing in safety now — saves a lot of money later,” Castillo said. “It equates to less money spent on workers compensation and less employee turnover, which means less time training new employees, and that ideally leads to a more efficient process in the workplace.”

It takes careful and intentional collaboration to bring those moving pieces together, and inextricably linked programs like SHES and GaMEP can help orchestrate all of that.

Ensuring Safe Workspaces

SHES is staffed by safety consultants, like Castillo, who provide a free and essential service to Georgia businesses. They help companies ensure that they meet or exceed the standards set by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), mainly through SHES’ flagship OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program.

“Our job is to ensure that workspaces and processes are designed so that anybody can perform the work safely,” said Trey Sawyers, a safety, health, and ergonomics consultant on the SHES team, aiding small and mid-sized businesses in Georgia. When a company reaches out to SHES to apply for the free, confidential OSHA consultation program, a consultant like Sawyers gets assigned to the task, “based on our area of expertise,” said Sawyers, an expert in ergonomics, which is the science of designing and adapting a workspace to efficiently suit the physical and mental needs and limitations of workers.

“If a company is having ergonomic issues — maybe they’re experiencing a lot of strains and sprains — then I might get the call because of my knowledge and understanding of anthropometry, and then I’ll go take a close look at the facility,” Sawyers said. Anthropometry is the scientific study of a human’s size, form, and functional capacity.

SHES consultants can identify potential workplace hazards, provide guidance on how to comply with OSHA standards, and establish or improve safety and health programs in the company.

“The caveat is the company has to correct any serious hazards that we find,” said Castillo, who visits a wide range of workspaces in his role. For instance, his job will take him to construction and manufacturing sites, gun ranges, even office settings. “We do noise and air monitoring at all different types of workplaces. I was at a primary care clinic the other day. And over the past few years, we’ve had a significant emphasis on stone fabricators, looking for overexposures to respirable crystalline silica.”

Silica, which is dust residue from the process of creating marble and quartz slabs, can lead to a lung disease called silicosis. OSHA established new limits that cut the permissible exposure limits in half, and that has kept the SHES consultants busy as Georgia manufacturers try to achieve and maintain compliance.

Keeping Companies Cool

Another area of growing emphasis for Georgia Tech’s consultants is heat-related stress in the workplace.

“Currently, there are no standards to address this,” Castillo said. “For example, there are no rules that say a construction site worker should drink this much water. There are suggested guidelines and emphasis programs for inspections for targeted industries where heat stress may be prevalent — but no standards, though that is coming.”

The SHES team is trying to stay ahead of what will likely be new federal rules for heat mitigation. To help develop safe standards and better understand the effects of heat on workers, consultants like Castillo are going to construction sites, plant nurseries, and warehouses, and enlisting volunteers in field studies. Using heat stress monitor armbands, they’re monitoring data on workers’ core body temperatures and heart rates.

“These tools are great because we’re not only gathering some good data, but we can use them proactively to prevent heat events such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be fatal if left untreated,” Castillo said.

To further help educate Georgia companies about the risks of heat-related problems, SHES applied for and recently won a Susan Harwood Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The $160,000 award will support SHES consultants’ efforts to further their work in heat stress education so that “companies and workers will understand the warning signs and the potential effects of heat stress, and how they can stay safe,” Castillo said. “We’re sure this will all become part of OSHA standards eventually, and we’d like to help our clients stay ahead of the curve to protect their employees.”

OSHA standards are the law, and while larger corporations routinely hire consulting firms to keep them on the straight and narrow, SHES is providing the same level of expertise for its smaller business clients for free. Most of those clients apply for help through SHES’ online request form. And others find the help they need through the guidance of process improvement specialist Katie Hines and her colleagues in GaMEP.

Lean and Safe

Hines came to her appreciation of ergonomics naturally. After graduating from Auburn University, she entered the workforce as a manufacturing engineer for a building materials company, where “it was just part of our day-to-day work life in that manufacturing environment, on the production floor,” she said.

It took grad school and a deeper focus on lean and continuous improvement processes to formalize that appreciation.

While working toward her master’s degree in chemical engineering at Auburn, Hines earned a certificate in occupational safety and ergonomics (like Sawyers, her SHES colleague). At the same time, Hines was helping to guide her company’s lean and continuous improvement program. And when she joined Proctor and Gamble after completing her degree, “The lean concept and safety best practices were fully ingrained, part of the daily discussion there,” she said.

All those hands-on manufacturing production floor experiences managing people and systems prepared Hines well for her current role as a project manager on GaMEP’s Operational Excellence team, where her focus is entirely on lean and continuous improvement work — that is, helping companies reduce waste and improve production while also enhancing safety and ergonomics.

Hines uses her expertise in knowing how manufacturing processes and people should look when everyone is safe and also productive. She can walk into a GaMEP client’s facility and drive the process improvements and solutions that will help them achieve a leaner, more efficient form of production. And then, when she sees the need, Hines will recommend the client contact SHES, “the people who have their fingers on the data and the expertise to improve safety.”

These were concepts that, for a long time, seemed to be working against each other — the very idea of maximizing production and improving profits while also emphasizing worker safety and comfort.

“But you can have both,” Castillo said. “You should have both.”

Manufacturing Leaders

New executive coaching and team building services from the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership can help firms grow the leaders they need

When a program’s purpose is to help manufacturers improve their performance in the global market, it pays to be on the lookout for solutions to problems as they pop up. The latest solution is executive coaching and team building services from the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

Andy Helm, GaMEP senior project manager

“About four years ago, we were developing the organizational excellence assessment, where we would help companies see where their strengths are and where their shortcomings are,” said Andy Helm, a GaMEP senior project manager. “What we found on a regular basis, was that our clients rated themselves and we rated them fairly low in the leadership category. There was this ‘aha’ moment, where we realized if we’re going to help our companies, we need to be able to provide consulting services around leadership.”

This aha moment led GaMEP staff on a journey to evaluate different leadership development methodologies and devise a strategy that would make the most sense for their manufacturing clients.

“We found two education partners who generate, develop, and maintain leadership curriculum,” Helm said. “One is the Gallup organization. The other is Development Dimensions International (DDI). Both of those organizations have been around for decades, they’re research based, and very well respected. We sent a cohort of our employees to both of those companies to get certified as instructors. I’m a DDI certified instructor, and I’m also a Gallup certified coach.”

World-class leadership development combined with expertise in manufacturing, is what sets GaMEP’s training apart for manufacturers.

“Our value-added proposition for our clients is that we are now able to take best-in-class leadership development and combine that with our manufacturing expertise to provide a unique solution for manufacturers,” Helm said. “You can find various leadership services that are excellent, but they don’t have that manufacturing insight that we offer. On the other side, there are a lot of manufacturing experts, but not many of them could claim world-class leadership development offerings. We bring those worlds together.”

The programs offer training for all levels of leaders from frontline managers to the C-suite. HON, the office furniture manufacturer in Cedartown, Georgia, recently took advantage of the new offerings for some of the company’s leadership. The training was so helpful, HON has scheduled two more sessions.

“it’s helped our leaders to get on the same page of how we want to treat our members, how we want to build the culture here,” said Darrell Burns, the member and community relations manager at HON. “We had some of the senior leaders and some mid-level leaders to go through it.”

The feedback was excellent, Burns said. Participants called the program engaging, important, interesting, and even fun. The next sessions will involve both current and future leaders at the company.

“Some of the topics that we teach are communication, coaching, building and sustaining trust, and emotional intelligence,” said Helm.

Emotional intelligence — the ability to manage your own emotions as well as those of your team — is the foundation for much of the new training. Research shows that people with a high level of emotional intelligence are more confident and better able to lead their teams into greater productivity and job satisfaction.

In fact, studies have shown that “emotional intelligence is more important to your success at work than your IQ and your technical skills,” Helm said. “We teach techniques that move the needle.”

Another offering is the CliftonStrengths Assessment, which measures 34 different talents in the areas of strategic thinking, influencing, relationship building, and executing.

“The first benefit of the CliftonStrengths Assessment is self-awareness,” Helm said. “The further along we are in our careers, the fewer surprises we have. If you take this assessment when you’re 25 years into your career, you’re probably going to see a lot of confirmation and say, ‘oh, that makes sense. I agree with this and wish I would have known it sooner in my career.’ In contrast, think of two or three years into your career, you might not know what you wanted to do. This would have been an amazing tool to give you insight into some things that you might want to look into because you’re gifted in certain areas.”

Improving leadership can improve productivity, growth, and the bottom line for manufacturing firms and more. And now, GaMEP has the tools to help do just that.

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.

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.

Success Story: Design and Implementation of Technology Extension Services (TES) in Colombia

Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Lab and Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership programs work
with Colombian officials in design and implementation of productivity and competitiveness initiative.

 

Customer Profile
The project started in January 2017 through a collaboration with the Private Council of Competitiveness (CPC). At the end of the second year, Confecámaras, the national Association of Chambers of Commerce, became the client together with Colombia Productiva, a program of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) under which Fábricas de Productividad was created. The current client is Confecámaras, a national entity that supports the Colombian Chambers of Commerce to promote competitiveness and regional development.

 

Second group of Colombian Professionals that completed a Technology Extension boot camp at Georgia Tech, June 2018.

Situation
Colombia’s economy is the fourth largest in Latin America as measured by the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $327 billion (nominal, 2019). The country has experienced consistent economic growth over the last decade and policy makers have prioritized programs and initiatives to improve the quality of life and social well-being of citizens.  To continue sustaining economic growth, National Development Plans, federal public policies, and several think-tank studies, have identified the increase of productivity as one the pillars for economic growth. Colombia needs to strengthen its innovation and productivity strategy to create the conditions necessary for companies to adapt technological advances, and for the sophistication and diversification of sectors and products. Technology Extension represents a foundational base in a country’s strategy to build an effective innovation, sophistication, and productivity system. As an instrument that seeks to close the information gap, build internal capacity, and connect to existing knowledge supply, Technology Extension equips companies with productivity tools that are essential for incremental innovation. At the same, the national government should complement existing knowledge supply with instruments, capacity building, infrastructure, and business reforms to promote competitiveness.

 

Colombia has launched prior Technology Extension pilots and initiatives between 2012 and 2016. The program Fábricas de Productividad was designed in 2018 by the MinCIT, Colombia Productiva, National Planning Department (DNP), Chambers of Commerce, and the CPC as a program that consolidated the different extension initiatives until that date. Fábricas seeks to scale the lessons learned from previous programs and implement a permanent model of extension services that is jointly operated with local Chambers of Commerce. The design followed a rigorous process of reviewing best practices at the national and international level, through close collaboration with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership(GaMEP) and the Economic Development Lab (EDL), two programs of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Created in 1960, the GaMEP is dedicated to delivering comprehensive technical, management and research assistant to fuel growth and advance manufacturing in the state. EDL works with communities, governments, and universities, in Georgia and beyond, to strengthen their innovation economies.

 

Solution
The initial scope of the collaboration with CPC was to conduct an assessment in four Colombian cities of the current programs and services available to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The assessment included a Survey of the Manufacturing Services Industry in the four cities, which was modeled on the GaMEP’s bi-annual survey.  Following the completion of the initial assessment, the collaboration was expanded to include the following additional elements:

 

  • Public Policy and Strategic Advice for the design of the first national program of Technology Extension Services (TES), which was going to be modeled mainly after the GaMEP but also taking into consideration other international programs.
  • Capacity Building and Knowledge Transfer to build a critical mass of Colombian Extensionists to deliver TES to companies, not only in the capital area, but at a regional level.

The expanded collaboration included a TES pilot program in four cities. EDL and GaMEP experts traveled to Colombia for consulting and advisory meetings, and to provide on-the-job mentoring by shadowing the local extensionists in training and providing feedback to improve their skills. Additionally, EDL designed a series of boot camp training programs at Georgia Tech for a group of 45 Colombian delegates, including private and public sector officials and extensionists, with the goal to build capacity and transfer best practices about TES, public policy, and strategic aspects to create a national Technology Extension program.

 

Results
Through this collaboration, the EDL and GaMEP teams contributed to the design and implementation of Fábricas de Productividad, which has become the flagship public-private initiative in Colombia to promote the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs. In total, 110 Colombian Extensionists have completed a boot camp program at Georgia Tech and received a certificate from Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). 40 SME firms in Colombia were assisted by Georgia Tech- trained extension professionals and shadowed by GaMEP staff during the pilot program.

 

Fábricas de Productividad has had a tremendous impact in Colombia. Between Fall 2018 and Fall 2020 (cycle one), the program’s impact was 10 times the impact of its predecessor programs by serving 1,305 companies, compared to 129 Companies served by the previous program. These companies reported productivity increases of 32.8 percent across various the metrics. The initiative has received $10 million public-private investment; 27 of Colombia’s 31 departments (the equivalent of a state in the U.S. commonwealth or state) participating, and 48 of the 57 Chambers of Commerce are implementing the program. Furthermore, Fábricas has built the first national database of TES professionals with a total of 366 Extensionists registered to date.  A recent study conducted by Fedesarrollo (a non-profit center of economic and social research) on the effectiveness of the Fábricas de Productividad extensionists network, demonstrated outstanding results evidenced by a perception of high effectiveness and coherence with public policy. Compared with international references, Fábricas de Productividad has managed to consolidate a solid base in a few years of operation, with a wide network of experts, and a broad capacity to reach companies as in similar cases around the world.

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.