In a way, Georgia Tech has always been about manufacturing. From our founding in 1885, we focused on educating young men (sorry, ladies! That took a little longer) in applying technology to machine shops, textile mills, and steam engines. We continued with that mission of “encouragement of industries and commerce” for eight decades. Then, in 1960, the Georgia General Assembly passed a bill creating an Industrial Extension Service (IES) to be administered through local field offices. IES was the predecessor of today’s EI2.
The first field office was opened by none other than Wayne Hodges in Rome, Georgia, in 1963. Coincidentally, just this month we have re-opened an office in Rome, creating a total of 12 bricks-and-mortar locations throughout the state.
American manufacturing went through ups and downs throughout the 20th century, and Georgia followed the trends. In the early 1990s, Georgia Tech became part of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The original MEP legislation included the objectives to: “transfer technologies throughout the United States; make new technologies usable by small and medium manufacturers; [and] utilize the expertise and capabilities within research institutes.”
Now “Advanced Manufacturing” is the buzzword du jour. It’s 3D printing and realtime control systems and advanced sensors and composite materials and environmental sustainability and supply chain management and more. It’s taking manufacturing out of the land of “Dumb, Dirty, Dangerous, and Disappearing” and restoring it as the centerpiece of a vibrant new economy. And Georgia Tech is at the middle of it.
The Georgia MEP works throughout EI2 and Georgia Tech to contribute to improving Advanced Manufacturing through policy, deployment and execution to the benefit of Georgia manufacturers. The GaMEP also has success in working on projects within the state as well as programs that have national implications for manufacturers.
- David Bridges, Chris Downing, Karen Fite, and Bill Ritsch are serving on work teams for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership steering committee. This White House initiative is in its second year of operation. (Bud Peterson is on the Steering Committee.) The AMP mission is “to encourage approaches that sustain and grow U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing, making the US a magnet for jobs, and investment; fostering broad, long-term collaboration among industry, academia, and government partners to drive advances in U.S. innovation and workforce capabilities.” The first year’s report had five recommendations; EI2 members are working on teams for three of them:
- Scaling best-in-class demand-driven workforce solutions to develop technical skills;
- Addressing core advanced manufacturing policy questions related to new technologies; and
- Driving excitement and engagement from the science and engineering community
- Jan Youtie participated in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study of the MEP program entitled “21st Century Manufacturing: The Role of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program.” The study, led by Georgia Tech’s Phil Shapira, was released in October. The purpose is to generate a better understanding of the operation, achievements, and challenges of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program in its mission to support, strengthen, and grow U.S. manufacturing.
- GaMEP collaborated with the Greater Rome Development Authority to make a referral to the EI2 Startup Ecosystems group. We were able to win an IMCP (Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership) grant to develop a strategic plan for the area to grow their manufacturing base and identify the workforce needs for the Rome area. The GaMEP will play a role in the project and continue to support the region as they grow their manufacturing base.
- GaMEP participated in and influenced the development of the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard development. In conjunction with this effort, the team has participated with US DOE on their Superior Energy Performance program.
- GaMEP collaborated with Atlanta Technical College, Invest Atlanta, and the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency to submit a joint proposal for the Make-It-In-America Challenge grant. While it was not successful, the proposal effort has helped us focus outreach toward the food industry, offering technical assistance, supply chain development services, and technology assistance.
- GaMEP, in collaboration with four other state MEPs (AL, MS, SC, TN) submitted a proposal to NIST for for a Southeast Automotive Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center (MTAC). The Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (which includes the old MaRC) was a key component of the proposal. The award will be announced in early 2014. Fingers crossed!
- GaMEP has been included in three GTMI proposals for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, including additive manufacturing, lightweight materials, and advanced composites.
- In the past year, GaMEP, through its nine regional offices, has worked with 1,770 manufacturers, resulting in $191 million in increased sales; 950 jobs created or retained; and $36 million in reduced operating costs.
- GaMEP has co-funded four projects with GTMI and other units on campus for applied research to solve individual manufacturing company’s needs.
- Paul Freet of VentureLab assisted GaMEP in teaching the Lean Customer Discovery process once and has plans to offer second rounds in early 2014.
- GaMEP, through Bill Meffert’s Sustainability group, worked with US DOE for the development of their Superior Energy Program, leading the pilot implementation at 42 locations nationally. Plus, we are the Personnel Certification Body for implementation and auditing. This effort required the development of the training schemes and testing protocols. To date, 74 individuals have achieved this certification. The GaMEP is now engaged to provide ISO 50001 implementation assistance to a major automotive OEM at all their US locations.
- GaMEP is working with ATDC to enhance manufacturing startups through the placement of two positions:
- Connie Casteel is serving as a liaison and providing support to the SBIR process.
- Jenny Bass, who joined Georgia Tech in early November, will create the manufacturing startup practice within ATDC.
- Two other GaMEP staff members, Bob Wray and Andy Helm, provide assistance to manufacturers through their product development process to ensure manufacturability and integration within a supply chain.
Georgia and the Southeast may have come to the Industrial Revolution a bit late, but in some ways we’ve outstripped our competitors in the Rust Belt. (More cars are built within 500 miles of Atlanta than within 500 miles of Detroit!) Now it’s time for us to lead the way towards cleaner, smarter, more flexible manufacturing that brings production back from low-wage countries in the Pacific Rim. I don’t think a manufacturer can find a better partner than Georgia Tech and our Georgia MEP program. Keep up the good work!