The role the University of Tennessee’s Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS) is playing in the region’s new Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP!) is really an enhancement of its long-standing efforts to help small and medium-size manufacturers capitalize of new processes and technologies.
The organization was founded in 1963 and became an affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the mid-1990s. NIST is one of the federal agencies funding the AMP! effort in the local 20-county area.
“Our scope of work is designed to leverage the resources of NIST MEP and other partners to accelerate growth in the region’s advanced manufacturing cluster,” Beth Phillips, UT CIS’ Economic Development Team Leader, told teknovation.biz. She is no stranger to the work, having served for years with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development before joining UT CIS.
During the proposal development process, Phillips said that the team used the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to identify more than 500 companies that appeared to be engaged in advanced manufacturing in the target region. UT CIS is now validating the list to better map companies to geographic locations and advanced manufacturing sectors.
“One of the key roles that we will be playing is outreach to these companies, making them aware of programs and services available,” Phillips explained. As such, it is critically important that the AMP! team has as accurate a picture of the potential clients as possible.
“We know there is a strong automotive and transportation-related set of manufacturers in the region,” Phillips said.
One of the UT CIS team’s first activities will be to identify who the companies are, what they produce, in what supply chain(s) they are located, what level of advanced manufacturing they have adopted, and what needs they have.
Once that information is collected, Phillips says the UT CIS team can bring a set of services, many of them new, to help the local manufacturers. She describes them as “next generation strategies” that NIST MEP has developed and provided to its state-based affiliates.
The service menu covers everything from holding an annual Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) workshop to launching new activities such as an annual “Innovation Engineering Jump Start” event and an “Innovation Engineering Management System (IEMS).”
Phillips says the latter, which is one of NIST MEP’s newest services, is “designed as a tool for companies to use to develop an innovation culture.” She added that NIST MEP believes IEMS will accelerate growth of a company considerably by “increasing (its) innovation speed up to six times and decreasing risk by 30 to 80 percent.” Funding is provided in the grant to help at least two local companies to implement the system.
UT CIS is already working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on a technology acceleration initiative, and Phillips said her organization believes the IEMS system will “help qualify ideas that are more appropriate for ORNL involvement,” including the new Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and its rapid prototyping capabilities.
Another new activity for UT CIS is the “Jump Start” event, a one-day program to introduce innovation concepts and processes to regional manufacturers. Phillips said the first event is expected to be offered by mid-2013.
UT CIS is also heavily involved in the formation of the new “Regional Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Consortium (R-AMP!).” As its name implies, the group is comprised of manufacturers, typically owners or managers, who will gather on a regular basis to discuss issues and opportunities associated with advanced manufacturing.
Phillips explained that UT CIS will also offer its traditional services – one-on-one consulting and training in areas like lean manufacturing and quality – as part of the AMP! activities.
Like the other organizations that have come together to form AMP!, Phillips says it’s all about jobs, created or retained, through advanced manufacturing technologies and processes.
“Our goal at UT CIS is to successfully determine how we can add value for you (the manufacturer),” Phillips said. “The federal agencies are really focused on helping us be successful.”
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