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June 05, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Inaugural RAMP! meeting draws 75 attendees

RAMPIt was an energetic group of about 75 individuals, mostly manufacturers, who attended yesterday’s inaugural meeting of the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (RAMP!).

The event was held at the National Transportation Research Center and included a tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s neighboring Manufacturing Development Center.

“This is all about helping you guys be more productive,” said Buzz Patrick, Director of Advanced Manufacturing for Tech 20/20 which is responsible for administering RAMP! as part of its federally-funded Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee.

“We want to form an advanced manufacturing cluster in East Tennessee,” Patrick said. The goal would be to drive productivity at individual companies, innovation across the RAMP! membership, and new business for all companies.

Prior to the tour, the attendees heard from several presenters. The topic drawing the most conversation was a preliminary plan to establish a new magnet high school in Knox County that would prepare students for careers in two fields – Operating Technician and Industrial Maintenance.

Under the curriculum reviewed at Wednesday’s RAMP! meeting, two minors would be offered in the Operational Technician area – lean manufacturing/quality systems and robotics/automation. The Industrial Maintenance option would include minors in industrial machinery and a combination of craft mechanical and electrical.

The concept requires approval by the Knox County School Board and the Tennessee Board of Regents, the latter approval because of the proposed involvement of Pellissippi State Community College.

Attendees provided feedback on the specific curriculum, instructor recruitment, and other topics. Because of time constraints, the discussion session ended before all questions were asked.

Clinton-based Remotec’s Mike Knopp provided concrete examples of how advanced manufacturing is improving his company’s products while saving money. One example was a wheel for a robot that cost $750 before Remotec adopted an additive approach. The result was a wheel produced at one-third of the former cost.

RAMP! will hold quarterly meetings at business locations throughout its 20-county service area. Membership is limited to companies that manufacture a product or start-ups that intend to do so. Companies that are members of a local chamber of commerce or economic development group in the region can join for $10 a year. It costs $50 annually for those that are not members, but are located in one of the 20 counties.

For manufacturers outside the area, the cost is $500 a year.

The 20 counties are Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union.

For more information or to join, contact Patrick at