(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series describing Mac5 Technical Services in Oak Ridge and the way it is addressing client needs by engaging a team of seasoned Oak Ridge researchers.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The camaraderie is distinctive as these colleagues, all with rich histories in Oak Ridge, sit around a conference table and talk about their work today under the Mac5 Technical Services LLC banner.
Just how distinctive is the collegiality? One of the long-time technical experts will begin a sentence, and another completes it. In the process, nothing is lost as they clearly relish the work they are undertaking after successful careers at one of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plants or with a subcontractor in the community.
“What we’re doing is a game-changer for one manufacturing industry,” says Richard Macon, President of Mac5, the company that includes three PhD researchers with nearly 110 years of experience in the R&D area. “We’ve been flying under the radar up to now.”
In many respects, that’s an understatement considering that the current location of the company’s lab is a former retail shop in an Oak Ridge strip mall. In fact, if I had not been given the address, I would never have found the facility. There are no signs but, then, it is located in the Secret City in a former bakery.
Macon, a Watertown native and civil/environmental engineering graduate of Tennessee Tech University, started Mac5 five years ago after working for several subcontractors to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
“I wanted to help companies that wanted to work with the UPF,” he says, referring to the $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility under construction on the Y-12 site. Yet, like any astute business executive, Macon recognized that “I had all of my eggs in the DOE basket. I wanted and needed to diversify.”
Over the last several years, the strategy of broadening Mac5’s customer base has resulted in Macon adding three well-recognized, long-time researchers to the team. They are, in order of addition, Roland Seals, formerly Chief R&D Technical Consultant and Senior Scientist at Y-12 with 42 years of service there; Vinod Sikka, a 40-year veteran of ORNL where he served as the Group leader of Material Processing Group and before retiring as the Manager of Research and Technology Development at ORNL; and Neal Evans, a materials science specialist for more than 30 years.
Collectively, the senior members of the research team have 93 issued patents, 11 pending patents, and 18 of the prestigious “R&D 100 Awards.” You can learn more about their backgrounds here. A fourth individual – Taylor Prince – is a chemical engineer who runs the lab and keeps Mac5 compliant.
So, how did this very experienced R&D team evolve?
“One of our clients had a corrosion/oxidation problem,” Macon said. “I recalled a conversation that I once had with Roland, so I called him.” Seals is a physical surface chemist by training, and the project also required a materials scientist. That’s how Sikka joined the effort followed by Neal Evans with his materials analysis expertise.”
Thus far, the Mac5 R&D team has undertaken 10 projects.
“We’ve fallen into a model to help people solve problems,” Macon said. “We’re looking for companies that need extra expertise in areas like additive manufacturing. We’re here to help win work, grow business, and explore new opportunities or build partnerships.”
The camaraderie is very evident in this photo featuring (left to right): Sikka, Macon, Evans, Prince and Seals.
NEXT: A look at how the Mac5 team addresses client needs.