By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Between 400 and 500 manufacturers and those interested in the sector will convene October 6 and 7 at the Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park in Knoxville for the inaugural “RAMP Trade Conference and Expo.”
Buzz Patrick, Director of Advanced Manufacturing for Tech 20/20, says the event was organized at the request of manufacturers in the 20-county area that RAMP serves. The acronym stands for the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.
“They asked for it,” he explained, referring to the manufacturers who are part of RAMP. “There’s a need to get the message out about what’s going on in this region.”
For Patrick, who has years of experience in the industrial sector, events like this one always compete for time a plant manager or engineer could spend at the facility. He has one litmus test – “Is this something I would attend?”
Patrick’s answer is an emphatic “yes,” due in no small part to the “great speakers” already lined-up and the networking opportunities to share experiences and discuss challenges.
Most of the activities will take place all day on October 7 when as many as 50 exhibitors will participate and four tracks of programming will occur. The tracks are manufacturing technology, energy efficiency and sustainability, economic and workforce development, and support services.
“Each track has 10 to 12 speakers or panels,” Patrick explained. Many of the panels include representatives from the region’s key technology assets and RAMP partners – Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its world class Manufacturing Demonstration Facility; University of Tennessee, including its Manufacturing Extension Program operated out of the Center for Industrial Service; and Pellissippi State Community College.
The conference opens with a two-hour keynote address and reception beginning at 5 p.m. October 6. The featured speaker is Jeffrey Liker, a Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, who wrote the best-selling book “The Toyota Way.”
Patrick describes him as one of the most knowledgeable speakers on the Toyota Production System, the automotive giant’s frequently copied manufacturing philosophy. With the number of automotive suppliers in the region, Patrick expects Liker to be a natural draw for the conference.
Speakers or panelists on October 7 include Dave Headrick, Vice President of LandAir Surveying Company, a local firm that is one of the country’s first to move from traditional surveying techniques to 3D laser scanning technology; Doug Speight, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cathedral Innovation Group, LLC, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence and leader of this year’s “GIGTANK” additive manufacturing track; and Ben Edgar, Managing Partner at White Harvest Energy, a firm that helps enterprises incorporate distributed generation and combined heat and power into their portfolios.
There will also be panelists from other local companies like Proton Power and StyroPower and government agencies including TVA, U.S. Department of Energy, two State of Tennessee agencies (Department of Economic and Community Development and Department of Labor and Workforce Development), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
RAMP is a federally-funded initiative serving Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union Counties.