Georgia Tech part of 4 grants intended to strengthen U.S. manufacturing

Teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology are recipients of four grants recently announced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The funding is designed to support research that will strengthen U.S. manufacturing and innovation performance across industries.

The NIST grants, which range from $378,900 to $540,000, were part of $9 million in advanced technology planning grants awarded to 19 universities and other nonprofit organizations and are the first conferred by NIST’s inaugural Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech).

Todd McDevitt, associate professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Stem Cell Engineering Center, will serve as the technical lead for the $499,636 AMTech grant awarded to the Georgia Research Alliance, in partnership with Georgia Tech. With cell therapy manufacturing projected to grow rapidly over the next decade, the funds will be used to establish a national road map and consortium in cell manufacturing to improve access to cutting-edge medical technology for patients.

Ben Wang, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, will serve as the lead for a second AMTech grant totaling $385,112 that will help speed development and deployment of advanced composites.

Georgia Tech’s Institute of Paper Science and Technology, part of the Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, is a collaborator on the $482,078 NIST funded project that will map pathways for developing advanced technologies for pulp and paper manufacturing. The Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance is an industry-led consortium that promotes development of advanced technologies for the pulp and paper industry.

Tom Kurfess, professor, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and HUSCO/Ramirez Distinguished Chair in Fluid Power and Motion Control, is part of a $434,577 award led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing & Machining focused on developing a strategy and roadmap to identify current barriers to full adoption of MTConnect, an evolving interoperability standard for manufacturing. The funding will also determine the best path forward to achieve widespread implementation across manufacturing industries.

Technology road mapping is a key component of all funded AMTech projects. Each consortium will engage manufacturers of all sizes, university researchers, trade associations and other stakeholders in an interactive process to identify and prioritize research projects that reduce shared barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

Georgia Tech is a national leader in research, education, policy and industrial assistance related to manufacturing. President G.P. “Bud” Peterson serves on the Steering Committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute runs the Manufacturing Extension Partnership for the state of Georgia (http://gamep.org).

Source: http://www.news.gatech.edu/2014/05/12/georgia-tech-part-four-grants-intended-strengthen-us-manufacturing

Defense Department not comfortable if major contractors look to merge

The Defense Department remains skeptical of mergers involving its major contractors, a Pentagon official said on Wednesday, amid industry expectations that defense deal-making could revive this year.

Elana Broitman, whose office at the Defense Department reviews deals that involve national security issues, told an investor conference that “there are far fewer of the large firms, so we’re in a more constrained environment.

“Even though we’re seeing a budget downturn which has corresponded to consolidation in the past, we’d be less comfortable now because of that smaller number,” said Broitman, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy.

Defense M&A activity ground to a near halt in recent years amid uncertainty about future U.S. military spending that has kept sellers on edge and buyers more apt to invest in share buybacks and dividend payouts than acquisitions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/05/us-usa-defense-mergers-idUSBREA1428K20140205

General: ‘Lots of money’ left after sequester

The former head of Army logistics tried to assure a nervous audience of defense industry executives last Thursday (2/21/2013) that “it’s not all doom and gloom” for their bottom lines despite the massive budget cuts underway as the nation’s military rebalances after nearly 12 years of war.

“Our budget still has almost $500 billion” at the baseline even when the impact of major automatic defense spending cuts under the “sequestration” process on March 1 is taken into account, said Army Maj. Gen. Lynn A. Collyar, former director of Defense Logistics Agency’s logistics operations.

“That’s a lot of money,” Collyar said of the $500 billion.  “We can’t afford to just throw money around,” he said, but “there is still a lot of money out there” for companies that can adapt to the new era of declining defense budgets.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2013/02/21/lot-of-money-left-after-sequester/

DoD carries weight of governmentwide small business goal

For the federal government to finally hit its 23 percent small business goal, the Defense Department will have to step up its efforts to contract with small firms. But the nature of DoD’s large contracts often leave out small companies.

In four of the last five years, if DoD had made its small business contracting goal, the federal government would have hit its overall goal. In fiscal 2011, the government fell $5.4 billion short. The Defense Department, with a goal of 22.28 percent for small business contracting that year, missed its mark by $7.2 billion. Each agency negotiates with the Small Business Administration its own small business prime-contracting goal.

Defense contracts make up two-thirds of the entire government’s contracting expenditures. DoD is best known for buying planes, tanks and ships — often products and services out of the scope of small companies. Last year, for example, DoD spent tens of billions of dollars across 11 product codes that included everything from guided space missiles to space vehicles. Of that, less than 1 percent went to small businesses.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/522/3058191/DoD-carries-weight-of-governmentwide-small-business-goal.

(This story is part one of Federal News Radio’s special report, The Small Business Dilemma.)

Small business grows green manufacturing jobs

All across America, GSA is seeing great examples of entrepreneurship and innovation, even though we’re facing some of the toughest economic times we’ve experienced since the Great Depression. Seeing this occur in the manufacturing sector is especially exciting because maintaining our competitiveness in this area will help move our economy forward!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing this first-hand at a company called Okabashi, a flip-flop manufacturer in Buford, Georgia that utilizes a manufacturing process that is virtually 100 percent waste-free – closed loop recycling. In addition to diverting thousands of flip-flops from landfills and shorelines, the company produces sustainable flip-flops that are 100 percent recyclable and made of at least 25 percent recycled materials. Okabashi is also committed to reusing or recycling 100 percent of its manufacturing waste, and 100,000 shoes are reground each year. Additionally, the 2 percent of Okabashi materials that cannot be reused for shoes is diverted to other companies to make industrial mats and roofing materials.

On top of its leadership in sustainability, Okabashi is committed to keeping its manufacturing and distribution functions right here in the United States. As President Obama said in his remarks at Alcoa’s aerospace plant recently, “we have to make things right here in America.” And Okabashi is doing just that. In fact, Okabashi, a small business on Main Street, employs approximately 60 people and, depending on the season, their workforce can grow to more than 200 people. Not only are these jobs good middle class jobs, they’re also green jobs. On top of that, Okabashi is exporting its shoes to 16 different countries, which, as the President has said time and time again, is critical to America achieving sustainable economic growth.

They’ve also undertaken efforts to leverage their supply chain to minimize the company’s impact on the environment, a goal that is close to our hearts at GSA, an agency that is committed to achieving a zero environmental footprint. GSA is leveraging its buying power to do the same thing, especially with respect to meeting its obligations under the Sustainability Executive Order.

During my visit, my team and I toured the manufacturing operations and met with management and other employees. We engaged in a productive conversation about how we can help small businesses create good middle class and green manufacturing jobs. Personally, this experience hit close to home, because the founder fled Iran during the Revolution. Even though he and his family lost everything, he tapped into that entrepreneurial spirit that made him successful before to start a small business in Georgia. With hard work, he created a successful and innovative manufacturing company that has created many jobs in Georgia. I happen to be the son of an Indian immigrant small business owner, so I fully appreciate the sacrifices that Okabashi’s founder made to realize the American Dream and contribute to the economic and social fabrics of America.

At GSA we are committed to assisting our customers with their real estate, procurement, fleet and other needs so they can focus on their core mission. In order for us to do that, we need more green companies like Okabashi providing goods and services to our federal customers. Not only will this ensure that we can help our customers meet their sustainability goals, it will also enable us to accomplish our mission to make government work better for the American people through our commitment to sustainability.

So to all the other small businesses out there, we will continue to have conversations with you about what we can do to harness your energy, talent and ideas – so that we can win the future by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building our competitors. It’s important to GSA because, as the business, real estate and fleet arms of the federal government, we need your business so that our customers will have the goods and services they need to keep our country safe, dispense justice, inspect mines, keep our environment clean, administer social security benefits, adjudicate claims, address poverty and perform other important duties that are appreciated by the American people.

— Posted by Shyam Reddy, Regional Administrator, GSA Southeast Sunbelt Region on June 29th, 2011 at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/category/small-business/ 

Obama’s regulatory chief announces reforms at 30 agencies

Fleshing out agency responses to President Obama’s push to rethink regulations, Office of Information and Regulatory Administrator Cass Sunstein on Thursday announced alterations to long-standing rules under way at 30 federal agencies that together, he said, could save billions in dollars and millions of staff hours.

In his summary of agency progress 120 days after Obama’s Jan. 18 executive order, Sunstein said current paperwork reduction efforts at the Transportation and Labor departments and the Environmental Protection Agency alone could save $1 billion and tens of millions of work hours for state and local governments. He spoke at a talk titled “A Regulatory Look-Back: A First Look” at the American Enterprise Institute, his former employer, and he published a related op-ed on “21st-Century Regulation” in the May 26 Wall Street Journal.

The Obama initiative, Sunstein said, is “a corrective to national debate on regulation that has become polarized and stylized in a way not helpful. One side,” he said, “defends reductions in deaths on the highway, fighting fraud and abuse, keeping air and water clean and our food safe. But more recently, the other side says such regulations impair competitiveness, undermine innovation and ultimately cost jobs.

“They are legitimate arguments, but we can’t be solving serious problems in the abstract. The polarized debate is stuck in the past.”

A modern regulatory approach, he said, cannot rely on “anecdotes or intuition,” but instead must move toward “real-world random testing” of the benefits and harms of regulations. This requires “a change in culture in Washington to focus constantly on what is and what is not working,” he said. In the future, “agencies must hard-wire such scrutiny into agency processes.”

Today’s professional regulators “know much more than they knew during the New Deal and the Great Society,” or even during the 1980s and 1990s, he added. “Now we have state-of-the-art technology for cataloging the impact, risks and costs of regulations. Sometimes in reducing one risk, you increase another and there are ancillary harms,” he said. “But there are also ancillary benefits, and lives are saved.” What is desirable, he said, is “free choice, which both provides liberty and costs less.” Simpler regulations and public disclosure “help produce informed choices and creative approaches,” Sunstein said.

Sunstein made a bid to bridge the partisan divide. “It’s true that people’s values differ, but when the evidence is clear, it will lead in a direction even if there is an intensive difference in values. If a regulation brings big costs and little benefit, then citizens are unlikely to like it regardless of whether they are elephants or donkeys,” he said.

Examples of agencies’ current work include 70 initiatives at Transportation, 50 reforms at the Health and Human Resources Department, and 12 short-term high-priority projects at EPA. The Treasury Department has a five-year paperless initiative that will save 12 million pounds of paper and $400 million, Sunstein said.

EPA recently decided that that classifying milk as an oil — and thus requiring precautions to prevent oil spills — was an unjustifiable burden on dairy farmers, and so the resulting easing of rules will save industry $1 billion in the next decade. Similarly, EPA determined that gas stations no longer need air pollution recovery systems because modern vehicles do the job, saving upwards of $60 million annually, he said. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he said, will save millions of dollars by eliminating 1.9 million annual hours of redundant employer reporting.

“Many of the [reforms] focus on the small businesses that create jobs,” Sunstein said. “And some are a fundamental rethinking of how things have been done.”

He is also determined to rid the Code of Federal Regulations of references to countries that “no longer exist.”

Laying out four principles, Sunstein said modern regulations should encourage public participation through ready access to scientific and technical information; should be harmonized and simplified to boost innovation; should use quantification to catalog costs and benefits; and emphasize freedom of choice, which “promotes compliance.”

In response to a questioner, Sunstein acknowledged that some of the recent changes were expansions of regulations rather than eliminations.

The National Association of Manufacturers, which has long been critical of Obama’s approach to regulation, reacted to Sunstein’s announcement with a statement: “Manufacturers are encouraged by the Obama administration’s efforts to streamline or remove several outdated and unnecessary regulations to allow manufacturers to focus on what matters most — creating jobs and economic growth. However, manufacturing workers will not fully benefit until the crushing burden of proposed new regulations is brought under control.

“The administration has taken several positive steps recently,” the group said. mentioning EPA’s effort on industrial boilers and OSHA’s work on noise standards as indicators that the administration has heard the concerns of manufacturers. “But new burdensome regulations such as those proposed by EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and change ozone standards are a real threat to job creators and the economy. While today’s announcement is a great step, more must be done to limit the cumulative burden of regulations on businesses.”

Matt Madia, regulatory policy analyst for OMB Watch, a monitoring nonprofit, had a wait-and-see response. “There’s nothing wrong with doing a review,” he said, “but we should not lose sight of the fact that these regulations were written for a reason — to protect the environment, human health and the economy.”

Sunstein said there currently are 120 rules under review at the Office of Management and Budget and that the look back has not caused any noticeable slowdown.

The agency actions released today are for public comment, and should be finalized in “roughly 80 days,” he said.

Sunstein called his initiative “a defining moment” that will have impact decades in the future. He quoted Alexander Hamilton’s first Federalist paper, in which the Founding Father asked whether the country would be guided by “reflection and choice or be forever destined to depend on accident and force.”

– by Charles S. Clark – Government Executive – May 26, 2011 at http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=47880&dcn=e_gvet

Precision machine parts manufacturer gains ISO certification with Georgia Tech assistance

When Don Smith began working as sales manager for Precision Products, Inc. in Tunnel Hill, Ga., the company primarily made high precision extrusion parts for the carpet industry. With the downturn in the economy, it was essential to diversify Precision’s customer base.

“As we started diversifying outside of the carpet industry into industries such as automotive, medical, industrial textiles, aerospace and power generation, it became obvious that we were going to have to separate ourselves from the average mom and pop machine shop,” he recalled. “Although most customers don’t demand that machine shops be ISO 9001 certified, it seemed to me that our shop was so close already with all of our process standards, procedures and organization.”

ISO 9001 is an international quality management system that certifies the application of formalized business processes. The standard takes a systematic approach to managing the organization’s processes and ensuring a consistent product that meets customer expectations. Because limited resources and lack of time are often the major challenges to implementing ISO, Smith sought assistance from Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and a former colleague, Craig Cochran.

Cochran, a quality specialist with EI2, first began working with Rich Graham, director of operations, at Precision Products in January of 2009. He conducted a gap audit to identify areas of improvement, and helped the team develop an implementation plan. He trained the staff at Precision in quality issues and internal auditing, helped them meet project milestones and reviewed all company documentation.

“After Craig’s initial visit, we started building our database of procedures and our quality manual,” Graham said. “Craig came six or eight times over the next 10 months, each time identifying a new set of weaknesses. Late in the fall, he conducted a pre-assessment audit and had a few minor findings but said we could pass then.”

In December 2009, Precision Products received its ISO 9001 certification, 11 months after starting the entire process. In her report, the auditor noted that all of the company’s 35 employees were knowledgeable about the quality initiative and that the shop was one of the cleanest she had ever seen. The certification is especially important to Precision Products in this difficult economy.

“Having ISO has not only instilled some discipline and procedures into our plant to ensure that what we make is the same every time, but it also raises our awareness with a customer that this place is for real. ISO isn’t just a quality tool, it’s a marketing tool,” Smith noted. “What we’re really selling to our customers is machine uptime, innovation and service. They’re now getting all of those things and a quality part made in an ISO shop.”

Since 2008, Precision Products has added numerous new customers and has increased sales by 30 percent. According to Smith, the ISO certification gets Precision’s foot in the door with multinational, billion dollar companies. The company is also planning to add employees and expand the facility space in the near future.

“ISO certification was like training for a marathon; it was tough and a long way, but we were very prepared with Georgia Tech’s assistance,” said Graham. “With Craig’s preparation, there was nothing left for the auditors to find. It went very smoothly for us.”

David Davis founded Precision Products, Inc. 17 years ago to make high precision extrusion parts for the carpet industry. Today, the family-owned business makes original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts for industries as varied as textile, food and beverage, automotive, medical, aerospace, military and power generation, in addition to reverse engineering parts.

“Precision Parts worked hard to develop a concise, streamlined management system that would match their no-nonsense way of doing business. They achieved this by first determining their biggest risks, and then building controls around the management of these risks,” Cochran said. “Where there were no risks, the company relies on the experience and skills of their machinists.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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Media Relations Contacts: Nancy Fullbright (912-963-2509 ); E-mail: (nancy.fullbright@innovate.gatech.edu) or John Toon (404-894-6986 ); E-mail (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright