GaMEP helps manufacturing prosper in Georgia

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Tina Guldberg

Director, Strategic Partnerships

404-385-4950

tina.guldberg@gatech.edu

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Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Director Karen Fite explained the importance of manufacturing to the state's economy and how GaMEP assists the industry at a recent GTMI Brown Bag Seminar.

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Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Director Karen Fite explained the importance of manufacturing to the state's economy and how GaMEP assists the industry at a recent GTMI Brown Bag Seminar.

“We have been offering manufacturing extension services in Georgia since the early 1960s,” Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) Director Karen Fite explained at her Oct. 21 Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute Brown Bag Seminar. “We have been doing manufacturing extension much longer than most universities.”

The reason for this emphasis on assisting manufacturers in Georgia is the impact the sector has on the state’s economy. Manufacturing makes up the second largest sector of Georgia’s Gross Domestic Product. It employs more than 350,000 Georgians or about 8.5 percent of all jobs in Georgia. But more importantly, it makes up 84 percent of exports out of Georgia, and manufacturing in the state pays 15.8 percent higher than the state average wage.

The GaMEP has about 50 employees located throughout the state to help provide services in commercialization, entrepreneurship and extension services for a variety of industries. “This is what the state wants us to do,” said Fite. “The manufacturing services has been around the longest, but we also serve healthcare, procurement, diversity and economic development.”

On the national level, MEPs assist approximately 34,000 firms each year and complete 10,000 projects annually. MEPS were developed in the early 1990s, and now there is one in each state. GaMEP has representatives located throughout nine regions across the state to assist primarily small and mid-sized manufacturers.

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology have given the MEPs the mission to focus on five key areas of manufacturing assistance:

  • Technology acceleration
  • Supply chain
  • Workforce
  • Sustainability
  • Continuous improvement

GaMEP touches all of these areas, but because of the work of the state’s technical college system, they do not focus their efforts too much on workforce development. One way it has found to best assist Georgia manufacturers, however, is to survey them every two years. “It is one thing to assume we know the challenges,” said Fite, “but it is another to ask Georgia manufacturers what their challenges are.”

Fite highlighted a few of the key findings from the most recent survey. Marketing and sales, for example is always among the top needs identified by Georgia manufacturers. On the other hand, product development and design is low on their list of challenges. “The interesting news is that insourcing is starting to exceed outsourcing,” Fite explained. “This is the first year insourcing is higher. Georgia manufacturers are starting to say, ‘How can we grow our business and bring more work in?’ ”

For most survey respondents, when presented with four strategy options, the majority (56.1 percent) of Georgia manufacturers said that they expect to grow their business by focusing on high-quality product. The other strategy options broke down as follows:

  • Quick delivery – 12.7 percent
  • Adapting product to customer needs – 12.7 percent
  • Low price – 17.1 percent
  • Innovation and technology – 8.5 percent

Fite pointed out, however, that the firms who can help the Georgia economy the most are those who focus on innovation and technology. This strategy provides a higher return on sales and employee salaries are higher, thus having a more positive impact on the state’s economy.

The challenge is that Georgia firms typically do not invest in R&D as much as their counterparts around the nation.  Manufacturing R&D intensity, or R&D expenditures as a percentage of sales, on the national level is 4.5 percent. In Georgia, however, it is only about 1 percent.

Unfortunately, as Fite previously pointed out, this can ultimately impact our economy by reducing the return on sales and lowering manufacturing wages. “We try to explain to them that they need to innovate,” she said. “If you aren’t innovating, you are losing ground.”

A unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, GaMEP is a cost-effective alternative to traditional manufacturing consulting. To learn more about GaMEP, please visit: http://gamep.org/.

Fite’s presentation was part of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute’s weekly Brown Bag Seminar Series. The seminars take place each Monday between noon and 1 p.m. in the Manufacturing Research Building, Room 114. Students and faculty are invited and are welcome to bring their lunch to the meeting. If you have questions or you want to be added to the reminder list for these events, please contact Tina Guldberg at tina.guldberg@gatech.edu

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Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI)

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Keywords
Brown Bag Seminar, GaMEP, Karen Fite, manufacturing, manufacturing extension partnership
Status
  • Created By: Tracy Heath
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Nov 11, 2013 - 12:02pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:15pm