The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is proud to be a member of the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP), a public-private alliance that this week recognized six manufacturers for their leadership and achievements in the areas of innovation, sustainable manufacturing, advanced talent development, market development, and continuous improvement.
Through combined resources and collaboration, the NCMEP provides manufacturing extension services that help companies save time and energy, improve productivity, increase sales, improve profits and create and retain jobs.
The alliance of state-supported programs includes the EDPNC, North Carolina State University’s Industry Expansion Solutions, North Carolina Community College System’s NCWorks Customized Training, Charlotte-based Polymers Center of Excellence, Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, N.C., and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
The NCMEP announced the winners of its 2017 Manufacturing Leadership Awards at mfgCON in Winston-Salem, the state’s premier manufacturing conference.
The NCMEP posted the following list of winners on its website, including details of their success and ingenuity.
INNOVATION: CORE TECHNOLOGY MOLDING CORPORATION
Core Technology is a plastic injection molding company that serves customers in the automotive, medical, appliance, heavy truck, consumer goods and gaming sectors. In 2016, Core Technology designed a new injection molding process that incorporated automation and auxiliary injection units, only to discover that not a single machine manufacturer could supply them with the equipment in the format that they required. Core Technology made a large investment in the necessary machinery and set it up themselves. As a result of its innovative new manufacturing process, Core Technology has captured a significant share of the market for gaming thumbsticks, producing 1 million every year for Sony Playstation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
SUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING: MIRIMICHI GREEN
When one thinks of “sustainability,” golf courses are not the first thing that come to mind. But when Memphis’ Mirimichi golf course was redesigned in 2009, its new owner was determined to make it both public and green; the course was redesigned to feature native landscapes and offer wildlife habitat connectivity and environmental education. It was also the first golf course to receive Audubon Classic Sanctuary Certification. After Mirimichi’s success, Mirimichi Green was formed in 2011 near Wilmington, N.C., to manufacture, sell and distribute an entire product line of sustainable soil and turf enhancers and weed and plant control products. Mirimichi Green’s products are designed to offer a bridge to more responsible landscaping methods, and to help consumers set reasonable goals for their own sustainable practices.
ADVANCED TALENT DEVELOPMENT: FAIRYSTONE FABRICS
Fairystone Fabrics manufactures textiles for automotive, military and other applications. Fairystone Fabrics, (along with six neighboring manufacturers, Alamance Community College and the Alamance-Burlington school district) is a founding member of the Career Accelerator Program, a high school internship program designed to train the next generation of manufacturers in mechatronics or mechanical/electrical/robotics. The same partners co-sponsor Employee Development classes at Alamance Community College. Fairystone Fabrics even started Fairystone University, in-house, to ensure that employees can access training within the organization. Within the company, there is an emphasis on training to promote to jobs that require more skill and reward with better pay. Fairystone has promoted two employees to lead trainer roles and plans to add another.
DEVELOPING MARKETS: EXELA PHARMA SCIENCES
Exela takes great pride in the 19 high-quality, sterile injectable pharmaceutical products that it manufactures in its state-of-the-art Lenoir laboratories. Its life-saving pharmaceutical products are used to control blood pressure during surgery, to seal heart valve defects in neonatal premature babies and to fight infection in severely immuno-compromised patients, to name just a few applications. Exela began its Lenoir operations 10 years ago with a handful of employees in a 5000-square foot building. The local unemployment rate was 17 percent. Fast forward to 2017: The company now includes manufacturing space, a 140,000-square foot corporate headquarters and 153,000 square feet of warehousing facilities. The company is currently undertaking a $25 million renovation of an 86,000-square-foot industrial building that will serve as its most advanced manufacturing facility. Exela has 250 employees whose average wages are 40 percent higher than the average for the county.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: APLIX, INC.
Aplix manufactures hook and loop fastening systems for aircraft, automotive, industrial, medical and hygiene applications, and attributes much of its success to wholehearted dedication to continuous improvement. The company pursued and was awarded initial ISO/QS 9000 certification in 1998, and added two British Retail Consortium certifications that allowed Aplix rapid entry into a new overseas market. Over the past 15 years, Aplix has quadrupled sales with only a 15 percent increase in personnel, and over the past five years has lowered overall manufacturing costs by $692,000, on average, per year. Aplix is an aggressive user of 5S workplace organization and a leader in the use of 8D problem solving and Kaizen improvement methodologies, and currently has more than 30 process improvement projects underway at its two Charlotte-area manufacturing facilities.
MANUFACTURING EXCELLENCE: EATON CORPORATION
Roxboro’s Eaton Corporation demonstrated exemplary practices across all areas of manufacturing, earning the organization the Manufacturing Excellence Award. Eaton produces complex and highly engineered products that require special competencies and experience. To keep those skilled jobs in Person County rather than outsourcing them, Eaton partners with “Tooling U” and Piedmont Community College to train employees for on-the-job, technical and leadership development. Additionally, a paid education incentive is offered to all employees for university education. Several of the company’s employees have recently won patents on new engineering designs, including one that enhances fuel economy. By effectively managing power to reduce fuel consumption, emissions are cut, leading to more sustainable outcomes. The company has been active in pursuing sustainability within its own walls as well; from 2014-16 Eaton reduced its water consumption by 50 percent, or seven million gallons In 2017, Eaton Roxboro became a “zero waste to landfill” site. Eliminating wasted time, labor and resources has also been an area of focus for Eaton Roxboro. The company employs a Six Sigma approach to control process variation, Focus Factory teams to drive specific improvements by product lines, and Rapid Improvement Events bi-monthly. Eaton Roxboro is a credit to its community, with a $20 mllion annual payroll for its 290 full-time and 120 contract employees.