Georgia MEP Helps Manufacturers Compete and Grow

The challenge was clear enough for John Anker. He wanted to increase operational efficiencies in his company, AnkerPak, the manufacturing and packaging company he founded in 2004, based in Columbus, Georgia.

“We’re a young company and costs are critical,” he said. Competing against other manufacturing and packaging companies, particularly from Mexico and China, adds even more pressure, he added. “We’re always looking for ways to reduce our costs, increase efficiency, and implement strategies that result in a real and meaningful monetary tangible return, and I think that’s most important to a young company, tangible returns such as cash flow.”

So Anker did what most executives in his situation would do: Seek the advice of an outside consultant. The first organization he worked with was a firm based in Chicago, but it wasn’t exactly a good fit. Sharing his situation with fellow entrepreneurial CEOs in Columbus, he asked for recommendations.

“I said, ‘Who have you used that showed they cared about your business and gave you a good result,’ ” Anker recounted. “Somebody in that peer group said, ‘You really ought to talk to Derek Woodham at Georgia Tech.’ ”

Woodham serves West Georgia as a region manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP). A federally funded program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, GaMEP is part of the National MEP network and is supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

GaMEP’s mission since it was established at Georgia Tech in 1960: To be a resource and partner available to help manufacturers across Georgia, said Karen Fite, GaMEP’s director. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia is home to about 7,300 manufacturers.

“Our goal is to be able to help them grow and remain competitive,” Fite said. “For us, that means we want to meet them where they are, we want to understand what their current needs are, and we also want to help them look beyond their immediate challenge in order to think strategically not only about operational excellence, but organizational excellence.”

Manufacturing is an important component of Georgia’s economy; in fact, it’s the second-largest private business industry after agribusiness. Manufacturing employs 365,000 people across the state and accounts for about 11 percent of Georgia’s $493 billion economy.

Read the complete feature on the Research Horizons website

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