Georgia Tech gives hand up to midstate industry

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 18, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership does for industries what the University of Georgia Extension Service does for farmers.

Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson is on a tour of Georgia industries the college has helped, and Wednesday he made a stop in Warner Robins.

Peterson visited Cascade Corp., which employs 60 people and makes specialized lift attachments for forklifts. Cascade General Manager Larry Read said the company set records in sales and safety last year, and he said Georgia Tech’s assistance played a key part in that. Georgia Tech has helped the plant improve efficiency and safety, he said.

Cascade’s growth, Read said, led to seven new jobs created at the plant in the past year.

“We take our employees to see other plants so we can see how other people do things,” he said. “We go to training for solving problems.”

Cascade is a member of the Lean Manufacturing Consortium, which Georgia Tech sponsors. It promotes the production concepts of Toyota, which are copied by industries around the world, including Robins Air Force Base.

Before giving Peterson a tour, Read told him a unique practice of the company is a monthly bonus for the entire plant based on the previous month’s performance, which takes into account sales, profit, safety and warranty claims.

He said the average time an employee works there is 16 years.

“It’s great to see a company like Cascade here in Georgia,” Peterson said after the plant tour. “They’ve done a lot to try to incorporate lean manufacturing.”

While there is a perception that manufacturing is in decline in the U.S., Peterson said that’s not true.

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in manufacturing in the country and here in Georgia,” he said. “Manufacturing is actually on the rebound in the U.S.”

He said one of the things helping is the reduced cost of using natural gas.

“The low cost of energy is starting to offset the lower labor cost overseas,” he said.

Alan Barfoot, Georgia Tech’s region manager of Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is the equivalent of a UGA Extension Service agriculture agent. Based in Dublin, he helps industries across a 29-county region.

He said the service used to be free, but now industries pay some of the costs, although the state still subsidizes it heavily.

“The goal is to help manufacturing grow through engineering and become more effective,” he said. “If you are more effective, then you get more sales. And more sales mean more jobs.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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