By Nadia M. Whitehead
Originally published in the El Paso Times on February 22, 2015.
Editor’s note: The following is part of a monthly series that explores how The University of Texas at El Paso impacts local business.
Local manufacturers who are looking to boost efficiency and increase profitability don’t have to go at it alone. The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), an engineering program based at The University of Texas at El Paso, is here to help.
TMAC is the Texas affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With seven regional offices throughout the state, TMAC provides technical, operational and business assistance to the manufacturing community.
“TMAC has been in operation for 19 years and we are part of the largest network of manufacturing consultants in the country,” said UTEP TMAC Director Hilario Gamez. “Our mission is to increase the global competitiveness of the Texas economy by working with the extended manufacturing enterprise to implement new technologies and business practices.
The center has developed successful partnerships and participated in improvement projects with hundreds of manufacturers of durable and non-durable goods in that last 20-plus years. Some of the TMAC partners include companies in the printing, plastics, metal fabrication, electronics, transportation, food and beverage, textile and medical device manufacturing industries.
TMAC staff help assess current process capabilities and provide partner companies with a roadmap to achieve higher levels of competitiveness and profitability. An organization can follow this roadmap on its own or partner with TMAC to implement improvement projects.
Plastic Molding Technology (PMT), an El Paso-based company that produces plastics components for multiple industries, is one of TMAC’s biggest success stories.
In search of opportunities to become greener, they contacted the center for advice in 2013. The call led to their participation in E3 (economy, energy and environment) training.
“TMAC helped us identify areas of opportunity in which we can reduce waste and conserve energy,” said Martin Rubio, PMT’s quality assurance manager. “We have 60 plastic molding presses here and as you can imagine, they take up a lot of energy; we’re basically using electricity to melt plastic into the shapes we need.”
Recommendations to save on water usage, installation of motion-sensitive lights, and identification of non-value adding activities led to dramatic improvements.
By implementing change, PMT has managed to save more than 180,000 kilowatts per hour and 80,000 gallons of water since last year. They have also reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by 126 tons.
The simple step toward sustainability led to the company keeping an additional $300,000 in its pocket and earned them the national 2014 Sustainability Leadership Award.
Today, PMT continues working with the UTEP center to learn lean manufacturing techniques, such as how to identify and reduce waste and the costs associated with it.
TMAC field engineer Hector Lopez says assistance isn’t just available to big manufacturers; any type of industry in the Paso Del Norte region can benefit by partnering with TMAC.
In his observations of manufacturing operations, Lopez said the most common issue he sees is a process with diminished capability or capacity struggling to keep up with demand and customer expectations.
“In most cases, this inevitably leads to cost overruns in the form of excessive overtime, overworked personnel and equipment, emergency shipments and additional consumption of energy and resources that ultimately impact their profitability,” he said.
This is where TMAC experts can help their partners analyze the facts to determine the root cause for low productivity and recommend or implement countermeasures.
“We have been very successful in helping organizations reverse negative trends by identifying and eliminating waste within their processes and helping them to gain additional capacity and flexibility to handle demand variations in a more effective way, as well as being able to fulfill their customers and shareholders expectations,” Lopez said.
With new technologies, techniques and business practices constantly on the horizon, TMAC’s goal is to help manufacturers evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the business world.
For more information about the services TMAC offers, visit engineering.utep.edu/tmac.
Nadia Whitehead is a writer for UTEP’s University Communications office.
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