Students and local manufacturing companies are both benefiting from the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC) of South Texas, part of the Office of Center Operations and Community Services (CoSERVE) at The University of Texas-Pan American.
The program, which currently includes seven manufacturing specialists and six engineering student interns, provides several South Texas manufacturing companies expertise and problem-solving solutions while allowing student interns the opportunity to gain hands-on industrial experience.
"Students benefit by receiving experience working on projects," said Henry Oh, TMAC acting regional director. "Companies benefit by receiving assistance at an affordable cost."
The center's mission is to foster economic development by improving and expanding manufacturing in Texas, said Oh.
TMAC South Texas provides assistance to the manufacturers located in the lower 14 counties in South Texas. The main office is located on the UTPA campus, and there are satellite offices in Laredo, Corpus Christi and Harlingen.
Along with successfully training 54 companies, TMAC has assisted 109 companies and trained employees on professional development courses in the past year.
Services available to manufacturers include work force development, assessments, facility design, lean manufacturing, e-commerce development, market identification and software selection and implementation.
In addition, TMAC offers in-depth learning opportunities for improving a company's performance through a variety of training courses and workshops such as Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, ISO classes, Quality Management and Customized Training.
Oh said that TMAC differs from private consultants because the emphasis is on small and medium-sized businesses that may not be able to afford consultants.
Kolder, Inc., an Edinburg manufacturing company that makes products such as coasters and eyeglass cases from neoprene, brought in the TMAC/UTPA team to analyze its operational processes.
"We were very impressed by what the TMAC/UTPA engineering interns had to offer to Kolder," said Jim Martin, operations manager. "It's great to have such a valuable resource like TMAC right in our own backyard."
Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, TMAC manufacturing specialist and assistant professor at the engineering department, and the team of engineering student interns studied Kolder's operational processes involved in the company's operations and production scheduling, then analyzed the production data.
The team was successful in creating a scheduling program for Kolder to maximize its manpower. The collaboration also benefited the student interns by allowing them to apply their knowledge in real world situations, said Gonzalez.
"The support of TMAC has done wonders for students as far as providing opportunities in developing their skills," he said.
TMAC is part of a national network of Manufacturing Extension Partnerships supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. There are more than 400 affiliated manufacturing extensions centers and field offices located throughout the country, including seven in Texas.
CoSERVE is the public service division of UTPA and is a national model for economic and community development that provides education, training and professional expertise to local, state, national and international communities to foster innovative solutions to economic challenges. For more information, contact TMAC at 956/316-7011