Uptown Greenville, NC


Networking Group Visits NACCO

By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

February 25, 2013 - Manufacturing operations can always improve, but focusing resources to achieve success requires a broad look at the options, state industrial experts said on Thursday during a tour of one of Pitt County's top manufacturer's operations.

The N.C. State University Industrial Extension Service sponsored a tour of NACCO Materials Handling Group for the 44 members of its Manufacturing Makes it Real networking program.

"We tour each other's plants about once each month to display best practices," IES program manager Gene Fornaro said. "NMHG's certified business management system allows them to market their products worldwide, and they're also leaders in lean manufacturing technology, using techniques that allow their workers to produce efficiently and with minimum waste."

The extension service focuses on key elements of manufacturing strategy, providing on-site evaluations aimed at improving success for its members, Fornaro said.

"We help them improve the cost, quality and delivery times of their products by recommending quality improvement programs, lean manufacturing and safety systems that help companies keep a safe workforce," Fornaro said. "We also help them install processes that help assess and reduce energy use."

Networking is the biggest reason for the site tours, IES Eastern Region leader Cheryl Smith said.

"Beyond touring other facilities, visitors get to meet other people they can benchmark with." Smith said. "They can also find suppliers and clients at these tours."

Another tour initiative is to get young people in Pitt County and the east to think about staying here and finding good employment opportunities in manufacturing.

"We work with North Carolina's eastern region to get kids interested in working in manufacturing jobs that make use of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)," Smith said. "Manufacturing is a large portion of our North Carolina economy, but if you're not engaged in it, you might not be aware of just how much money is invested in state-based manufacturing. You'd be amazed at some of the products made in North Carolina."

The IES network raises awareness of the potential that manufacturing has in the state and brings its members together to share ideas about how to grow, she said.

"Maybe a plant manager who attended today's event from another part of the state will need a product that NACCO makes or learn something helpful about its manufacturing practices," Smith said.

NMHG plant manager Jason Parson told the visiting manufacturing executives how the plant has engaged workers by instituting what it calls a "neighborhood."

Eight teams are entrusted with developing priority tasks they believe are opportunities for improvement.  The management team then provides the necessary resources to implement the priorities, which often involve safety and quality issues, Parson said.

In one year, as a result of the program, NACCO Materials Handling Group saved thousands of dollars and addressed more than 650 improvement suggestions directly attributable to the initiative, an NMHG executive said.

Anyone interested in learning about the N.C. State Industrial Extension Service and its variety of programs can visit www.ies.ncsu.edu.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or (252) 329.9571.