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East Mississippi manufacturers find ally in CMTE

Mayhew — These have not been easy years for Mississippi’s manufacturers. Beginning in the 1990s, the state’s goods producers started feeling the pressure from a number of factors, not the least of which was the struggle to find skilled employees.

However, the news has not been all bad. In 1999, the Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CMTE) opened on the Golden Triangle campus of East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), offering not only cutting-edge training but consulting services, as well. It is the first such facility to ever be housed in Mississippi.

“CMTE is focused on doing whatever it takes to support local industry in today’s competitive environment,” said Stan Rice, executive director of CMTE. “We provide hands-on training with the best equipment and resources in the state.

“The leadership of our board of directors is what created CMTE, and has continued to be the key to our success. CMTE is governed by an independent board of directors comprised of representatives from industry, education and economic development. Leaders from these areas were involved in the development of the plans for the center, the process of obtaining funding and are now involved in the ongoing operations of the center.”

The roots of CMTE go back to 1994 with the mission of improving East Mississippi’s ability to provide highly skilled, technically proficient workers. In 1995, the Legislature approved $3 million in funding for the center, with another $1.2 million from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission and local industry partners representing industry, economic development organizations and education. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in August 1997, and CMTE officially opened its doors in January 1999.

CMTE has been cited as a key factor in attracting new industry to East Mississippi such as Service Zone and Eurocopter, which officially announced its coming to Mississippi with a press conference held at CMTE. But CMTE has taken perhaps an even more important role in servicing the area’s existing manufacturers and industries.

“All our companies must run with minimum downtime. The key to achieving that objective is having a trained maintenance staff that can troubleshoot and correct equipment problems to minimize production stoppages,” Rice said. “CMTE has established maintenance training programs to support our industries’ needs to minimize downtime. CMTE’s programmable logic controller trainers are designed for teaching troubleshooting methods, and this has been one of our best-attended training programs.”

Since its establishment, CMTE has served more than 32,000 individuals and delivered 117,000 hours of training. The center’s facility encompasses 27,000 square feet and offers a 22-station computer lab, 70-seat seminar room with LAN connections, a 4,500-square-foot commons area suitable for trade shows, luncheons and conferences, a 4,500-square-foot high-bay industrial incubation area, CAD lab and high-tech industrial training equipment lab and conference in meeting rooms.

CMTE currently has three full-time staff members and utilizes several part-time trainers who have extensive industrial experience. CMTE also uses EMCC’s instructors when it does not conflict with their work schedules.

The center provides training that has been requested by industry, and it markets its offerings through its Web site to obtain the required number of students for the training event to be held. Minimum class sizes vary, in some cases limited to six attendees per class due to the hands-on nature of the instruction.

“Another key element of CMTE’s success is our use of instructors who have in-depth experience in both operating and maintaining equipment,” Rice said.

A few examples of CMTE’s classes slated for 2005 include Deal Carnegie training, rigging for supervisors and maintenance technicians, process control temperature maintenance, basic electrical principles, pulping chemistry and manager and supervisor training workshops.

Rice said, “Hands-on training is also provided in areas such as motor control, hydraulics, pneumatics, steam systems and bearing maintenance. We are also supporting the needs of one of our companies by managing their training program.”

A wide array of consulting services are also offered. A sampling includes database design and development, cost reduction, line balancing, plant and workplace layout, mistake proofing and project management.

Though located on the EMCC campus, CMTE is not attached to the college. But EMCC provides an excellent locale and partner for CMTE, and that relationship was strengthened by a recent merger.

The EMCC Workforce Development Team was established to perfect the delivery process of comprehensive services ranging from retaining displaced workers to providing customized high-tech training for new industries locating in its area. The team’s vision for CMTE is to be viewed as Mississippi’s model for the delivery of workforce development services. Thus, on February 2, 2005, CMTE merged with the EMCC Workforce Development Center.

“We are continuing to enhance our training capabilities, and our recent merger with workforce development has enabled us to purchase CNC equipment, which is needed to support both our existing industry and our new industry requirements for trained CNC machining operators,” Rice said. “My vision for the Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence is to continue to provide the workforce education and training required for companies to maintain a competitive posture in the global economy. The mission of CMTE will be to continue to provide workplace-specific educational and technical support services for companies and employees to flourish.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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