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EEOS: reach out, engage, enhance industry competitiveness

With help from a new umbrella organization, the Mississippi State University (MSU) Bagley College of Engineering is working to provide critical services to state industries.

Rounding out its first year of operation, the Engineering Engagement and Outreach Service (EEOS) works with different organizations within the college that partner with industry to provide engineering technical support and training to help state businesses and industry continually hone their competiveness.

MSU’s goal is to use the organization to engage industry and government in a lucrative collaboration that directly benefits their daily operations instead of simply providing basic knowledge. Additionally, EEOS provides an outlet for students looking to use their classroom knowledge in a practical application. The outreach also strengthens faculty involvement in industry activities and provides direct, positive impact for business, industry and community partners.

“EEOS is all about engagement and outreach,” said Dr. Joe Jordan, director of the Industrial Outreach Service (IOS). “Engagement in higher education is the same thing as being customer focused. Being an engaged engineering college means paying attention to what our customers need and trying to provide services to meet those needs.”

The engagement aspect of EEOS applies to all three missions of the land-grant university: education, research and service. Jordan said it means providing students the experience necessary for their future careers, while applying research to solve problems and helping industries be more competitive.

“One of the traditional criticisms of higher education is that it does things that are faculty driven rather than the things that are needed by society and industry,” Jordan said. “The idea of engagement is to not let faculty interests drive priorities, but instead let our customer’s needs drive priorities.”

Franklin Corp., one of the larger furniture manufacturers in the state, is one of the organization’s clients. IOS’s John Moore worked with Franklin on organizational transformation providing them with lean manufacturing training and implementation assistance.

“He went to their factory and conducted 12 to 14 days of training and then led them through several implementation events,” Jordan said. “He got them on the road to being a lean organization, which basically means getting rid of the waste in their operation.”

Another service branch of EEOS is Center for Advanced Vehicular Services Extension (CAVS-E) located in Canton.

“One of our most visible projects was working to support Navi-Star Defense in West Point,” said Dr. Clay Walden, director of CAVS-E. “We helped them design and implement the production system for the manufacturing of the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicle, which is used by the Army to protect troops from the improvised explosive device threat. At the time, that contract was the number one priority for the Department of Defense (DoD).”

CAVS-E’s Glenn Dennis managed an embedded team of technical experts, who played an instrumental role in the development and launch of the new manufacturing operations. The team provided the manufacturing engineering design and implementation required to move from initial prototype to full-scale production.

When MSU experts began work at the plant that has been awarded more than $2.5 billion in DoD contracts, there were less than a dozen people on site. The company went from prototype to full-scale production in nine months. Currently, approximately 500 people work at the plant.

And lives are being saved as a result.

“We had a former serviceman, who while delivering a file cabinet here to CAVS-E, saw a video of our projects,” Walden said. “He saw the work we did with MRAP, and told us his life had been saved by that vehicle. That was really something.”

CAVS-E is still working with Navi-Star Defense helping plan other types of vehicles it hopes will be launched in the future. The company is working hard to secure more contracts for the plant that has manufactured approximately 60% of the MRAP vehicles purchased by DoD.

Another example of CAVS-E work is a project at Faurecia in Cleveland, which manufacturers automotive seat frames. CAVS-E helped Faurecia dramatically improve the quality of its product as well as the productivity of its plant through a series of Kaizen events, which are intensive, action-oriented problem-solving exercises with teams. The principles of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma were used. Walden said as a result of this and other plant-wide initiatives, the plant has achieved dramatic improvements in quality and productivity.

“We work with the company to achieve these things,” Walden said. “It is not all our work, but work in concert with the management of the plant and the company to achieve these kinds of results.

“Manufacturers are in an never-ending quest to become more competitive and perform at a higher level. Sometimes it is helpful to have external resources to come in and assist. You have a fresh perspective. You can help those companies ask good questions. There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to come in and be a valuable partner in the company’s team to improve productivity. When we do that it helps secure jobs for their employees as well as adding to the reputation of Mississippi as a good place to do business, a good environment for manufacturing.”

A new effort to help manufacturers is engineering engagement workshops. CAVS-E is rolling out new workshop offerings in the area of ergonomics, simulationsmodeling, finite elements analysis, CAD solid modeling and supply chain logistics.

“Those are areas where we have partnered with faculty members to work alongside industry to develop these workshops that are needed by manufacturers,” Walden said. “We will be polishing those in the next few months, which will help us extend our engagement level within the state. It helps the manufacturers become aware of expertise that resides in the university, and helps us at the university understand the challenges of the manufacturers.”

CAVS-E and the IOS services operate in collaboration with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Mississippi, which has formed relationships with more than 45 companies.

Other MSU entities that work with industry as part of EEOS include: the Southeast Cooling, Heating and Power Applications Center, which promotes energy efficient systems; the Forensic Training Center, providing computer forensic training and support to the Southeast; the High Voltage Laboratory, the largest independent high voltage laboratory in the U.S.; the Industrial Assessment Center that helps Mississippi industries use energy more efficiently, improve waste management and enhance production; and, the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory located at Bryan Field in Starkville, the largest university flight research facility in the country.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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