I Discovered One of the Best Kept Secrets in Tennessee

By Tim Waldo, workforce development specialist, CIS
(This article originally appeared on Waldo’s LinkedIn page)
Lately, many people have been congratulating me on my one-year work anniversary, which I truly appreciate. Hard to believe one year has slipped by since I started working with the UT Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS). Reflecting on this first year, I have to say that one of the most interesting things I discovered is an underutilized resource in our state; at least for our Tennessee manufacturers. It’s the Tennessee Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a.k.a. TMEP, which is housed within UT CIS.

Nationally, the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) mission is to, “Act as a strategic advisor to promote business growth and connect manufacturers to public and private resources essential for increased competitiveness and profitability.” The MEP centers were founded in 1989, with one established in each of the 50 states and Puerto Rico over a few short years that followed. At that time, the U.S. was being challenged by Japan in the manufacturing sector. Today the global competition in manufacturing has given the MEPs additional challenges in the quest to help U.S. manufacturers stay competitive.

For years, Tennessee’s MEP has been helping manufacturers in our state with things such as exporting, new product releases, business continuity planning, lean manufacturing and quality management, technology scouting and acceleration and, my favorite, workforce development. Lately cyber security and advanced manufacturing has really gained speed.

Over this last year, my personal experience with TMEP included a competitiveness review with a small automation business that had 20 employees. We were able to help them identify some workforce solutions and strategic planning steps that really helped them with some pressing growth concerns. Recently, we helped a manufacturer, whose vision is to employ folks in their rural county who have some rather challenging barriers to employment related to the opioid epidemic. The Workforce Status Review that we helped them with identified some key steps and strategies that can help them achieve their goal.

Just a few months into my tenure, there was a Meet Your Match event for manufacturers in the automotive sector to help them connect to the supply chain and potentially grow their businesses. Later, I spoke to a company in East Tennessee that was desperate to get someone to help them with an upcoming ISO audit. We were able to connect them quickly to a resource that helped them prepare.

I’ve been alongside our solutions consultants as they talked with dozens of manufacturers about their challenges related to things such as their ISO certification to lean manufacturing and process improvements. Also, for the first time ever, we are now working alongside several of our community college partners to offer leadership and supply chain training to manufacturers supporting the automotive sector in the Appalachian Region. If you want to see more success stories for both TMEP and the Center For Industrial Services, check out this link – https://www.cis.tennessee.edu/about-us/success-stories

Actually, TMEP is not a secret at all in Tennessee. If anything, I’ve discovered that the real secret about this organization is their level of commitment to serve Tennessee manufacturers. If you are involved in manufacturing in the great state of Tennessee, you should really get to know your TMEP team. https://www.cis.tennessee.edu/manufacturing-excellence/tennessee-manufacturing-extension-partnership-mep