Two West Virginia Manufacturers Benefit From TechConnectWV’s Innovation Adoption Program
TechConnect West Virginia’s Innovation Adoption Program (IAP) is helping West Virginia’s small and mid-sized manufacturers gain a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace. Working in partnership with the state’s nonprofit, R&D-capable institutions, the IAP provides funding to support a manufacturer’s new product development, product redesign, new tooling design and development, process improvements, and other innovation-based needs. Anne Barth, TechConnect’s executive director, said the Innovation Adoption Program is making a difference in how the state’s manufacturers look at opportunities to grow their businesses.
“For many small and mid-sized manufacturers, developing ideas for new products typically isn’t a challenge,” Barth said. “The real obstacle is in finding the time and expertise that can help move an idea forward. The IAP is specifically designed to connect innovation-minded companies with the people and resources that can help make them more competitive and, ultimately, hire more West Virginia workers.”
In addition to helping a company develop new products, the IAP also can assist a manufacturer in identifying ways to become more efficient. Becoming more efficient in its manufacturing process can allow the company to devote additional financial and human resources toward other innovation-based opportunities.
So far, two innovation-minded West Virginia manufacturers have leveraged the IAP’s resources to improve their competitive positions.
Uncle Bunk’s LLC (http://www.unclebunks.com/) is a Sistersville-based specialty food company that manufactures gourmet products using the freshest possible, locally grown produce and based on traditional Appalachian recipes. The WVU Industrial Extension’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership assisted Uncle Bunk’s in identifying and implementing methods to: 1) optimize its available manufacturing space, 2) increase manufacturing capacity, 3) increase efficiencies in shipping and receiving, 4) expand distribution to include large specialty food retailers, and 5) bring more efficiencies to the company’s production processes. The goal is to help the company eventually create several new products of multiple varieties and sizes over the few years and, consequently, hire additional employees.
Prior to the project, Uncle Bunk’s ownership had concluded that a new, larger facility was necessary to enable the company’s growth. The IAP project helped the company discover ways to better utilize its existing space, improve its logistics, and refocus its resources toward new product design. Those adjustments are allowing the company to focus on its continued growth.
The IAP project also included a review of the company’s existing administrative processes, which uncovered new methods and tools that are resulting in a more effective accounts payable system. Those adjustments are expected to improve the company’s cash flow.
Morgantown-based FCX Systems (http://www.fcxinc.com) designs and manufactures a broad line of solid-state Ground Support Equipment for the commercial, military, industrial and ship-shore markets around the world. The WVU Industrial Extension’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership provided the C Software code expertise FCX Systems needed to update its 90KVA power frequency converter to a 180KVA model for the commercial airport market as it accepts new 787-10 aircraft. The project’s overarching goals were to help further position FCX Systems as a key supplier in the Ground Support Equipment market, to increase orders for the company’s power frequency converters, and, ultimately, add new, full-time positions over the next few years.
The project resulted in an updated product that allows FCX Systems to keep pace with changes in its markets and to build on its reputation for quality and innovation. If market conditions hold as expected, the company anticipates adding employees to meet production demands.
To learn more about the IAP program or to apply for assistance, go to: http://techconnectwv.org/programs/.