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Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center at LU receives $1.42 million grant

The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center – Southeast, a federally funded research center housed at Lamar University, recently received $460K in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for the year 2020-21.

Part of this funding is from the CARES Act designated to assist Texas manufacturers in preventing, preparing
Srinivas Palanki
for and responding to coronavirus. The remaining funding, $1.42M, is a five-year award to TMAC-SE to contact 117 Southeast Texas manufacturing companies to collect data and assess the impact of COVID-19 on the area's manufacturing industries.

“This funding provides an opportunity for Lamar University students, faculty and staff to engage in industry-relevant projects that increase competitiveness of the Texas economy by improving the manufacturing enterprise. It also sets up a platform for experiential learning that prepares students in the professional world.,” said Srinivas Palanki, the TMAC-SE director.

The granted funds, provided for 2020 through 2025, will be used to help industry assess the impact of the pandemic by identifying services that directly support manufacturers’ emergency response. The grant also aims to enhance manufacturers’ ability to improve their competitiveness as the marketplace adapts to the coronavirus disruption.

“For example, we’ll look at how manufacturers’ could have been supported by an accelerated production of Personal Protective Equipment,” said Palanki. “Ultimately, we’ll connect manufacturers with suppliers of raw materials.”

TMAC-SE, opened in 2019, has offices in LU’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship and a staff of three. 

“We are all Lean Six Sigma Black Belts representing a combined 50 years of experience in the petrochemical industry,” said Palanki. “We combine our project management skills from the Black Belt certification and our industry knowledge to train teams of engineers, supervisors and technicians on modern manufacturing techniques relevant to the process industry through formal seminars.”

Many of the seminars are offered online, which has allowed the center to thrive despite travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. TMAC provides assessments on how companies can accomplish higher profitability with their employees. Because of the federal funding from NIST, TMAC can provide its services to the local industry cost-effectively.

Metalforms, Ltd. employs about 170 people to manufacture heat exchangers and utilized TMAC-SE to help improve its manufacturing processes.

“TMAC-SE is helping us improve our current manufacturing processes as well as evaluating new technologies that could potentially increase our profits,” said Mark Chisum, production engineer for Metalforms. “This is an excellent public-private partnership, and we are glad to see this type of industrially-oriented research activity at Lamar University.”

As the center operations expands, TMAC-SE hopes to secure additional industry funding to address practical problems.

 “The Center provides the much-needed workforce training in the manufacturing sector and also exposes our students to the real-world challenges faced by small and medium-size companies. It is a win-win for LU and for the industry in the Southeast Texas region.”