Industry Expansion Solutions helping fight the COVID-19 virus

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In mid-March, NC State’s Phil Mintz received a request from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) asking for “volunteers who can donate and provide and/or produce within two weeks large-scale quantities of critical supplies to help the nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Since then, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing.

Mintz, executive director of Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), the statewide extension service of NC State’s College of Engineering, has seen an unprecedented response to the NAM request in an effort to jumpstart the production of the critical supplies needed in the fight against the coronavirus. North Carolina breweries have been switching over to make hand sanitizer. Local manufacturing companies are pivoting from making furniture and textiles to producing masks and other items to help increase the supply of those items. “The response has been overwhelming,” said Mintz.

IES is also home to the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP), one of 51 centers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico well equipped to help identify small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies that may have the capacity to ramp up production of one product or another.

Mintz, who also serves as director of NCMEP, said, “Because of our resources and knowledge, the NC Emergency Management Agency, housed within the NC Department of Public Safety, has asked us to serve as a centralized, front-line resource for coordinating manufacturing responses to the pandemic.”

“We are fielding requests from manufacturers across the state and beyond (well over 100 thus far) who are reaching out to contribute their resources, time and energy to meet the challenges of those companies responding to COVID-19,” said Mintz. “We are collecting these responses and building a database of companies, cataloging their capabilities, coordinating a technical response and providing sourcing guidance to each company.”

In effect, “Our staff are serving as a conduit and a match-making role between these manufacturers and the NC Emergency Management Agency,” said Mintz. “We’re also partnering with the Carolina Textile District and the NC Military Business Center in developing and sharing resources in a unified COVID-19 response.”

The match-making role is paying off. One interesting connection made is with Core Technology Molding Corporation, a Greensboro, NC, manufacturer known for its highly engineered plastic products and sophisticated tool design. IES advised Core Technology about a call for information issued by the North Carolina Defense Technology Transition Office, looking for organizations interested in responding to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Previous IES training around quality systems prepared Core Technology to pivot and be able to accept a more diversified opportunity such as this. The company responded and re-tooled and now has an order for 500,000 face masks, stepping up and meeting the demand for critically needed products in the wake of the pandemic.

IES is the engineering-based, solutions-driven, client-focused extension unit of NC State’s College of Engineering. Its broad portfolio of solutions and deep industry expertise helps organizations grow, innovate and prosper. IES’ extensive partnerships with business, industry, education and government generate a unique culture of collaboration that provides access to cutting-edge expertise, research and technology.

There are more than 20 critical supplies needed to respond to COVID-19. If you know of a company that currently provides or can quickly begin production, please share this link with them. IES will share this information with federal and state stakeholders such as the US Department of Commerce and NCDPS Emergency Management agency to help meet these needs.