In an effort to improve economic development in the state of Alabama, the Alabama Productivity Center was established January 1, 1986, on the University of Alabama campus. The mission of the APC is to focus research and educational resources on the enhancement of productivity and quality within the state's industry.
The Center, a non-profit organization, is an outgrowth of a 1983 joint venture of the University of Alabama and General Motors to save a Tuscaloosa GM plant from closing. The positive experience utilizing University faculty and students to save Alabama jobs led to the establishment and sponsorship of the center by Alabama Power Company and the University of Alabama.
In 1996, APC became home to Region 3 of the Alabama Technology Network (ATN), the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the state of Alabama. Headquartered in Montgomery, the ATN brings together a set of sixteen regional centers covering the entire state and serving the technical assistance and workforce development needs of small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms.
Technical assistance is provided to organizations through teams of students, faculty, and full-time professional field staff. This combination has proven effective in providing support to hundreds of firms, saving millions of dollars in operating costs and helping those firms become more competitive.
The Center is a successful example of how the cooperation of industry and academia enables the advancement of the economic development of a state. The Center’s accomplishments, such as recognition by the National Council for Urban Development and the U.S. Economic Development Administration as an “innovative” and “imaginative” program, demonstrate that the Center is a valuable resource for Alabama businesses.
The Alabama Productivity Center is the Alabama Technology Network at the University of Alabama and is affiliated with the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership. ATN is a network that links the University of Alabama system, Auburn University, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, and the post-secondary college system to provide technical assistance and training to business and industry throughout the state.
Other ATN centers provide APC access to dedicated field engineering staff for those client projects requiring a concentration of specialized effort and continuity of onsite presence. The national MEP initiative provides APC with a customizable consulting approach and a proven set of integrated tools for improving a client's productivity.
With support from APC professional staff, a UA business graduate student implemented a supermarket-style material storage and handling system that will reduce work in process by as much as 60 percent. The company's plant manager said, "We believe this program through APC is extremely beneficial for our company. Because the students bring special skills and experiences, we are able to assign them special projects with limited supervision. These projects are also completed in a timely manner, which is an overall cost savings for the company."
APC uses its innovative training program of instruction and coaching to qualify its manufacturing clients for Six Sigma Black Belt certification. By focusing efforts on the practical application and use of Six Sigma tools early in the course, APC prepares the participant to quickly carry out Six Sigma projects to improve company practices. The program reduces the time participants spend listening to lectures while increasing on-site coaching at each participating company. An automotive Tier-1 supplier personnel along with APC students worked on a quick changeover protocol that is expected to save the company $400,000 per year.
Developed, programmed, and implemented in an ASP.NET-based system for automatically generating reports and schedules for managing customer inventory for a ductile iron pipe liner coatings company. Completed an ASP.NET-based system for sales-quoting, order entry, price tracking, order tracking, and report generating for a major manufacturer of conveyor systems.
APC graduate research assistant has developed the Alabama Materials Exchange, an online listing service for exchanging industrial surplus, waste, or other materials initially within Alabama and eventually throughout surrounding states as well.Recognizing that one company's waste can be another's raw material, the exchange will allow materials to be bought, sold, traded, or given away. Just as in the classified ad section of a newspaper or trade magazine, organizations will be allowed to create listings for waste or surplus materials they have available and to post notices of materials they need. Companies will be able to browse listings, contact the generator and make arrangements to collect the material.
Deploying teams of UA faculty, students and staff to work side by side with management and employees to maximize a company's productivity, UA's Alabama Productivity Center is an outstanding example of collaboration among industry, university, and government. Advancing economic development in the state of Alabama since 1986, APC works directly with businesses, organizations, and government agencies throughout Alabama to increase their efficiency, provide cost-saving solutions and improve overall productivity. In 1996, APC also became part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology for the state of Alabama.
"Through our partnership with ATN and with the resources provided by The University of Alabama, the Alabama Productivity Center offers innovative programs that serve the needs of existing industry," said Alan Hill, APC Executive Director.
Projects or endeavours may range from a few days to a year or more and cover everything from strategic management issues to shop-floor problems. These projects range in scope from fundamental investigations and background research to detailed studies using the latest in computer resources and manufacturing technologies.