E-07: Equilibar Podcast

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E-07: A North Carolina “Basement” Success Story

What started as an engineer’s basement invention has grown into one of the world’s most in-demand pressure regulators.

Pressure control technologies are an integral part of many products and industries. They assist in supplying important operations with the appropriate amount of fluid or gas.Our next guest’s valves and regulators have been dubbed gold standard within pressure control technology manufacturing.
I sat down and talked with Jeff Jennings, inventor, founder and president of Equilibar. Jeff founded the company in 2007. What started in his basement grew into a company whose products are in-demand across the globe. Jeff obtained a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University and has been in the manufacturing industry for over 20 years.
The company is located in Fletcher, North Carolina, a town located 25 minutes south of Asheville, NC. Nestled in between the ancient Appalachian Mountains, Equilibar designs innovative flow control, sanitary, back pressure and vacuum control devices.
On this episode of Clocking In, we discuss the founding of Equilibar, how the internet assisted the expansion of Equilibar’s customer base, Jeff’s invention of patented pressure control products, how Jeff helped found the DuPont State Forest and more.
Phil Mintz is the Executive Director of NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) and Director of the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP). At NCMEP, Phil drives outreach to NC manufacturers, builds relationships with federal and state leaders and coordinates efforts to drive profitable manufacturing growth in the state. He also leads the broader IES Extension Operations outreach unit of regional managers, technical specialists and business development leaders providing business engagement, assessment and improvement tools. This includes statewide peer networks, ISO 9000 quality management systems, Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, environmental services, and health and safety solutions.
Jeff Jennings is the founder and president of Equilibar. Jeff has more than 30 years of engineering experience in manufacturing. He graduated from Clemson University in 1985 Magna Cum-Laude with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Jeff was the founding president and board member for Friends of Dupont Forest from 2001 to 2007 and is currently a member of a state-appointed committee on the DuPont State Forest Advisory Committee.
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Talent/Host: Phil Mintz
Executive Producer: Teresa Bradford
Producer: Shelby Kimes
Sound/Audio Engineer and Editor: Mike Reep
Graphic Designer: Casey Hembrick

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Manufacturers

It’s never too early to think about Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). This annual event, celebrating manufacturing and inspiring the next generation of manufacturers, is held on the first Friday of October, although any day can be MFG Day.
By hosting an event, you can share your company’s story with your community and showcase your products and processes through tours and presentations. MFG Day events are also an excellent way to inspire the future workforce by hosting student groups. Students will learn what modern manufacturing is and isn’t and can explore manufacturing as a career opportunity. Post MFG Day surveys indicate students have a more positive perception of manufacturing.
The first MFG Day was held in 2012 and included 240 events. Participation has continued to grow tremendously each year. In 2019, there were over 3,041 events held in the United States with 119 of those held in North Carolina.
Let’s increase North Carolina’s participation in 2020 and promote the importance of manufacturing to the state’s economy and community. Ready to share your company’s story and inspire the next generation? Getting involved is easy – you can register your event at https://www.mfgday.com/ be sure to check out the available resources to help promote your event. Resources include logos and toolkits to help with planning and marketing.
If you are looking for a co-host to help promote and organize your event or if you need a guest speaker, the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) is here to help. NCMEP is a network of seven North Carolina organizations that provide extension services designed to enhance the productivity, innovative capacity and technological performance of NC manufacturing companies.
NC State’s Industry Expansion Solutions hosts the center and is joined by partners from the North Carolina Community College System; NCWorks Customized Training; the Economic Development Partnership of NC (EDPNC); the Polymers Center of Excellence; the Manufacturing Solutions Center; East Carolina University and North Carolina A&T State University. As one of the U.S. Commerce Department’s NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers, NCMEP helps small- and mid-size manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, become more globally competitive, and save time and money.
For assistance with your MFG Day event, please contact NCMEP, your IES Regional Manager or Susan Barber, Assistant Director of Manufacturing Programs.

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Cybersecurity Resiliency For Defense Contractors

This event has been postponed – a future date and location is to be determined.
With the Department of Defense (DoD) ramping up its focus on cybersecurity for the supply chain, manufacturers will need to take specific steps to protect covered defense information (CDI) if they want to continue doing business with DoD.
With current and future DoD contracts at stake, compliance is a strategic necessity that contractors cannot ignore. And with third party certification audits to be conducted in 2020, time is running out for manufacturers to reach compliance.
To help navigate this new terrain, members of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network, have assembled a team of cybersecurity experts to assist in understanding the consequences of non-compliance and how to ultimately achieve compliance. Through this support, defense contractors will learn exactly what steps to take to ensure the protection of all information as well as the future of their business.
Learn more about DFARS and the NIST 800-171 guidelines as GENEDGE, Virginia’s best public resource to help manufacturing companies innovate, compete and grow, hosts an upcoming information session on Tue, Apr 21, 2020 8:30 a.m.
More details can be found here.

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Manufacturing Firm Powers Success Through NCMEP Collaboration

It’s been said that “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.” It’s no different in manufacturing. In this industry, successful machining depends on sharp, well-maintained cutting tools that not only ensure precision, but also speed. And the successful sharpening of these cutting tools is dependent upon utilizing the correct grinding wheel, tool set-up and grinding methodology unique to each tool.
Since 1993, Advanced Superabrasives, Inc. (ASI), nestled in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, has been a manufacturing leader of high-end, extreme-precision diamond and CBN grinding wheels. Their wheels, utilized in multiple applications across a multitude of industries,
are used to create tools that require precision—down to the micron—which translates to about 39 millionths of an inch.
What differentiates ASI from their competitors is their ability to customize wheels with different shapes, diamonds and bonds, allowing them to produce wheels for a variety of industries rather than focusing exclusively on one. ASI takes pride in being a total solution provider rather than solely offering their clients a grinding wheel from a catalog.
They also pride themselves on working with their clients and their clients’ machines, finding solutions for faster and better production. ASI also offers client training, dressing tools, dressing machinery and coolant filtration systems that complement their grinding wheels, helping them last longer and perform better.
Their superior products and maniacal focus on customer satisfaction has enabled ASI to grow exponentially in their 26 year history. Within two years of opening, the company doubled in size and five years later expanded to a 37,000 square foot facility, overlooking the Great Smokey Mountains. In 2018, ASI experienced growing pains again. They needed to expand.
Jonathan Szucs, President and owner of Advanced Superabrasives, said, “Our Company is proud to do business in North Carolina and we wanted to grow here in the state. That’s when we turned to the North Carolina Economic Development Partnership (EDPNC), an NCMEP Partner, for assistance.”
EDPNC helped ASI navigate through the maze of tax incentives and what they might be eligible for; helped them understand what training dollars might be available and counseled them on their global export business. EDPNC also helped them write and apply for a $100,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund to help support the expansion. In receiving the grant, ASI had to meet job creation and capital investment targets to receive payment. ASI’s goal: double their workforce over the next four years and invest $26M in their expansion.
So far, ASI has grown its number of employees by 21%, increased sales by $135K, realized $500K in retained sales and $150K in cost savings as a result of working with EDPNC. They sell in 49 states and export to 28 countries around the globe. The furthest away one of its grinding wheels is being used? 140 million miles. One of its grinding wheels is in use on the planet Mars as part of the scientific package aboard the Curiosity Rover.
Szucs said, “EDPNC is a great group of people who go above and beyond in helping companies. Through their efforts, we anticipated spending another $500K in future investments for future growth.”



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The Importance of Productivity

A manufacturer is only as successful as their level of productivity. Productivity also matters for the manufacturing industry as a whole and how it contributes to the modern economy. From 1999 to 2008, labor productivity within the manufacturing industry grew around 39%. That growth screeched to a snail’s pace after the recession in 2009—growing over just 7%. So, how productive is manufacturing and how does pay influence workforce production output? Learn More→

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