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Matt Melinkovich has been named a certified black belt -- in manufacturing.
Melinkovich, a field engineer from the University of Wyoming's Manufacturing-Works, was named a certified black belt at the Manufacturing Innovation 2012 Conference, which took place in Orlando, Fla., May 5-9. He is only the 24th person nationally to receive this particular certification.
The certification allows Melinkovich, who serves northeastern Wyoming, to lead all growth aspects of companies anywhere in the U.S. However, because he is an UW employee, Melinkovich will provide his expertise only in Wyoming.
"Black belt is a certification that allows you to bring growth services to the state," Melinkovich says. "We are able to use another suite of tools that have been proven to help generate ideas more quickly and reduce the risk for businesses. A lot of reasons why companies don't come up with new ideas are because of cost and risk."
Manufacturing-Works, designed to assist manufacturing businesses in Wyoming, is part of the Business Assistance Network that is a partnership program with the Wyoming Business Council. Manufacturing-Works is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in a program -- the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) -- that NIST manages. Manufacturing-Works also receives funding from UW and the Wyoming Business Council.
"The biggest concern in Wyoming and across the country is that businesses think they can lean themselves into success," says Larry Stewart, director/founder of Manufacturing-Works. "We can't compete with the Chinese (on that front). We have to be innovative. People only care when you have a new idea."
"That's what black belt's (certification) all about," he continues. "It's a proven, in a practical way, to grow business by the development of their (businesses') own good ideas."
Major Metal Service and SolvingTech (both based in Gillette), Kennon Products (Sheridan) and Mountain Meadow Wool (Buffalo) are some of the primary companies Melinkovich advises. His service area includes 200 to 300 companies in Campbell, Crook, Johnson, Sheridan and Weston counties, where he is currently working with about 30 companies.
"Our focus is to work with manufacturing, mainly, and other industry to help them with growth and innovation to help their businesses grow," says Melinkovich, who works out of the UW Outreach Building in Gillette.
Getting the Maine points
To receive his certification, Melinkovich traveled to EUREKA Ranch in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he engaged in a University of Maine program for certification. There, he took two classes, each for two days -- six months apart. The courses include about 100 hours of homework, which focused on using exercises learned in coursework and Melinkovich applying those concepts to his clients' needs.
The final exam, which he had seven days to complete, was called "Create, Communicate and Commercialization." Melinkovich worked with a client to come up with 12 potential innovative business ideas. He helped the business winnow the ideas to three, before having the client pick one idea to pursue.
"The idea is to get businesses to always work on a new innovative product or idea every six months and have something in the pipeline," Melinkovich explains. "That will facilitate growth."
The certification studies included discussion and use of the "Deming cycle," named after W. Edwards Deming, Melinkovich says. In the 1950s, Deming proposed that business processes should be analyzed and measured to identify sources of variations that cause products to deviate from customer requirements. Deming, a UW graduate who spent some of his early years on a farm near Powell, recommended that businesses have their processes continuously reviewed for feedback in order to improve them.
"Dr. Deming went to Japan after World War II and taught Japan how to build cars," Melinkovich says.
Melinkovich joins fellow Manufacturing-Works field engineer Adam Johnson as a certified black belt in manufacturing.
"Wyoming has historically been an example to the rest of the nation in being innovative and on the cutting edge of providing innovation to industry," Melinkovich says.
If you include two part-time contractors -- Barry Bruns and Rick Rothwell -- Wyoming can lay claim to four of the 24 people with this particular manufacturing certification, Stewart says.
Melinkovich also was honored with the "Newcomer of the Year" award, for which there were seven national nominees. He received a glass plaque at the conference. Johnson was named runner-up.
The conference drew more than 800 manufacturing and industry experts.