• WisBusiness

Monday, April 13, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Manufacturing app powerful tool for workers, students

By MaryBeth Matzek
Jay Stulo, director of learning innovations at Fox Valley Technical College, simply calls GAMMA+ a "tutor in your back pocket" for manufacturers.

GAMMA+, which stands for Greater Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Apps, provides anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer access to a series of tutorials and learning materials focused on a wide range of manufacturing skills. FVTC launched the program three years ago after receiving a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to address gaps in manufacturing education. Today, the site has more than 500 short tutorials on a wide range of topics from basic math needed in manufacturing and how to write a professional e-mail to welding and machinist basics.

"All the tutorials are very short – just five or six minutes and are great for our students as well as people already working in manufacturing, but are looking for a refresher or trying to learn something new," Stulo says.

During the past year, GAMMA+ registered 117,239 page views from 13,819 unique visitors. "We get hits from all over the world," Stulo says. "We've gotten hits from all 50 states and 139 other nations."

In pulling GAMMA+ together, Stulo says the college, which is headquartered in Appleton, turned to local manufacturers and asked what skills they thought employees needed to know. The site is broken into five different sections – electronics, automation, machine tool, welding and mathematics. There's also digital flashcards to help with the learning process.

"Our staff helped us put the tutorials together and some faculty are using them in class to teach and reinforce material, too," Stulo says.

Beyond physical skills – such as how to use a sine bar, Stulo says manufacturers also talked about the need to teach soft skills, including how to write professional emails and work together as a team.

"That's something we keep hearing about more and more," he says. "Workers have the technical skills, but not necessarily those soft skills that help them be productive employees."

To check out GAMMA+ for yourself, click here: http://www.wisc-online.com/gammaplus

In-school clinic

Green Bay-based Bellin Health is building a new in-school clinic at Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center. It's the latest in-school clinic for Bellin, which partners with the school district and the district's insurance company on the project.

The clinic serves teachers, staff members, spouses and dependents on-site with little wait time. It saves money for the district and insurance company while costing the patient nothing or a very low fee. Besides saving money, school officials hope it will allow staff members and teachers to get medical care more quickly and on-site so they don't need to take off too much time from work.

Students will not use the clinic, which should be complete by the end of the month. In addition to Peshtigo, Bellin has in-school clinics in the Ashwaubenon, West De Pere and Howard-Suamico school districts.

Expansion mode

Have you ever seen one of those TVs embedded in a mirror? Did you know they were made by a company in Green Bay? Seura, which was co-founded by Tim and Gretchen Gilbertson in 2003, announced this week it plans to double the size of its office and manufacturing facility. The company, which not only makes those TV-in-mirrors, but a host of other products, including specialty lighted mirrors and indoor and outdoor TVs, hopes the project will be complete this summer. Once the new space is completed, Tim Gilbertson says Seura will be able to double the manufacturing and assembly space for its lighted mirrors.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: GreenTier program honors Wisconsin businesses for environmental efforts

By MaryBeth Matzek
Kermit the Frog may have sung, "it's not easy being green," but businesses and organizations in Wisconsin's Green Tier are showing it can be done – while not hurting the bottom line.

Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Green Tier program recognizes and rewards organizations with superior environmental performance who voluntarily exceed legal requirements. Statewide, there are 83 companies representing 247 facilities who are in Green Tier 1 and 7 in Tier 2. Tier 1 is the program's entry level while Tier 2 is for organizations with a history of superior environmental performance and have an effective Environmental Management System (EMS). There are also four associations who are charter members and looking to help its member companies meet environmental objectives.

Service Litho-Print, a printer, graphics and creative packaging company in Oshkosh, is the latest business to join the program. In its application, the company shared how it conducts annual air-leak audits, installed energy efficient lighting, has a strong recycling program and uses local suppliers as much as possible. For example, 86 percent of production waste was recycled in 2014.

Chief Operating Officer Dan Clark says Service Litho's commitment to sustainability includes its relationships with customers, suppliers and other business partners. The company also participates in Wisconsin Public Service's NatureWise program where it purchases energy from cleaner sources, such as locally-sourced wind power and biogas generation.

"Sustainability is not something we do. It's something we are," he says.

Clark says many ideas for improvements come from Service Litho's employees, something that DNR Regional Director Jean Romback-Bartels commented on when she presented the company with its Green Tier designation.

"You are a very creative company. This is an opportunity for you to look at all aspects of your business and identify ways to be more efficient, more environmentally friendly," she said. "You are the ones who are here day in and day out. You know the systems. If you have an idea, speak up."

Green Tier participants can use the logo in their marketing pieces and are recognized by the state for their superior environmental performance. Clark says participating in the program is good for business and good for the planet, too.

Initiative paying off

The Lakeshore Industry Cluster Initiative, a five-county collaborative led by the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. and Progress Lakeshore, is paying off for local companies, according to a recent survey.

Eighty percent of cluster participants reported that their participation in the program, which is designed to strengthen relationships among area companies and raise awareness about available products and services, has led to more business. Of those participants completing surveys nearly 78 percent said it's generated up to $50,000 in potential new revenue; another 22 percent said it has the potential to generate $50,000 to $100,000 in new revenue. 

More revenue could be on the way. Progress Lakeshore – in partnership with the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation – received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Agency and matching funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to complete an in-depth study of the Manufacturing Supply Chain for companies in the five-county Lakeshore Region covered by the cluster. That study began in January and will run through September. Consultants are looking to map out business suppliers and customers to better identify opportunities to expand and grow business. 

Progress Lakeshore coordinates the overall initiative with Kewaunee, Calumet, Sheboygan and Door Counties' economic development organizations as well as several technical colleges and New North Inc. 

New state health website

The Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO) has launched MyHealthWi.org, a website to help patients and families take a more active role in their healthcare and help them make value-based healthcare decisions.

The data on the site shows how state clinics measure up to recognized care benchmarks and how providers compare to similar ones in other parts of Wisconsin. Initially, MyHealthWI.org provides ratings in the fields of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics. More specialties will be added in subsequent versions and updates. 

The site also provides useful information on how patients can better talk with their doctor and get the most out of their doctor visit and follow-up care.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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