5, February 2024

North Carolina MEP Brought Me Back Home 25 Years Ago

North Carolina MEP Brought Me Back Home 25 Years Ago


As Director of the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP), located on the campus of North Carolina State University (NC State) in Raleigh, North Carolina, I drive outreach to North Carolina manufacturers, build relationships with federal and state leaders, and coordinate efforts to stimulate profitable manufacturing growth in the state.

Working at NCMEP was a homecoming for me — I did my undergraduate degree at NC State. My career took a winding path for a while, away from my home state and away from manufacturing. But 25 years ago, an ad in the paper for an MEP position brought me back home. Here’s how it happened.

The long and winding road

After finishing my master’s degree in engineering at North Carolina A&T State University, I began my manufacturing career supporting design and production of radar systems for aerospace applications. That took me from North Carolina to a place a bit further north — the Baltimore/Washington area. Five years later, I moved to the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area to support design and development of space-based electronic systems. Eventually, I worked on naval fighter aircraft procurement.

After a while, working in the U.S. Navy Procurement Office felt a bit too far from the manufacturing production floor. I had my eye out for an opportunity that would get me closer to things being made again.

An ad in the newspaper caught my eye

By chance, just as the internet was getting popular, I happened to see an online newspaper ad placed by my undergraduate alma mater, NC State, for a Manufacturing Extension Specialist. And looping back to my graduate school days, the duty station for the position was North Carolina A&T State University! The position was at an NCMEP partner facility managed by A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina.

At the time, I had no idea what an “MEP” was. But I was very interested in how the two universities I was most familiar with were coming together to give me a new opportunity in manufacturing. I accepted an offer and returned to direct manufacturing engagement in a most unique way. As an MEP Extension Specialist, I got to work directly with manufacturers every day, helping them problem-solve and improve processes. So it was that NCMEP brought me back home to North Carolina, and back to manufacturing, just over 25 years ago.

The complexity is what I love about manufacturing

I find manufacturing to be quite a rewarding career — with so much variety. The engineer in me loves the complexity and problem-solving involved. I’m amazed at the fact that so many things must go right during the production process just to get us the items we all buy every day.

In manufacturing, there’s often a delicate balance between making things fast and making things right. I never get tired of seeing the extensive interactions required — between engineers, technicians, support staff, and management — to fill customer orders. All of these folks play an important role in the process. The roles are so varied and involve very different skill sets — there’s an opportunity for nearly anyone to contribute to the manufacturing industry. 

I was quite humbled in 2011 to have the opportunity to become the NCMEP Center Director, where I still work today. Although so much has gone right with my manufacturing career, and I know that I contribute in this leadership role, it’s still very hard not to miss my MEP Extension Specialist days back in Greensboro. I loved visiting multiple factories every day and helping manufacturers discover ways to make their processes and products better. That’s what MEP is all about.

About the author

Phil Mintz is the Director of the North Carolina MEP. He has over 25 years of manufacturing and engineering experience, including 10 years at NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) as an IES Regional Manager and specialist in quality management and Lean Six Sigma services. Before joining IES, he held posts as an industrial and systems engineer and engineering cost specialist for clients including the U.S. Navy Procurement Office in Norfolk, Virginia; Lockheed-Martin Engineering and Sciences Company at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s Electronic Systems Division in Baltimore, Maryland. Phil has a bachelor of science degree in engineering operations from North Carolina State University and a master of science in industrial engineering from North Carolina A&T State University.

Blog originally appeared here

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