ultoday.com interviews Corrine Dupuy, Engineer and Director of MEPoL, UL's manufacturing extension service for the state of Louisiana.

This is Part II of our interview with Corinne Dupuy.  In Part I, she spoke about her father, and his experiences with Admiral Byrd's South Pole Expedition.  To read that article, click here.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Breaux Bridge, the child of strong-willed parents. I married my high school school sweetheart, he's a purchasing agent with JP Oil Company headquarters herre in Lafayette. We've been married 25 years, we have two children, both with Down's syndrome. Mark is 24, and Lindsay is 21.

I got my BS & MS in engineering at UL. I've been here 20 years. I was hired out of college to work for what was then the Louisiana Productivity Center, and which is now MEPoL. I started at the bottom, and worked my way up.

Did you take the job just because it was available?

No. I first had a job with LEDA, working with Mike Olivier, who was the Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development at that time. When this job came open, I also had a job offer in Mississippi from Vicker Pumps. I already had one child, and my family was here. I didn't want to move.

Tell us about your time as a student at UL.

UL was awesome. At the time, and I think still, it was one of the finest mechanical engineering programs in the South. The computer equipment-- I did the CAD/CAM [Computer Assisted Design/Computer Assisted Manufacturing] side-- was great. Everything about UL was fantastic.

In fact, when they interviewed me at Vicker Pumps, it was like a step down from UL. I had to think, "Do I want to go backwards?"

In the 1980's we, as undergrads, were doing 3D CAD animations, robotics, and all sorts of things on the mainframe computer. The computer took up a whole room, but the shadings and the coloration were fantastic. And of course there were only two girls in the program, so it was a lot of fun.

We had a study group, we shared notes and helped each other. I had one class with Mr. Theriot, he's still here. It's a rough class. It was two weeks from finals, and I was struggling, debating dropping with a "W". My study group told me absolutely not, they would help me study, and I would pass. So I passed the course because they took time out of their studies, to help me pass the course.

Tell us about the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana (MEPoL).

There are 59 MEPs in the US & Puerto Rico. We're graded each year, and have to meet minimum standards & requirements. So we sort of compete against each other, in a friendly way. So our B-HAG is to be the #1 MEP, because we're the underdog. We're one of the smallest centers, but we're ranked #13 out 59, so we're well on our way.

B-HAG?

Big Hairy-A Goal.

Anyway, we don't have state funding. Every state in the country gives their MEP funding, except for two or three. But we still excel.

You don't get state funding?

No.

Where does your money come from?

We get federal funding through Department of Commerce/National Institute of Standards and Technology MEP program, which is for $588,870. Some MEPs get over $3M in Federal Funding, with less documented impact than MEPOL has, and most of those also receive state funding.

In addition to that, UL puts up $350K, and about $1.4M is program income from consulting fees. So it's about $2.3M.

If we had state funding, we could get apply for a match from the feds.

It's hard to believe that the state doesn't fund MEPoL. Louisiana desperately needs manufacturing, but agriculture is shrinking and they get a lot more funding than that.

I think it's $40M, I'm not sure. [See Editor's note, below]

So what exactly does MEPoL do?

Our mission is to increase the productivity and profitability of Louisiana's manufacturers. We do that by offering technical assistance services. That includes lean manufacturing assistance & training, which eliminates waste in a production facility. We offer growth services though the national MEP. One of those is an approach to rapid product development design, which has an 80% success rate, meaning that 80% of the products that come out of this process go to market.

We have a polymer services lab, where we do material testing. For example, we can take a sample plastic piece, expose it to simulated heat, light, rain & humidity, to test for color change, strength degradation, stuff like that. In a two-month period, we can subject a sample to 20 years of normal exposure. We also have a rapid prototype machine that creates a physical sample in ABS plastic, from a 3D CAD drawing. It cuts slices from the 3D design and builds the model by extrusion from an orifice, layer by layer. It's pretty cool.

We also offer quality services. If someone needs ISO certification [International Standards Organization] or API certification [American Petroleum Institute], we can assist with that.

We have entrepreneurial services for people who have an idea, to help them make it a reality from concept to final design and product.

We assist businesses with accounting services, if needed. Some of our smaller clients don't even have accounting services.

Basically, we take a holistic approach. If we don't have the expertise, we locate it for them.

MEPoL has a core set of services that our UL people supply, and we have a myriad of third party providers, private consultants. We use consultants in the state of Louisiana whenever possible, to boost the state's economy.

For quality services, that's more of a commodity, so we go outside for that. Growth, lean, and polymer services are core competencies to MEPoL, and we get practices in those ares from the national MEP system.

Are the other competencies available from other MEPs that Louisiana needs?

There is a high level of manufacturing in the Louisiana food industry. One sister MEP institution has a food institute, so that is something we could provide.

So that would be helpful to the Louisiana economy?

Yes. Because we have great food, so there's a great potential for growth there.

Others?

We could support the petroleum industry better. That would also allow us to support shipbuilding, because welders, pipefitters, shipfitters and others are used by both industries. Beyond that, we could look at biofuels and bioprocessing, the chemical industry, robotics, telecommunications. Those are all areas that would be beneficial to the Louisiana economy and to Louisiana industry.

Could these industries help reverse the brain drain?

Absolutely. That's particularly true in the polymer industry. Louisiana is one of the top three states in the US in production of polymers and raw materials. But we ship the raw material out, and then pay for the valued-added products to bring them back in. That's a UL goal, in fact, promoting in-state polymer manufacturing.

Where are your Louisiana centers located?

We're headquartered here at UL. We have an office at the Shreveport Incubator, one at LSU, and one in St. Tammany Parish. There is a real need from Louisiana industry for several more offices in our major cities.

 


Other information on MEPoL:

As an MEP affiliate, MEPOL provides best practices support to manufacturers throughout Louisiana, who otherwise might not have access to this service. To maintain MEP status, we must meet certain minimum requirements in accountability. Those include: bottom-line client impact; investments made by our manufacturing clients; number of clients served; number of impacted clients; and the number of clients which report impact metrics that MEPoL has had. The Louisiana Productivity Center became an MEP 12 years ago, and the MEPoL has posted a score of 100 on a 100 point scale for the last 4 years.

Of 59 MEPs in the United States and Puerto Rico, currently MEPoL ranks in the following areas:
Impacted Clients 7th (tied)
Bottom Line Client Impact 10th
Percent Quantified Impact 4th (tied)

MEPoL is a statewide outreach program of the University of Louisiana, and the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership. MEPoL provides hands-on training and technical solutions to manufacturers throughout the state.

MEPoL currently offers Louisiana industry support in eight areas of industrial solutions:
Polymer Services
Lean Solutions
Quality Solutions
Strategic Solutions
Marketing Solutions
Growth Solutions
Workforce Solutions
Technical Solutions

MEPoL funds 17 positions statewide with offices in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Mandeville.

According to the report of an NIST MEP contractor who surveyed 134 Louisiana companies, MEPoL's impact on Louisiana industry for the most recent two-year period, ending in the second quarter of 2008:

Jobs Created and Retained 1,364
Increased & Retained Sales $147,324,310
Cost Savings $20,201,257
Capital Investments $27,447,603


Editor's note: The most recent information our staff could locate on the Louisiana Agricultural Extension Service was the 2003 data.  In that year, the Service received $71M funding. We spoke to several people at the Extension Service, and left an unreturned voice message with the CFO, but as of publication we were unable to identify the budget for the current fiscal year. We did find documentation that the 2008 requested capital outlay budget-- i.e., improvements and construction-- from the Legislature for the Extension Service was $129M.

In addition to the Agricultural Extension Service, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture has a current annual budget of $93M.