The merger comes after advisory boards decided earlier this year that both organizations would be more effective at aiding Iowa businesses if they joined forces.
CIRAS and ILC leaders expect the merger to elevate both entities by aligning resources in several powerful new ways – although changes are expected to be minimal in the early going.
“The most important thing is that we’ll be able to provide better services and support to our members,” said Teresa Hay McMahon, executive director of the ILC. “Joining CIRAS will give us the resources to help our current and future members like never before.”
CIRAS will have day-to-day oversight of the consortium, but the ILC Board of Directors, as well as its teams and volunteers, will continue to play an integral role in devising ILC programming.
CIRAS Director Ron Cox said the merger will help CIRAS accelerate its goal of getting Iowa businesses to think and act more efficiently. Lean manufacturing techniques, as pioneered by Toyota Motor Company in the 1980s, are a proven way to help companies become more productive. However, a recent survey found that only 19 percent of Iowa businesses have substantially embraced such tools.
“There aren’t any more workers,” Cox said. “Iowa has had workforce difficulties for a long time, and companies are going to have to embrace new ideas if they hope to continue growing without additional people.
“Lean is a very effective way to get there,” he said. “We intend to recruit dozens of new members for the ILC and encourage as many companies as possible to take advantage of these productivity tools.”
McMahon, in a note to ILC membership last week, said the merger is expected to provide additional resources that will fuel rapid consortium growth.
“We will continue to be a member-driven organization, and volunteers will continue to be vital to our success,” she said. “This change will allow us to help more members get involved and allow us to implement more ideas from our teams.”
CIRAS was founded in 1963 as a corporate outreach arm of Iowa State’s College of Engineering and currently exists as part of both the College of Engineering and the university’s Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. CIRAS uses a vast network of on- and off-campus experts to provide research-proven services for Iowa businesses in five main areas: Leadership, Growth, Productivity, Technology, and Workforce. Projects with clients have generated an economic impact of more than $2.3 billion over the past five years.
The ILC was formed in 2009 when a cross-section of organizations met to discuss ways to jointly sponsor and deliver lean training events. Today, roughly 130 organizations are members of the Iowa Lean Consortium, which sponsors more than two dozen events and half-day workshops each year, many featuring nationally known experts. Members include companies both inside and outside of Iowa working in manufacturing, health care, and various service industries, as well as state and local governments.
CIRAS is the official representative of the MEP National Network in Iowa, as well serving as as Iowa’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers generate business results and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. The MEP National Network consists of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the 51 MEP Centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Program matches federal and local money to fund 94 Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam – including CIRAS PTAP. Trained government contracting specialists help businesses pursue and perform under contracts with the Defense Department, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and government prime contractors.