Author: Jeff Eckhoff

Communications Manager at CIRAS, Iowa State University

ILC Annual Conference to be Largest Ever

The Iowa Lean Consortium’s Annual Conference will be coming to all corners of the state this fall, as CIRAS expands its efforts to make Lean management techniques more accessible in an Iowa facing severe concerns about workforce availability. The Annual Conference, traditionally the ILC’s largest and most extensive yearly opportunity for Lean advocates to network and learn, was shifted online in 2020 because of the pandemic. This year, as the world restarts itself in the wake of COVID-19, availability of people has become the number one discussion topic among Iowa leaders. How do you support growing businesses while Iowa’s population growth continues to be lower than the national average and statewide unemployment already is rapidly approaching pre-pandemic levels? How can you grow if there simply are no more people?

New technologies added to the Digital Manufacturing Lab

This fall will mark the second anniversary of the CIRAS Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy, and we’re still growing. We opened the lab in September 2019 as to experiment with ways to de-risk technology adoption for Iowa manufacturers. Since then, we have served the Industry 4.0 needs of many businesses in Iowa via in-person events, counseling sessions and projects. Unfortunately, COVID-19 kept most people out of the lab last year. But we haven’t been dormant. Instead, CIRAS used the opportunity to expand our technology partnerships, upgrade our technology, and evolve our services from in-person to virtual engagements.

Assisted & Augmented Reality: Not as Sci-Fi As You Think

It’s a common misconception among many manufacturers that assisted and augmented reality technology are outside their reach – mystical, gimmicky technology that really has no place on their production floor. We get it. We’ve all read science fiction novels and seen the movies. These technologies are portrayed as “space-age” bits of hardware and software that certainly cost a fortune and probably require a PhD to operate. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Augmented and assisted reality (AR) technology is so accessible that it might already be something you use every day. Let’s break it down.

Did You Know?… More changes coming to and

They saying goes, “The only constant in life is change.” If you have been working in the federal contract market during the past couple of years, there seems to be no truer statement. The long-awaited, much-anticipated integration of and occurred on May 24. As of May 24, legacy, as you know it, was retired. Its registration, excluded parties listing, and other functionalities were moved to But the “beta” also went away, and it is now called This is an entirely new, consolidated system.

CIRAS Awarded $133,000 to Develop DBEs

CIRAS has received a $133,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT)to help economically and socially disadvantaged businesses develop as companies so they are better able to compete for highway construction projects and other DOT-funded projects. As part of the grant, CIRAS will provide one-on-one assistance to companies who qualify as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) – generally defined as small business that are at least 51 percent owned by women or minorities – about the best ways to position themselves for government bidding opportunities and market themselves to prime contractors and government agencies

ILC Annual Conference to offer Virtual, In-Person Options this Fall

The Iowa Lean Consortium’s Annual Conference will take a step closer to its familiar format this fall – but this time, it will be as part of a new hybrid model designed to accommodate a variety of different comfort levels related to COVID-19. The Annual Conference, traditionally the ILC’s largest and most extensive yearly opportunity … Continue reading ILC Annual Conference to offer Virtual, In-Person Options this Fall

Did You Know?…Navigating NAICS and Government Acronyms

NAICS is old news for a news email, as the system has been around for 23 years. But this topic comes up often with clients, so I thought it would be a nice refresher to emphasize the importance of NAICS and their ongoing relevancy. NAICS – Also known as North American Industrial Classification Codes, these codes are used in federal procurements and in small business size standards. The North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS (pronounced "Nakes"), was developed under the direction and guidance of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the standard for use by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the collection, tabulation, presentation, and analysis of statistical data describing the U.S. economy.

Grants Plant Seeds to Help FIRST® LEGO® League Grow

Two major sources of grant money are helping Iowa organizers of FIRST LEGO League (FLL) increase access to programs promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to Iowa youth. FLL Explore, formerly known as FIRST LEGO League Junior, is one of two programs created to help elementary school students grow in their use of STEM skills. This year it was included as part of the 2021 STEM Scale-Up program, which was created by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council to provide schools and other organizations with free access to roughly a dozen STEM programs each year. At the same time, a grant from Microsoft Community Challenge is helping FLL launch new teams with an underserved population in metropolitan Des Moines.

Decker Finds Peace of Mind through CIRAS Technology Assistance

A Keokuk maker of grooming brushes and other agricultural products expects to save at least 50 percent on energy costs after CIRAS advised the company during replacement of an aging plastic injection molding machine. Tony Fox, president of Decker Manufacturing, said his company contacted CIRAS last summer seeking unbiased advice about replacing an aging hydraulic machine that had become an energy hog and needed frequent repairs.