Innovation is the lifeblood of any company. It is what sets a company apart from their competition, allows them to charge more for a product or service, and helps them grow. A new program established by the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy (IRLEE) at the University of Michigan gives businesses access to the technologies developed in our state’s universities to help companies expand their offerings and remain competitive.
- Kadant Johnson Inc. (Kadant) has operated under the Johnson Corporation, a Michigan paper equipment manufacturer since 1933. The TCA program identified Kadant as having superior capability for technology commercialization. After a needs analysis, Kadant was matched with Dr. William Schultz and other faculty, graduate and PhD students from the University of Michigan College of Engineering. Kadant and U-M work produced an advanced analysis and computational fluid dynamics model. The model reduced computing time for current processes allowing Kadant to develop market-leading products in a shorter time period. The new products and shorter cycle times for future product development have stabilized their Michigan operations. The success of the partnership convinced Kadant corporate headquarters to allow Michigan operations to continue, thus retaining 125 employees. Kadant predicts an increase in sales by approximately 15 percent. Additionally, using an average price for a typical size unit, their target gross margin, and the most likely sales estimate, Kadant calculated a weighted average return on investment of 20 percent with a payback period of less than one year.
- Duo-Gard is a Canton, MI company that focuses on high-performance translucent day-lighting systems, illuminated walls and ceilings, custom canopies, shelters and outdoor structures, and was searching for a translucent panel backing system with very critical specifications that would allow for the creation of new globally competitive products. The TCA program identified Arborlight, a UM start-up company focused on developing innovative lighting solutions, to develop a prototype of the translucent panel backing system. With TCA assistance, Duo-Gard was able to successfully collaborate with a UM start-up company to integrate leading-edge lighting technology into next generation products and streamline product manufacturing. As a result of U-M Arborlight LED technology, Duo-Gard has developed products that require 70 percent less aluminum. This new technology also allowed Duo-Gard to reduce manufacturing labor by approximately 50 percent and the electricity usage of products by 80 percent, lowering costs and creating a more environmentally friendly product. Additionally, due to technological improvements and resulting products, Duo-Gard expects to increase sales within three years by approximately $2M annually, and add between five and 10 high-paid employees.
- Petoskey Plastics is a Petoskey, MI based company that focuses on blown film plastics, typically in the form of bags. After determining that Petoskey was a good fit for the TCA program, IRLEE matched Petoskey Plastics with Michigan State University and its proprietary nano clay formula. The TCA project funded Professor Krishnamurthy Jayaraman’s work on rheological modification of linear polypropylene with nano clay and compatibilizer (patent pending) to high molecular weight high-density polyethylene nanocomposites to formulate, test and run in the lab in preparation for a factory run and potential commercial use. In the summer of 2012, the advanced plastic formulation will run in the factory. If successful, it will allow for the creation of Petoskey Plastics next generation of globally competitive product lines for new global markets.