Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center at LU to assist largest methanol producing plant in the United States

The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center – Southeast, a federally funded industrial service center housed at Lamar University, recently received $118,000 in funding from Natgasoline for developing a Business Efficiencycustomized Lean Six Sigma program.

Natgasoline is a world-scale methanol production facility located in Beaumont and is a joint venture between Texas-based Proman USA and Netherlands-based OCI N.V. Starting operations in June 2018, it is the most efficient and largest methanol production facility in the U.S., producing more than 1.7 million metric tons of methanol per year.

As a Lean Six Sigma project, a collaborative team effort will seek to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation. Therefore, TMAC-SE will work with teams of Natgasoline engineers, supervisors, technicians and other staff personnel on projects that focus on elimination of non-value-added steps and improvement of value-added steps with the goal of improving productivity and profitability. This project delivers a combination of online training materials and team project implementation on Natgasoline’s site.

“We are very excited to have Dr. Palanki and his team from Lamar University work on this project,” said Dion Fontenot, operations manager at Natgasoline.  “The team leverages its industrial experience with the latest in academic research to help us become more profitable.”

The project will engage about 140 Natgasoline employees who are working on 14 distinct projects. TMAC-SE will proctor each team project separately to ensure that project deliverables are made according to project schedules.

“We are leveragi
Sri Palanki
Dr. Srinivas Palanki
ng our expertise in online education with domain expertise in process design to develop aprogram specifically for the chemical process industry,” said Dr. Srinivas Palanki, regional director of TMAC-SE. “Furthermore, we are also utilizing some of this material to teach a graduate-level class to 22 Lamar University students this semester, who have the unique opportunity to work with industry data and get direct feedback from engineering professionals on practical implementation issues.”

TMAC-SE, which opened in 2019, has offices in LU’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship. The center consists of three staff members and a large team of grant-supported doctoral and master’s degree students supervised by Palanki. TMAC provides technical solutions to enhance profitability for Texas manufacturers. Because of federal funding from NIST, TMAC can provide its services to the local industry cost-effectively.

“TMAC provides the opportunity for graduate students to pursue their dissertation work on real-world industry problems,” said Palanki. “It is a win-win for LU and for the manufacturing industry in the Southeast Texas region.”