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SCMFG’s Q&A with SCMEP President, Chuck Spangler

December 17, 2015


Q&A: Chuck Spangler, President, SCMEP

Chuck Spangler has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of different industries, including Milliken & Company, Michelin, Willis Hosiery, and the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP). He has been with SCMEP for 22 years, first as a Manufacturing Specialist, then Field Manager, Chief Operating Officer, and now as the organization’s new president.

As president, he manages and supports SCMEP’s staff of manufacturing and technical specialists. Chuck also develops strategy, manages the organization’s budget and develops new programs.

A champion in the development of the Competitiveness Review (CR) assessment tool, trained manufacturing and technical specialists can quickly identify the top two or three issues having the greatest impact on a company’s competitiveness and profitability. It has helped develop holistic improvement plans for over 1,800 manufacturing clients since 1996. In recognition of these achievements, Chuck was selected Practitioner of the Year at the 2001 Modernization Forum, the annual MEP conference attended by centers across the country.

Chuck holds a bachelor’s degree in Textile Management from North Carolina State University. He is married with three boys.

1. Who is the ideal company for SCMEP (Where can you bring the most value?)

Our mission is to assist all manufacturers in the state of South Carolina; however, we are especially valuable to companies without large corporate resources. This past year, SCMEP worked with 319 companies, completed 633 projects, and had 201 companies attend our training sessions. An independent survey of business owners and executives gave SCMEP a $504.4 million dollar impact in calendar year 2014.

2. What are the challenges that typically face small to mid-size manufacturing companies?

The largest challenge is workforce and finding talent at all levels of the organization. Some companies have 40 to 50 percent of their workforce in key areas approaching retirement and will be facing a knowledge gap when these key associates retire. Many companies are realizing that they must start working on transferring knowledge to the younger generation. They learn at a different pace and most traditional training methods do not work as well. Virtual reality training and 3D simulations are helping to engage the younger generation.

Mature manufacturing companies are now recruiting in high schools in an effort to show students and parents that manufacturing offers great careers. The average salary for a manufacturing job in South Carolina is $56,732.

The second challenge that we see for many small to mid-size manufacturing firms is the ability to continually improve their operational processes to maintain competitiveness. Many firms cannot afford the full time resources to implement and sustain an improvement program. Improvement projects usually fall on the same resources that are fighting daily fires to keep production on schedule. Augmenting internal resources to jump start, update, and/or accomplish an improvement program is where SCMEP has been very successful.

The third challenge is increasing healthcare costs.

The forth challenge is that many small to medium size companies rely on one or two main customers and often fail to keep products and services current. SCMEP has seen a big increase in the need for Marketing and Sales assistance over the last few years in regards to small to medium size firms.

3. Tell us about the Competitiveness Review. What is it? Why should a company consider doing a Competitiveness Review?

Our no cost one day Competitiveness Review is the core of SCMEP’s business improvement services and the first step in our strategic, hands-on approach to help improve a company’s performance. Developed by SCMEP, the Competitiveness Review is a comprehensive, on-site, evaluation of a company’s operations that both appraises capabilities and gauges the effectiveness of business systems.

Why schedule a Competiveness Review? There is no cost to SC manufacturing companies and it represents a $5,500 value. It reveals (or confirms) the company’s limiting factors and provides a snapshot comparison to other companies. The assessment delivers a road map to improve competitiveness, performance, and the bottom line.

4. South Carolina has a strong manufacturing base and heritage. However, sometimes companies have difficulty finding the right resources or connections. How can SCMEP help with that?

SCMEP’s Regional Vice Presidents get to know companies when performing the Competiveness Review Assessment. This puts them in the unique position to make targeted recommendations and, if needed, link the company to resources that will not only provide the service or training needed, but will be a good overall fit for the company’s culture.

SCMEP can provide the solutions, support and project management to insure success. SCMEP’s business model uses 60 percent third party and 40 percent internal resources. SCMEP has already screened and evaluated a large third party resource pool. By partnering with SCMEP, companies can rest assured that they are getting the best resources for the best price. They don’t have to play a guessing game on picking the right resource to help improve their business. SCMEP takes the guess work out of it.

5. Can you give us some examples of companies that SCMEP has helped recently?

SCMEP has a long list of success stories and company testimonials on our website. SCMEP projects and services fall into the following five next generation strategies: Continuous Improvement, Workforce Development, Supplier Development, Innovation/Growth, and Sustainability.

6. SCMEP is a non-profit organization. Tell us about your funding and partnerships.

Our current funding model represents 35 percent Federal dollars, 15 percent State dollars and 50 percent client fees.

SCMEP has formal partnerships with the NIST MEP and the South Carolina Department of Commerce. These partnerships have strengthened considerably over the last several years. SCMEP and SCDOC performed 214 joint site visits last year.

7. SCMEP has MEP centers. What are they and how can local manufacturers benefit?

NIST has MEP centers in each state, of which SCMEP is one of them. Our headquarters is located in Columbia, SC, and our Business Learning Center is located in Greenville, SC. Local manufactures are able to participate in a wide variety of training classes and workshops at both of our locations.

8. Tell us about the Lean Alliances?

Established in 2002, the SCLA (South Carolina Lean Alliance) is a membership-based alliance of nearly 120 companies that work together to expand access to and understanding of Lean principles. By using an effective platform for discussion and a strong network of resources, members help each other in their Lean manufacturing journeys.

The SCLA is broken into five regional chapters throughout the state: The Central Savannah River Area Chapter (CSRA) – based out of the greater Aiken area, The Midlands Chapter – based out of the greater Columbia area, The Pee Dee/Lowcountry Chapter (PDLC) – based out of the greater Florence and Charleston areas, The Upstate Chapter – based out of the greater Greenville and Spartanburg areas, and The Metrolina Chapter – based out of the greater Rock Hill area.

All chapters host monthly meetings at member facilities in order to provide benchmarking opportunities and learn how to better incorporate improvement methodologies. Alliance events consist of a facility presentation on recent improvement projects, a factory tour to showcase the improvements in action, and then an open discussion to further highlight successes and opportunities.

9. What are the Executive Peer Councils? What are the benefits of participating?

The South Carolina Executive Peer Council (SCEPC) provides a network of idea-sharing and problem-solving that guides leaders through the obstacles of running a business. These strategic leaders are able to come together and learn from one another, thereby sharpening their own skills and increasing the performance of their own organizations. The SCEPC is limited to Manufacturers/Distribution – no lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, or recruiters trying to solicit your business.

Benefits include: Access to real world, practical advice from a group of committed peers, the ability to frequently discuss timely, relevant topics truly based on the interest of the council, an arsenal of tools and resources provided by members who have already experienced similar business challenges, and the opportunity to sharpen your leadership and decision making skills through the constant exchange of knowledge and experiences.

10. What other types of courses and workshops does SCMEP offer?

SCMEP offers all types of courses and workshops, ranging from continuous improvement (Lean/Six Sigma), leadership and soft skills development, supply chain, quality management systems, environmental health and safety, and technical skills, among others. Additionally, SCMEP offers customer requested or current industry topic training.

11. Do you offer assistance for manufacturing start-ups and businesses looking to relocate to SC?

Yes, we do. SCMEP can help get your business up and running quickly. We offer complete start-up packages that include everything from help finding employees, energy assessments, low cost health insurance, branding and logo design, marketing messaging, website and brochure creative services, signage, business card printing, customer lead generation, advertising, and much more.

Our relocation services include: plant layouts and shop floor design, warehouse and distribution center layouts, equipment relocation, installation and commissioning, supplier identification, supply chain strategy development, Risk Management and Total Cost of Ownership services, and ISO 9001, ISO/TS16949, ISO 1400, and AS 9100 certification consulting.

12. How does SCMEP get involved with Economic Development?

SCMEP works very closely with economic developers across the state. We work to insure clients utilize the economic developer in their area to maximize benefits along with additional services. We meet with them on several occasions throughout the year to collaborate.

13. The people at SCMEP have a significant depth and range of manufacturing experience. What do you look for when bringing in someone to work for SCMEP?

We ultimately look for someone who has 10+ years of manufacturing experience across all areas and at least two different industries. It is also necessary for individuals to have a basic understanding of the lean product suite, marketing and sales, and organizational development. We pride ourselves on the fact that our key resources have years of real world experience and can relate to many of the challenges our clients face.

14. How can a manufacturer learn more about SCMEP?

We welcome anyone interested in learning more about SCMEP to visit our website at or contact us at 864-288-5687. Depending on the county the company is located in, we will put them in contact with the appropriate Regional Vice President who will schedule a site visit and assess their needs.