Tennessee Innovators

Report from AmericaInnovation can be elusive. What is it exactly and how can a community nurture and encourage it? One thing is certain: innovation is the foundation of successful manufacturing and those firms that devise new processes and products are more competitive over the long-term.

The business and civic community in Chattanooga, Tennessee has hit on the right formula for identifying what innovation is within their metro region and–better yet–how to recognize and encourage it. More towns should follow their lead.

Every year at this time, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce announces the winner of the Kreusi Award for Innovation at its Spirit of Innovation Awards Luncheon. This year’s local winner was TR Automation; here’s a good synopsis from the local Chamber of Commerce about why TR Automation was selected.

Chamber President and CEO Tom Edd Wilson presented the Kruesi Award to Jerry Tyman Jr., TR Automation general manager, for developing a revolutionary approach to robotic work station manufacturing.

Called SuperCell, the innovation boosts productivity because the robot or robot group is working 95 percent of the time. The advance—particularly applicable to the automotive and aerospace industries—reduces floor space, improves the quality of parts manufactured and achieves a 30 percent reduction in production costs. TR Automation was selected from seven finalists, including Accurate Automation Corporation, Andersen Flaps, Inc., Astec Industries, Inc., Cleveland Tubing, Inc., EnWaste Recovery Systems and Transcard. All of these companies exhibited their innovations at the Convention Center event

The Chattanooga awards program always draws top speakers and a very large turnout of the regional business community. Tennessee Governor Bredesen spoke and Roger Staubach gave the keynote address.

Full disclosure requires that I let you know that I’ve been honored to be a Kreusi Award judge for the last several years. Chattanooga has drawn a wide range of judges from manufacturing and business to evaluate the nominees. It’s a hard choice, because there are so many excellent examples of successful innovation in the region.

Other candidates included Astec, which has developed a new method to make asphalt that reduces fuel use by 14 percent and reduces emissions as well. If used in the New York metro region, for example, it would save nearly 19 million gallons of diesel used in conventional asphalt making. Accurate Automation was another finalist, which has developed and implemented an unmanned ocean racer with artificial intelligence. This craft can be operated remotely and serves as a patrol boat that can thwart terrorist attacks on ships and oil platforms.

Congratulations to the Kreusi family for supporting this initiative and to the Chattanooga business community for finding a way to shine a light on those firms that are thinking outside of the box and creating new generations of products and processes.

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