Dan Curtis: Filling in Factory Gaps Becoming More Automatic


Dan Curtis: Filling in Factory Gaps Becoming More Automatic
Dan Curtis
Senior Manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
In addition to serving as AEDC senior manager, Dan Curtis also manages the NIST MEP Center at AEDC-Manufacturing Solutions. He has worked in manufacturing for more than 40 years and has worked in the Little Rock area since 1996, serving as president of Smith Fiberglass and president and CEO of George Fischer Sloane and as the chief operating officer of a technology startup.

Curtis holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and completed graduate-level courses in nuclear engineering from West Virginia University and completed the executive business management program at Ohio State. He holds several patents, and he and his wife, Nancy, and daughter Phoebe live in North Little Rock.


Explain what Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions does.

AEDC-Manufacturing Solutions is a consultant for manufacturers in Arkansas. AEDC-MS is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards & Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or NIST MEP. We have 1,500 subject matter experts at our disposal, more than 50 Arkansas training partners and a staff with more than 200 years of manufacturing expertise. The center has programs, products and services that focus on business issues like organizational excellence, operational excellence, advanced manufacturing and family business services. We serve as a trusted adviser to manufacturers in the state.

Can you share a success story, a manufacturer that AMS was able to help?

AEDC-MS helps about 150 clients a year. A third-party independent company surveys those clients and collects business impacts. Jeff Givens with J.V. Manufacturing Inc. of Springdale worked with Manufacturing Solutions with the intent to train new employees and refresh existing employees on the fundamentals of lean manufacturing. As a result, the company reduced its overtime hours to 9% with the goal of 5% or less still in reach. In 2018, our clients reported $285 million in total increased or retained sales, $24 million in new investment, more than $8 million in cost savings and 1,651 increased or retained jobs.

What are some of the biggest challenges now facing manufacturers in Arkansas?

Even though financial confidence among manufacturers is positive, there is uncertainty concerning the economy’s ability to grow. The most significant challenge to business growth is the ever-pressing need for additional qualified workers. This is not just a short-term issue but a long-term demographic certainty.

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One of the solutions is to focus on maximizing productivity and the use of automation and advanced manufacturing techniques. No longer is automation to be feared for displacing workers. It is necessary to help fill the worker shortage and is an opportunity for existing workers to improve their expertise and salaries.

What’s changed most in the last decade in manufacturing?

The advent of the digital age, big data and smart manufacturing techniques are changing the landscape as to how we manufacture, sell and distribute goods today. Those companies that embrace technology will be the big winners going forward.

How did you get involved in this line of work?

I worked at all levels of manufacturing from entry-level chemical engineer to CEO for more than 40 years. Manufacturing is in my DNA, and I saw an opportunity for me to give back by supporting the industry that has been so good to me and that I love.