South Carolina Companies Receive Engagement Awards

Photo collageAlthough 2020 was a crazy year, the OpExChange adapted and made changes to provide ongoing value to their members. OpExChange companies increased their participation and engagement, more than doubling activity from the pre-Covid era. Many companies participated, but four truly stood out. Each of these were recognized in the end-of-year review last month, and each received a handsome trophy or plaque to display at their site.


Many member companies enjoy an extensive tenure of participation and engagement with the OpExChange. Twenty-three companies have over 10 years tenure, thirteen of which hold more than 15 years. Most of these companies are very active. Dish Network in Spartanburg, SC has been a member for over 13 years and is always near the top for involvement. In 2020, Dish exhibited the highest attendance of all companies in South Carolina. They also presented to the group in September on how they are implementing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) at their site. Because of their outstanding engagement, Dish received the 2020 Company Engagement Award.


All OpExChange companies understand the phenomenal benefit of employee development. Numerous opportunities exist throughout the year to attend events covering diverse facets of operations. A member company achieves the most benefit by involving individuals from multiple positions and departments – HR, production, inventory, sales, finance, etc. Some of the best results come from involving the hourly workforce. Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, an OpExChange member for 6 years, maximized this benefit in 2020. Throughout the year, they involved 35 different people from their site to participate in classes, webinars, and plant report-outs – the most of any company in South Carolina. The 2020 Employee Development Award was presented to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for demonstrating ongoing commitment to employee growth.


During 2020, there were 469 people that participated in events. Several of these folks were “regulars” who attend multiple events. A tight race developed for the number one spot, with ten people vying for the number one spot. FN America, in Columbia, had three people in the top ten. FN has been an OpExChange member for nearly 11 years. Chris LeBecq, a Lean Technician and Continuous Improvement Champion with FN, edged out the rest by participating in 13 events throughout the year, and won the 2020 Individual Engagement Award. Chris stated, “I like to think that we are sponges for information … although we love the on-site visits, we love the online webinars just as much. To be able to see what others are bringing to manufacturing has been a blessing. Thoughts, into ideas, into implementation. I love how the industry shares, enabling us to elevate others and assist in moving them forward!”


The legacy benefit of the OpExChange is the ability to benchmark with peer companies on best practices, methods, and techniques. This benchmarking helps South Carolina companies to improve their operations by taking lessons learned back to their sites. Dantherm Cooling in Spartanburg joined the OpExChange in early 2020. In June, they hosted a plant visit for the OpExChange to share their Lean Manufacturing journey and how they implemented visual manufacturing into shop floor control. After this event, they provided several follow-up benchmarking sessions with other members for a deeper dive. Because of their collaborative contributions, Dantherm received the 2020 Collaboration Award.


The OpExChange, a non-profit South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina dedicated to learning and growing together. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provide access to others who are on similar improvement journeys.

If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos ( or visit the OpExChange website:

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