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June 4, 2012

For more information please contact:
Muriel Mosher
Tel: 207-623-0680

Maine MEP Director Among First in Nation to Achieve Engineering Innovation Black Belt Certification

AUGUSTA, ME - The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Maine MEP) today announced that John Karp, the organization’s interim director, has been awarded his black belt in Innovation Engineering, becoming just the 22nd person in the country to earn this coveted distinction. Black belt certification represents the highest level of professional training in the Innovation Engineering Management System.

“Maine MEP is very pleased that John Karp has been recognized as one of the national leaders in Innovation Engineering. The hundreds of hours of training that are required to achieve black belt certification testify to John’s intense drive and commitment to serving MEP clients. His expertise in guiding companies through the innovation process will benefit Maine’s manufacturing community,” said Bruce Pulkinnen, Maine MEP’s board chair.

Innovation Engineering represents the leading edge of advanced manufacturing. It provides a proven system of management tools that can increase the speed of innovation for companies while reducing risk. Employed by some of the most successful corporations in the world such as Nike, Hewlett Packard, Walt Disney and the Ford Motor Company, the Innovation Engineering tools are now available to small and mid-size manufacturers in Maine through the Maine MEP.

“Every manufacturer understands that innovation is the key to long-term success,” said John Karp, Maine’s first certified Innovation Engineering black belt instructor. “When I meet with a company, I ask where their products are in terms of the product lifecycle. If they don’t have products in the pipeline but instead are relying on mature products on the down-side of the life-cycle bell curve, then their future profitability is in serious jeopardy.”

While product innovations are critical, most companies find “innovating” one of the most challenging goals to attain, said Karp. The challenge is two-fold. Most companies don’t have a process for generating new ideas, and even fewer companies understand how to minimize the risks associated with going to market with new products or services. Companies that don’t have a system for managing innovation end up taking big gambles with unnecessary risk.

“Innovation Engineering brings a unique combination of tools. It integrates very creative techniques for idea generation with rigorous quantitative analysis to identify which ideas have the best likelihood of market success. By generating large numbers of new product ideas and then analyzing them against a database of known product lifecycles, we can guide clients to the concepts with the greatest potential sales, thereby reducing the risk of a new venture,” Karp stated.

The success of the Innovation Engineering Management System lies in its predictive ability to identify new products with strong sales potential. At the core of the system lies the world’s largest database of product lifecycles. Developed over the past 25 years by Eureka! Ranch in collaboration with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the database contains detailed analyses of tens of thousands of products. Using powerful algorithms and quantitative analysis, Innovation Engineering black belts can sift through a company’s ideas for new products and target the proposals most likely to succeed.

As one of the leading practitioners in the country, Karp has helped several Maine clients identify and develop new products. These companies include FHC, Inc., a global neurosurgical products manufacturer located in Bowdoin, and CONTECH Engineered Solutions of Saco, which produces a wide range of products for highway, bridge, storm water, sewer and other transportation and industrial projects.

Karp explained why his clients have embraced the Innovation Engineering approach.

“When I meet with a manufacturer, I ask them, ‘Would you like a chance to get your new products to market up to eight times faster and with 60 percent less risk?’ Innovation engineering can deliver those kinds of results. If a manufacturer gives me just one day for a Jumpstart training session, I guarantee they will be impressed with the result. From that beginning, we can help companies transform their entire product development process,” Karp said.

While Karp is the first Innovation Engineering black belt instructor in Maine, other Maine MEP project managers are in the process of becoming certified. Maine MEP board chair Pulkinnen explained why the MEP network has embraced the Innovation Engineering Management System.

“In a rapidly changing global economy, innovation engineering gives companies the means to stay ahead of the competition. It is one of the most powerful tools yet developed to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing. Every Maine manufacturer ought to using this set of tools in their daily operations,” Pulkinnen concluded.

About Maine MEP

The Maine MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP system is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness. For information on the Maine MEP program, please visit, or phone 1-800-MEP-4MFG.