OpExChange Companies Win 2022 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

At the South Carolina Manufacturing and Expo in early November 2022, the awards ceremony celebrated the success of several organizations across South Carolina. The SCMEP Manufacturing Excellence awards were presented to companies demonstrating outstanding superiority in improving their operational performance, the lives and well-being of their employees, and the South Carolina community.

OpExChange Award Winners

The OpExChange is extremely proud that six member companies received awards for Transformational and Operational Excellence, Innovator of the Year, Emerging Manufacturer of the Year, Outreach, Community Impact, and Smart Move SC Expansion. The diversity of industries and geographical location of these six winners is representative of the 170+ companies that embody the collaborative group of manufacturers and distributors in the OpExChange.

Congratulations to each of these winners!

Transformational and Operational Excellence Award
Sealevel Systems in Liberty, SC.

Sealevel was founded in 1986 with a commitment to engineering leading-edge communications solutions, manufacturing products to the highest quality standards, growing a creative team of trailblazers, and sustaining a legacy of community investment. The company has continued to abide by the highest standards as defined by onsite quality management and as an ISO 9001:2015 registered organization.

In early 2020, Sealevel had a management team of seven members. Today, 13 professionals serve on the management team. Together, the team embraces dynamic communication strategies to foster a current product roadmap that capitalizes on core strengths. This approach has resulted in a 10% increase in profitability and will power a staggering 89% increase in sales by the end of 2022. Sealevel products are deployed in military & aerospace, public safety, and automation markets and in 2021, Sealevel earned a design win that is the largest energy contract in company history.


Sealevel Systems – Transformational and Operational Excellence

 Emerging Manufacturer of the Year Award
bFIVE40 in Little River, SC.

bFIVE40 is a manufacturer of technical textiles for automotive, energy, and medical applications and the maker of BFIT540 team uniforms and custom apparel. bFIVE40’s mission is to CHANGE THE STATUS QUO by offering apprenticeships in skilled trades through HGTC, hiring people with disabilities through Vocational Rehabilitation of Conway, and using REPREVE recycled fabrics to reduce plastic waste – all for the good of South Carolina.

They manufactured 60,000 60,000 branded face masks and 30,000 sports gaiters for Dominion Energy during the pandemic. bFIVE40 partnered with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs, launching a webstore for his foundation, and raising more than $300,000 to help close the skills gap in America. Founder and CEO, Donna Brin appeared on Fox & Friends with Mike Rowe in Dec 2020 to share their success with the country.

In 2022, bFIVE40 expanded into 3D knitting technology to bring custom technical products to the automotive and energy space – this innovative technology creates cost savings through efficiency gains and on-shores jobs to mitigate supply chain risk.


bFIVE40 – Emerging Manufacturer

Community Impact Award
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is the prime management and operations contractor for the United States Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, located in Aiken, SC. SRNS has been in operation for over 70 years and employs over 6,000 personnel. The organization oversees a strategic community outreach effort to foster a climate of trust and partnership with regional stakeholders through corporate philanthropic contributions; education outreach investments in K-12 schools and regional two-and four-year colleges and universities; coordinating employee giving campaigns for charitable causes; and economic development and community partnerships. Their employees are committed to giving back to the communities in which they live.


SRNS – Community Impact

Innovator of the Year Award
KION North America, Summerville, SC

KION North America has experienced a notable shift in business strategy within the last year and a half by investing heavily in a full rollout of a new strategy execution framework and a culture turnaround. This core shift in KION North America’s blueprint includes leaving the niche market by strategically focusing on channel enablement, key accounts, localization, and dealer programs. This reshaping of business has resulted in KION North America tripling its order intake growth and doubling its market share from 2020 to 2021.

With the accelerated growth and expansion of production and orders, KION North America has implemented an extensive intentional focus on its current and future workforce. This comprehensive business approach has also led to increased organizational efficiency to cultivate an enriched employee experience, including opportunities for growth and leadership, creating an environment of collaborative exchange, and advocating a positive workplace culture.


KION – Innovator of the Year

Outreach Award
Sargent Metal Fabricators

In 2021, Sargent Metal’s leadership team came together to organize a purpose statement that all team members could understand and support. Their purpose statement, “We exist to provide opportunities for our team to THRIVE both personally and professionally, and join in helping our community,” embodies the leadership team’s heart to give back. They created a new benefit in which all 150 team members are given one paid volunteer day each year. Sargent Metal’s employees have assisted in giving and helping local organizations including The Haven of Rest, The Bridge Center Recovery Program, A.I.M., and Meals on Wheels.


Sargent Metal – Outreach Award

Smart Move SC Expansion Award
3D Systems Corporation, Rock Hill, SC

3D Systems launched the 3D printing industry in 1986 and has been leading additive manufacturing innovation ever since. They announced plans in February 2021 to expand operations in York County. The $13 million investment will create 50 new jobs. 3D Systems’ expansion includes a 100,000-square-foot facility that increases the company’s manufacturing capabilities.


3D Systems – Smart Move Expansion

About the OpExChange
The OpExChange, sponsored by the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is a peer-to-peer network of manufacturers and distributors in South Carolina known for generating success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. 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 provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If your company is interested in participating in this collaborative effort to improve both the competitiveness of your operation and South Carolina, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com) or visit the OpExChange website www.OpExChange.com.


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