The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 weeks ago

Auburn University expert discusses COVID-19’s impact on sales projections, consumer costs

(Walmart/Contributed)

Brian Gibson, the Wilson Family Professor and executive director of the Center for Supply Chain Innovation in Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, recently commented on the impact of coronavirus on sales projections for retailers and suppliers, how supply chains are adapting and how consumer costs will be affected.

Gibson leads multiple industry studies, including the Logistics 2030 project, the annual State of the Retail Supply Chain Report and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ talent management project. He has published numerous articles in supply chain journals, co-wrote “The Definitive Guide to Integrated Supply Chain Management” and co-produces the “Supply Chain Essentials” video series.

Q: How is coronavirus affecting sales projections for retailers and suppliers?

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Gibson: The COVID-19 pandemic has created quite the challenge in the retail sector. U.S. retail sales plunged nearly 9 percent in March as shoppers began to follow shelter-in-place measures. The situation has created a “Tale of Two Cities” scenario. For many retailers it has been the worst of times, with all stores closed due to state government emergency orders. Small retailers lacking the resources to support online selling, and large discounters like TJ Maxx and Ross Stores with minimal e-commerce operations are generating no sales. Retailers with a large online presence are generating e-commerce sales, but it is not enough to make up the loss of in-store revenues. Only the small group of retailers selling essential products like groceries and household goods items are in the best-of-times category, relatively speaking. In March, Kroger and Walmart experienced double-digit growth of same-store sales due to consumers stocking up on essentials. AmazonCostcoTarget and other select retailers also generated higher revenues.

The situation is much the same for suppliers. It all depends on the type of product being produced. Manufacturers of essential food, paper and cleaning products are working overtime to handle demand surges. In contrast, the apparel and automobile industries are largely shut down due to lack of demand, key parts or available labor. Some of these companies are now making personal protective equipment, ventilators and other necessary products that are in short supply.

Q: How have coronavirus-affected supply chains adapted to this situation?

Gibson: The news headlines and stories certainly paint a bleak picture of a broken supply chain that is plagued by product shortages. The reality is that there is no single supply chain. Products flow through different channels from their raw material sources to manufacturers to retailers and distributors. As consumption patterns for certain products have spiked to historic highs, there have been temporary shortages while companies work to restock their inventories. It is an ongoing challenge. If a meat processor shuts down for two weeks, that link in the supply chain is broken temporarily, but the whole supply chain is not broken.

Supply chains are resilient; they bend but typically don’t break. Adjustments are being made by companies to continue serving demand. Distribution centers and grocery stores are working overtime to fulfill orders. Product is being redirected from commercial channels to consumer channels. Production lines are being modified and alternate sources of supply are being tapped to alleviate inventory shortages. Collectively, these solutions from organizations along the supply chain will bring supply and demand back into sync.

Q: Will supply chain costs increase and, thus, increase the cost of consumer goods?

Gibson: Without question, supply chain costs are rising. Retailers are paying front-line store and distribution center associates an hourly wage premium. It costs more to fill and deliver an e-commerce order than to have consumers do their own shopping. Facilities are going through expensive deep-cleaning protocols on a regular basis. And the cost of some commodities is rising. It’s logical to expect that some of these costs will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher product prices. How much they will go up and for how long is the tricky question.

Q: Will we see changes in supply chains and will this actually help certain companies?

Gibson: In the wake of COVID-19 disruptions, “Massive Shifts in Supply Chains Forthcoming” is a popular headline but one that is almost clickbait status. Change will happen, but in a more methodical and incremental fashion than is currently being predicted by pundits. Production will continue to shift from China to other low-cost countries. We will possibly see more domestic production with flexible capacity built in. Some companies will increase safety stock inventories of key materials. And companies will likely cultivate additional strategic supplier relationships. Companies that succeed with these initiatives will achieve greater supply chain agility and resiliency without dramatically increasing their costs. They will be the ultimate winners.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Task Force member shares COVID-19 tips for pharmacists, patients

(Auburn University/Contributed, YHN, Pixabay)

As health care providers and patients adjust to new procedures with the appearance of the coronavirus COVID-19, the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Dr. Spencer Durham, who was named to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Coronavirus Task Force, offers some tips and practices.

Q: What are some best practices for pharmacists to secure their pharmacy and protect themselves and patients?

Durham: Pharmacies and other health care centers are not going to close during the COVID-19 crisis, and pharmacies need to take extra measures to ensure that patients and staff do not acquire the virus. While there are a number of ways to accomplish this, some basic measures can be very helpful. For example, a pharmacy staff member can screen patients for symptoms before they enter the pharmacy. If they are symptomatic, they can be directed to a particular waiting area in the pharmacy, or someone could bring their medications directly to them.

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Additionally, some pharmacies are offering curbside pick-up, and drive-thru options should be encouraged. Another suggestion is for pharmacies to place hand sanitizer at the entrance so that patients can use it when they enter and exit to help reduce the spread of germs.

Q: What should I look for in cleaning solutions/materials to make sure I am sufficiently sanitizing?

Durham: There are a number of cleaning products that are effective against COVID-19. The EPA has released a list of products (List N) that have the capacity to kill the virus. If the EPA registration number on the product is on the list, then that product is effective. Some products specify on their label that they are active against coronaviruses, and these products are generally able to be used. Hand sanitizers must be at least 60% alcohol in order to kill COVID-19.

Q: As a health care provider, if I encounter someone I suspect of having COVID-19, what should I do?

Durham: Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should be referred for immediate testing. This can be done by the patient’s primary care provider, who will perform the test and have it sent for evaluation. Additionally, there are a number of sites across Alabama where tests are being performed. Anyone can call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 to learn about testing sites and hours of operation.

Q: What if I want to make hand sanitizer in my pharmacy? How can I do that and where do I look for regulations?

Durham: Commercially available hand sanitizer is already in short supply due to the COVID-19 crisis. During this shortage, pharmacies are able to compound hand sanitizer, and both the FDA and the USP have issued guidance on this process.  This can be found on their websites:

Unfortunately, the materials required for compounding may also be in short supply during this crisis.

Q: How should I properly social distance while carrying out my duties?

Durham: Social distancing while performing direct patient care is always a challenge, but there are some basic precautions that can help. In the community setting, patients should be kept six feet away from the pharmacy counter so as to minimize exposure of the pharmacy staff; a line on the floor should be placed to indicate a distance of six feet.

For staff who have to have direct contact with patients, gloves and a mask should be worn, and hand washing should occur before and after every patient encounter. Again, other methods of prescription delivery, such as curbside pick-up and drive-thru windows, should be encouraged to minimize person-to-person proximity.

Q: How have rules and laws changed in the wake of COVID relating to refills and the ability to help patients reduce the number of times they have to get out?

Durham: The Alabama Board of Pharmacy has acted swiftly to allow pharmacists to provide emergency 30-day refills of chronic or maintenance medications. This is important so that patients do not have to go directly to their health care provider for refills and they can practice safe social distancing.

Q: Are there any existing medications that may help patients? Any to avoid?

Durham: There are currently no pharmacologic therapies for the treatment of COVID, and a vaccine is not yet available. A number of drug therapies are under investigation, including hydroxycholoroquine because it is effective against certain other coronaviruses. However, the evidence at this time is limited and it cannot be recommended yet with confidence. Hopefully, more data will be coming out over the next few weeks.

There is also some evidence that NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may actually exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms and should be avoided. The evidence for this is also limited at this time, but the current recommendation is that acetaminophen should be used for fever and other symptoms associated with COVID-19 as opposed to NSAIDs.

Q: Do you have any online resources that could help?

Durham: Information related to COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis, so it is important to stay as up-to-date as possible. The CDC website is the best source for the most updated information. The FDA website is also a good source for updated information. From a health care provider standpoint, ASHP has opened many of their resources to providers even if they are not members of ASHP. Finally, the APA website has many resources for pharmacists in the state of Alabama related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food and Drug Administration

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Alabama Pharmacy Association

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Auburn University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week to feature speakers, service opportunities

(Wikicommons)

Auburn University will offer several campus-wide events and service opportunities as part of its Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week Jan. 20-24.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Reclaiming the Dream: A New Vision For the Future.” The week will kick off with a breakfast featuring keynote speaker civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette. The event will take place at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 20 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. The cost is $35 per person.

“With this annual week of celebration, we honor the legacy and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and encourage all in the Auburn-Opelika community to further the ideals he imparted through active engagement and service for the betterment of our world,” said Ada Wilson, assistant vice president for access and inclusive excellence.

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As part of the week’s celebration, a day of service opportunity will be offered at 11 a.m. Jan. 20 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference in partnership with the East Alabama Food Bank. Participants will assist with packing weekend and overnight book bags for children who experience hunger. Individuals interested in volunteering can register here.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., Auburn’s Critical Conversations Speaker Series will continue with a talk by Eddie Glaude Jr., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. For more information on that series, go here.

On Wednesday, Jan. 22 a “Lunch and Learn” focused on the topic of “Financial Freedom as a Form of Social Activism” will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Haley Center, room 1403. The featured speakers for that event are Kiersten and Julien Saunders, personal finance experts and co-creators of the award-winning blog “rich & REGULAR.” A second “Lunch and Learn” event on “Race in America: A Reflection of the Last Decade” will occur from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Auburn’s Cross Cultural Center for Excellence in the Student Center.

The final event of the week involves a community service outreach effort at the East Alabama Food Bank from 7 to 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 24.

For more information and to register for the MLK Celebration Week events, go to http://ocm.auburn.edu/mlkweek/.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Auburn University forestry professor comments on potential shortage of loggers in US

(Auburn University/Contributed)

Dr. Tom Gallagher, the Regions Bank Endowed Professor of Forest Operations in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, commented recently on the potential shortage of loggers in the timber industry.

What is the national outlook for filling logging jobs?

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Gallagher: The national outlook is not positive at this time. The younger generation is not interested in working in the woods, partly because of not being aware and partly because it is a tough environment. Several programs are being implemented to address the first reason, such as one by the Alabama Forestry Association called ForestryWorks, which has free classes designed to recruit and train equipment operators. Several other states, especially in the Southeast, are also developing programs.

However, I do not know of any mills that are not receiving enough wood to meet their demands. We are just observing many loggers and equipment operators at the end of their careers, and the industry is concerned with who will step up and take over harvesting.

Has the timber industry faced this type of shortage in the past?

Gallagher: Not in modern times because mechanization has been very beneficial to our industry. Fifty years ago, three men working together toiled to produce maybe 25 tons a day. Now three men in harvesting equipment produce 300-plus tons a day of products. So we have greatly reduced the need for woods workers. But we have reached a peak on equipment efficiency, so that solution has somewhat played out. And we still need a new generation of operators and loggers, and the industry is not seeing the influx of people stepping up to the table.

How would a shortage of loggers affect timber production?

Gallagher: It would obviously hurt any timber consuming mill if they did not get the amount of timber needed to run (pulp mills, sawmills, oriented strand board (OSB) plants, pellet operations, pallet mills, etc.). A shortage of loggers will make prices rise, just like any commodity with a supply-and-demand situation. The fewer loggers would demand more payment for their services, which would be passed on to the consumer.

What types of equipment do loggers operate now compared to 20 or 30 years ago? Do they need more advanced skills?

Gallagher: In the Southeast, most loggers run a tree-length operation. They use a feller-buncher to cut the tree and place it in bunches; a skidder to pull those bunches to the deck or landing; and then a trailer-mounted, knuckleboom loader to process the trees for the market(s) they are delivering to and load them onto trucks. Jobs in the woods have become less laborious and more finesse. The controls to the machines are usually joysticks. So while I would not call it “advanced skills,” you do need to be able to multitask equipment capabilities into a productive machine flow. That is what the new ForestryWorksprogram is intended: to teach operators how to be productive with the equipment in a safe manner. While the class is only four to six weeks long (just enough time for the basics), it will usually take several months before an operator is proficient.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Auburn University veterinarian comments on fresh pet food vs. standard pet food

(Pixabay, Auburn University/Contributed)

As many dog and cat owners become more focused on their pets’ diets, some are feeding their pets fresh food instead of standard pet food under the assumption that it’s better for their pets’ health.

Dr. Sara-Louise Newcomer of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine comments on the trend.

Is a diet of fresh pet food better than standard pet food?

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Newcomer: Not necessarily. When I think about what to feed any pet, it’s important to remember that every pet is an individual and each individual has different needs. Fresh pet foods, home-cooked diets and raw diets are at a much greater risk of being nutritionally imbalanced or having bacterial or parasite contamination, all of which could be very detrimental to the pet. It depends every time on how the diet was formulated and how it was made. It also depends on the current health of the pet. A dog or cat that is battling an illness may be at greater risk of developing further serious illness particularly with a diet that has bacterial contamination or nutritional imbalance.

My concerns with a diet with fresh ingredients as well as a standard kibble or canned diet are the same for each pet. I want to know about how the diet is formulated. Formulating a diet for a pet is not a simple process! I want to know if it is complete and balanced and appropriate for the life stage of the pet. For example, a puppy has much higher nutritional needs and is a greater risk for nutritional deficiency because it is growing. But even two puppies have different nutritional needs — a growing Labrador retriever puppy has a much more narrow calcium need than a growing Chihuahua puppy. Too much calcium provided to a growing Labrador puppy can lead to developmental abnormalities in the bones.

How is the diet produced and are there good quality control measures in place to ensure it is safe to feed?

Newcomer: It’s easy to focus on the ingredients that go into a diet, but unless those ingredients are digestible so that the nutrients are available for that animal to use, then it doesn’t really matter. There are particular pets that might benefit from a diet that is homemade with fresh ingredients — I think of those that have skin conditions, for example, associated with food allergies.

It is important to note, feeding a pet a diet that contains fresh food would not be safe unless it is supplemented with the necessary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that that animal needs. Therefore, with each pet it is essential to work with your veterinarian or veterinary specialist to help ensure your pet is on a diet that is safe and effective. Furthermore, the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists has many board-certified nutritionists who are willing to work with pet parents to formulate a home-cooked, fresh diet that is safe and balanced; that’s my best recommendation for someone who is interested in feeding their pet a fresh diet rather than simply cooking at home or purchasing a diet online.

There are so many diet options out there, and how we feed our pets is often just as personal as how we choose what to eat ourselves. Find a veterinarian who is willing and able to support you and your pet in feeding them something that is in line with your preferences, but also effective in supporting the health and wellbeing of your pet for this stage of their life, and in the ones to come.

How do their nutrients compare?

Newcomer: This depends on the individual ingredients of the diet, their digestibility and bioavailability. You cannot determine what nutrients are provided in any diet just by looking at the ingredient list. A nutrient profile is done through analyzing the diet and determining the nutrient levels that it provides. Nutrients include things such as the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, etc.

In general, I’m much more comfortable with diets that have research backing their safety and efficacy for pets, have been tested using feeding trials and have ingredients that have been shown over time to provide the necessary nutrients an animal needs for health and wellbeing.

Is it worth the added cost for pet owners?

Newcomer: Sometimes a homemade diet that is formulated with fresh ingredients could be worth the added cost, particularly if recommended by your veterinarian to help manage a particular health condition. It’s important to be aware that the cost of the pet food does not consistently correlate with the quality of the food; the marketing can be very misleading. More expensive ingredients can drive up the cost of the food, but I want to know that the quality control and the production of the food is also consistently providing a safe product.

Do pets know the difference?

Newcomer: Sometimes it does appear that our pets have a preference for certain ingredients in a fresh pet food, but not always.

Most dogs are not discerning with what they eat — have you seen a dog eat spoiled food, a dead animal or even cat feces? In eating these potentially contaminated sources of food, they exhibit that they do not know the difference between what is healthy for them and what is not. Their taste preferences are not specific and because they evolved as more scavengers than hunters, they are usually inclined to not be specific in what they are eating. They do have a taste preference for fat (as many humans do). Fat increases the flavor of food, but also the calories. Many fresh and raw food diets have an increased fat content that can cause problems for our dogs, particularly with those that have certain health conditions such as pancreatitis.

Cats tend to be more selective with their eating, but sometimes that is tied to what types of food and forms of food they were exposed to when they were younger.

Often with our pets, their eating preferences are more tied to their breeds and their appetites, as opposed to the taste and nutrients of the food provided.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)

1 year ago

Auburn University nursing students provide immunization education in simulation exercise

(Auburn University/Contributed)

The reports on measles cases in the United States had yet to reach near-epidemic proportions when faculty in the Auburn University School of Nursing developed a simulation exercise about immunization education.

As of April 26, the U.S. had experienced 704 cases of measles this year, already the largest annual number of cases in 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week Alabama recorded its first presumptive case of measles this year, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

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Morgan Yordy, an assistant professor, and Ann Lambert, an assistant clinical professor, initiated the simulated experience for second-semester students. Two rooms in the Engaging Active Group Learning Environments in Simulation, or EAGLES, Center were converted to reflect a typical health department or hospital classroom.

Community members, trained to portray parents of pediatric patients, visited the school to gather additional information regarding immunizations for their children. Students were responsible for educating them, including responding to any questions or concerns.

Simulated experiences allow students to apply knowledge and skills attained in class in an appropriate and realistic setting, while faculty evaluate competencies.

“Incorporating innovations, such as using simulation with standardized patients to enhance traditional classroom objectives, demonstrates the dedication of the school to provide the best learning environment that can be achieved,” said Tiffani Chidume, assistant clinical professor and coordinator of the EAGLES Center.

Faculty said students provided accurate and reliable information about the importance of children receiving vaccines, emphasizing vaccine safety and efficacy, and the potential consequences of parents choosing not to have their children vaccinated.

“Students developed knowledge and communication skills to speak to community members regarding how to protect their children from many communicable diseases, and how to educate families, who may be hesitant, without bias or prejudice,” said Meghan Jones, assistant clinical professor and director of clinical simulation and skills. “Students reported they had the necessary knowledge and skills to discuss vaccine information with ‘concerned parents’ and, after the clinical session, they were more confident in their abilities to educate others.”

Measles can cause serious health complications, especially for children younger than 5. It is very contagious as it spreads through the air when one infected person sneezes or coughs.

“People who get measles put others who are not vaccinated at risk,” said Dr. Karen Landers, pediatrician and medical consultant for the Alabama Department of Public Health Immunization Division.

Anyone not protected against measles is at risk of acquiring the virus. Alabama currently has a high rate of vaccination; however, the state could experience a measles outbreak if children are not vaccinated.

State law requires children to be up to date on their vaccinations prior to attending school. Adolescents and college students must also be up to date on their Measles, Mumps and Rubella, or MMR, immunizations.

“The best thing you can do for your young children or college student is to vaccinate them against infectious diseases that can cause many serious complications,” Lambert said.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)