IRC Team

The seven centers comprising the IRC Network employ dozens of manufacturing experts, including Six Sigma Green Belts and Black Belts, Lean practitioners and more.

A few select team members from across the commonwealth are highlighted below. To learn more about the capabilities of your local center, click here.

Russ Lawrence

Russ, Director of Innovation and Senior Business Advisor, oversees the Innovative Manufacturers Center’s innovation program where he works with business leaders, companies and inventors on turning their organizations into innovative enterprises. He uses the Innovation Engineering Management System to guide companies through the process and gives them the organizational confidence they need to be successful. Russ is an Innovation Engineering Black Belt and is certified in Lean Leadership and Six Sigma.

Mike Withka

Mike, a Senior Strategy Manager, oversees the Manufacturers Resource Center’s Lean Enterprise Program, helping clients operate more efficient, profitable businesses. A former operations director, manager, supervisor and production engineer, Mike focuses his efforts on production system design, strategic lean transformations, team coaching, leadership mentoring, training program design and training workshop facilitation.

Kent Keller

Kent is a Human Resources Specialist with MANTEC. A graduate of Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, he brings the center and its clients extensive experience in employee professional development, recruitment and retention strategies, and HR policy development and implementation in a variety of manufacturing industry sectors.

Jeff Kopenitz

The DVIRC Director of Advanced Manufacturing, Jeff specializes in helping manufacturers enhance growth, profitability and business value through continuous improvement processes. A Lean Master, Jeff has studied at Japan’s Shingijutsu Institute under the direction of Yoshiki Iwata, Chihiro Nakao and Akira Takenaka, pupils of Taiichi Ohno, creator of the Toyota Production System.


Gerry Giza

Gerry, NEPIRC’s Director for Lean & Continuous Improvement, works closely with clients on initiatives designed to increase their production capacity, reduce production costs, and capitalize on top-line sales growth and bottom-line margin improvement opportunities. He brings more than 30 years of manufacturing expertise to his client engagements, including previous experiences as Manufacturing Engineer, Advanced Technology Engineer, Manufacturing Manager and Plant Manager within international manufacturing companies.

Catalyst Connection

Connie Palucka

Connie, Catalyst Connection’s Managing Director for Business Growth Services, brings over 20 years of global sales, business development, and product development experience to her role as a Market Development Consultant. Her experience includes developing and executing global sales strategies, implementing a stage-gate product development program, and leading the execution of strategic initiatives.