Yesterday, President Obama continued in his intentions to make 2014 a year of action, in spite of political stalemate in the United States, by announcing two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes. 

Announement of U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Institutes

Official White House Photo

According to the White House Blog, one will be located in Chicago and the other in Detroit. The goal is to have each of these institutes to serve as a regional hub for bringing together efforts from universities, government and private industry for applied research and product development. The White House terms these institutes as a “teaching factory” where manufacturers, large and small, students and workers of all levels can access advanced manufacturing processes and equipment.

The Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute headquartered near Detroit will pair 34 aluminum, titanium and high strength steel manufacturers with universities and laboratories pioneering technology development and research.  The Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute headquartered in Chicago will spearhead a consortium of 73 companies, along with universities and other research labs in areas of enhanced digital product lifecycle management capabilities including additive manufacturing and 3D printing techniques.

The President’s goal is to eventually create 15 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes across the United States.

The President further announced a new competition for an Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Institute, to be led by the Department of Energy, which will award $70 million over five years to improve U.S. manufacturing abilities in advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites for use in clean energy products.

In the lens of Supply Chain Matters, each of these new institutes are examples for the potential of positive partnerships among private industry, government and universities. They can serve as added impetus for the ongoing renaissance of U.S. manufacturing.  While President Obama addressed these ongoing initiatives in the context of manufacturing jobs, our community knows darn well that manufacturing is supported by vibrant value-chains and ecosystems of suppliers and services providers.  It is all about re-building a competitive and vibrant collection of industry supply chains that can compete on a global scale.

While on the topic of supply chain, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a recent speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, again urged Congress to refrain from past practices for funding short-term transportation and infrastructure projects and move toward a longer-term window of strategic investment in U.S. transportation infrastructure needs. The Secretary reminded the audience that The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the overall infrastructure renewal needs for the United States are $3.6 trillion by 2020.  That addresses needs other than bridges, roads and transit.  The Secretary urged Congress to think out of the box on methods to fund infrastructure needs, other than the traditional fuels tax.   It seems obvious that current trends of greater fuel economy among trucks and automobiles leads to less fuel consumption, hence there needs to alternative forms of funding for these needs. Perhaps this is another area for potential private industry and government partnerships. With the current resurgence in U.S. manufacturing and energy products export activities, logistics and infrastructure needs cannot be ignored.

We say amen to all of these efforts, they are all long overdue.

What’s your viewpoint?

Bob Ferrari