President Obama officially announced two new advanced manufacturing labs in Chicago and Detroit. These public-private sector partnerships are geared towards helping revitalize U.S. manufacturing prowess. Added to the two existing ones in Youngstown, Ohio and Raleigh, N.C. doubles the total to four throughout the United States. The goals are to help suppliers better collaborate with customers in real time, test their parts digitally and reduce prototype development costs and time expenditures. The Illinois project has been named the Digital Lab for Manufacturing.
This is a good start, but, unfortunately, a lot more needs to be done. After 3 decades of severe manufacturing cutbacks and outsourcing to India and Asia, American manufacturing is only a shell of what it used to be. For example, as I shared in two recent articles: Where Will The Motorola Engineers Go? and How Do You Feel About Lenovo Taking Over? a mega engineering and manufacturing brand built and cultivated in Chicago is being sold to Lenovo leading to most R&D, engineering, scientific, IT and technical jobs exiting to Lenovo’s base of operations in China. For many decades Motorola had been the envy of the world including practically inventing the cellular phone industry. Furthermore, many R&D recruiters, engineering recruiters, scientific recruiters, IT recruiters and technical recruiters like myself made a good living from placements at Motorola. Unfortunately, this now will all be a distant memory.
Moreover, several countries like Germany have long ago embraced this collaborative public-private manufacturing model of targeting specific manufacturing technologies leading to worldwide domination. In fact, Germany now has 67 institutes devoted to worldwide leadership. Through these efforts, they have invested heavily in concentrated worker training for the specific machines and tools they have chosen to spotlight. They have also formed core technical recruiting teams to staff up these institutes with the brightest research & development and manufacturing minds to train their workers in the latest manufacturing techniques.
Two manufacturing areas we should focus more on are Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.These can provide more immediate manufacturing dividends. Some of the key buzzwords in these fields are Six Sigma, Kaizen, and debottlenecking techniques.
Fortunately, many U.S. companies have already adopted Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, but a lot more needs to be done. Significant manufacturing improvements can be obtained in a very short period of time by implementing Lean and continuous improvement. Therefore, both areas should be given greater focus with our future public-private sector collaborations. The four digital hubs are a good idea, but focusing more on Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement can produce more immediate return on investment or ROI for U.S. manufacturing.
What are your thoughts?