By Jim Lorincz
Anyone who can text can take part in a real-time opinion poll. This was demonstrated at the imX keynote address of Jim Carroll, global futurist and trends and innovation expert (his billing). Carroll asked a basic question about how optimistic/pessimistic the audience was about the future of the economy. Audience response through texting was displayed on monitors in real-time as they "voted" with their fingers. The audience of manufacturers, their suppliers, and technologists who shape the future of manufacturing was more optimistic about the future than the headlines in any of our major media would lead one to believe they would be.
It goes without saying that that same manufacturing audience and our readers would have the best opinions about how to ensure that public policy—too often held hostage by politicians—could best serve the interests of manufacturing. Policy should support and not hinder manufacturers in the successful use of all the resources available to them.
In his keynote address to imX, Michael F. Molnar, two weeks into his job as the Chief Manufacturing Officer for the US Department of Commerce located in NIST, explained how a new public-private partnership to address the future of manufacturing was being formed. Molnar, formerly a manufacturing executive at Cummins Inc. and an SME member, outlined the steps being taken to realize the stated goals of the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). He referenced concerns expressed in the July report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST report available at www.whitehouse.gov). It’s not pleasant reading. The US is losing ground; other countries are investing heavily in advancing manufacturing, innovation systems, and R&D. Our national security depends on a strong advanced manufacturing sector and is at risk. And our ability to create and retain high-quality jobs in the US depends on it.
Public private partnership is at the heart of the solution. The mechanism proposed for realizing the desired goal is through formation of an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech). The purpose of the AMTech Consortia would be "to develop roadmaps of critical long-term industrial manufacturing research and issue sub-awards to fund research by universities, government laboratories, and US businesses." Key questions concerning AMTech’s structure, members, criterion for funding proposals, metrics to measure performance, and ability to involve small businesses are still to be answered. Here's where your opinions come in. The deadline to respond to NIST’s request for comments has been extended to October 20th. Comments will be accepted by e-mail only. Comment to AMTechRFC@nist.gov with the subject line AMTech Comments. All comments will be made publicly available. Further Information about the scope of AMTech can be found in the Federal Register: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-07-22/pdf/2011-18580.pdf. Warm up your keypads.
This article was first published in the October 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.