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Celebrating Manufacturing’s Next Generation

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

While attending my 40th Class Reunion at Allegheny College this past May, I got a chance to talk with current undergraduates about their research and study projects. I came away impressed not only with the depth of their understanding, but also with their boundless enthusiasm for learning and achieving. It reminded me, a bit wistfully, of my class when we walked that same campus so many years ago.

It was heartening to see the cycle of learning, creating and doing continuing in the Millennial generation, Generation Z, or whatever we are calling young people today. It’s the same experience I had while reviewing our 30 Under 30 honorees, who are profiled beginning on page 81 of this issue. These exceptional individuals have already accomplished great things, and hold the promise of advancing—and shaking up—the world of manufacturing.

In addition to the traditional routes to success in academic institutions and in established companies, several honorees have already started up their own companies and are creating jobs for other manufacturing professionals. Like Amira Boutouchent and Mehdi Drissi, co-founders of Bridgr, a technology company that supports small and medium manufacturing enterprises in the transition to Industry 4.0. There’s also Willem Sundblad, co-founder of Oden Technologies, which, with a staff of 20 and more hires planned, creates smart factories by providing an IIoT platform that empowers manufacturers with actionable, real-time data from their production facilities.

I was also glad to see that many honorees are active in promoting manufacturing as a career to other young people—a critical task in this era of the Skills Gap. For example, honoree Loren Townes has been a key force behind Washtenaw Community College’s efforts to engage young people in autonomous and connected vehicles, advanced manufacturing, and technical careers in general. He has accomplished this while overcoming a tough background. Impressive.

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Women in manufacturing.

In another section of this issue, SME Speaks on page 13, you can learn how the financial and moral support of the manufacturing industry is leading another impressive young man—Greg Kurfess—to do great things as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. In his column, Greg explains how he plans to join the manufacturing industry in short order. We need all the people like Greg that we can we find—and nurture.

Our 30 Under 30 section also offers clues about what draws people to manufacturing. In many cases, our honorees explain they got interested in manufacturing by tinkering, building and creating things. Markforged, the corporate sponsor of this year’s 30 Under 30 honors, helps its employees tinker and create by giving them access to the company’s printers to create parts for vehicles they’ve repaired, fixtures for their machine shops and sometimes robots.

I hope you read about our exceptional honorees. It appears that the manufacturing industry will be in good hands for years to come.

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