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NAMRC 49: Where Smart Manufacturing and Digitalization Meet

Lihui Wang
By Lihui Wang, PhD, FSME, PE 2020-21 President, NAMRI | SME, SME Member Since 1999

The North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME (NAMRI | SME) brings together researchers from leading companies, government laboratories, academic institutions and industrial think tanks located around the world for the purpose of advancing the scientific foundation of discrete-parts manufacturing. This group’s work covers refining fundamental technologies and developing emerging ones for smart manufacturing systems and processes, such as design, planning, machining, forming, additive manufacturing and assembly. Its research is also focused on smart manufacturing by means of cyber-physical production systems, big data analytics and digital twins to create a digitalized industry in the future. Smart manufacturing, in the era of Industry 4.0, aims for flexible and adaptive manufacturing operations locally or globally by using integrated information technology (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI) that can combine advanced computing power with manufacturing equipment. It depends on the timely acquisition, distribution and utilization of real-time data from both machines and processes on manufacturing shop floors and even across product lifecycles. Effective information sharing can improve production quality, reliability, resource efficiency and recyclability of end-of-life products. Smart manufacturing built on digitalization also aims for better sustainability and contributes to factories of the future. Smart manufacturing is identified as one of the strategic areas of NAMRI | SME.

For nearly five decades, Procedia Manufacturing has broadened the availability of NAMRC papers and helped disseminate manufacturing research findings.

NAMRI | SME is governed by its board of directors, which represents manufacturing research leadership in industry, government and academia in North America and the world. The board is comprised of the NAMRI | SME Executive Committee (president, president-elect, past president, second past president and secretary), the Scientific Committee (chair and chair-elect) and six NAMRI | SME at-large directors.

The North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC) is the flagship event of NAMRI | SME—the premier international forum where academic and industrial leaders in manufacturing interact with each other and advance the field. The distinctive feature of NAMRC is the presentations and critical discussions of research on technical innovations and new methods and applications of leading-edge technology from around the world, including smart manufacturing and digitalized industry.

The first NAMRC was organized in 1973 by a group of researchers interested in discussing and disseminating research results in the field of manufacturing. For its first few years, the event was known as the North American Metalworking Research Conference, but the word “manufacturing” soon began to be used to recognize the expanding base of research. From its inception in 1973 until 1981, NAMRC was facilitated through its Scientific Committee. In 1982, NAMRC became an affiliated organization of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, known as NAMRI | SME.

A bound volume of papers presented at NAMRC has been produced, under the titles Proceedings and Transactions, from 1973 to 2010, to serve as a permanent record of the research ideas and results presented and discussed at the annual conference. Beginning in 2011, the Proceedings of NAMRI | SME was published in CD format only, and in 2015, Elsevier’s Procedia Manufacturing became the publishing venue for the Proceedings of NAMRI | SME. Altogether, for nearly five decades, the proceedings have faithfully documented the tremendous evolution of manufacturing science and technology.

Manufacturing has regained global recognition and increased investment in research funding support due to its ability to transform society. This is represented in the quality and quantity of the research papers in recent NAMRC conferences. After 48 successful years, NAMRC has been recognized as the preeminent international forum for presentations and dissemination of original basic and applied research in advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing research is unstoppable, even during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This year, NAMRC 49 (June 21-25) will go virtual and be hosted by the University of Cincinnati.

The publication of Proceedings of NAMRI | SME in Procedia Manufacturing has broadened the availability of NAMRC papers and helped disseminate our manufacturing research findings. Top NAMRC papers will be selected and fast-tracked to SME’s Journal of Manufacturing Systems and Journal of Manufacturing Processes, also published by Elsevier.

NAMRC 49 is co-located with ASME MSEC 2021. It is expected that more than 600 people will attend the co-located virtual conferences for knowledge exchange and networking. More information about the conferences can be found at

SME Introduces First Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award Winner


The inaugural SME Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award honors a manufacturer that demonstrates an exceptional commitment and dedication to upskilling the workforce, enhancing talent, and preparing new and incumbent employees for a successful career in the manufacturing industry.

After reading impressive entries, the panel of judges selected a 2020 winner: Milbank Manufacturing. Milbank, a 93-year-old company, is at the forefront of training and development. Its philosophy of innovation goes back to 1927, when Charlie Milbank set the standard for quality metering equipment and enclosures. Milbank remains a family-owned company, rooted in innovation and committed to growth. Today, with three American manufacturing facilities located in Kansas City, Mo.; Concordia, Mo.; and El Dorado, Ark.; Milbank products can be found in 37 countries around the world.

After assessing several training models, Milbank customized and implemented the Training Within Industry (TWI) methodologies for Job Instruction (JI). It is standardized throughout, using Job Instruction Breakdown to create its standard work instruction. These written instructions for each area of production help ensure the process is documented and clearly explained. All employees who receive training in this model receive in-person instructions and explanations of the “why” behind the process.

Extensive use of job shadowing is integrated into that process as well. Milbank encourages its employees to try their skills at new positions to locate the best role for them. The company also cross-trains and engages in continuous standard work improvement through the use of TWI methodologies.

Milbank recognizes the value of a team that builds its products and dedicates its resources to making sure they do the best job possible. The company understands that talent is a key driver for their business success.
This investment pays off in a low turnover rate and longevity from its employees. In fact, more than a third of Milbank employees have been with the company for 10 years or longer.

Visit to view the full blog post on Milbank’s award-winning manufacturing training program.

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