This question was considered when I visited Sacramento, California last week to talk rail car manufacturing. The discussion was convened by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Federal Rail Administration in partnership with the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS). Two federal agencies and several state governments are collaborating to plan the purchase of next generation rail car equipment. It seemed to be a very interesting topic as we had of over 100 manufacturers and over 200 total attendees. Even Secretary Ray LaHood of the U.S. Department of Transportation was interested in finding an answer to this question. You can read the DOT press release summarizing his visit to California and our meeting here.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) is joining forces to connect rail suppliers with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) ready to build the next generation of passenger railcars and locomotives in the United Sates. The two federal agencies are partnering with several states and professional associations to encourage the development of a 100% domestic supply base to support the next generation passenger railcars and locomotives. To bring everyone together, the first Rail Supply Chain Forum was held on February 9th in Sacramento, California. The California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) was the featured speaker sharing the plans to release a future funding opportunity for a fleet of bi-level intercity passenger railcars for intercity corridor service. Read more about this opportunity here.
The California event included presentations by rail car manufacturers seeking capable and interested supply chain partners for future rail procurements, companies such as: Alstom Transport, Bombardier Transportation, Electromotive Diesel, General Electric Transportation, Nippon Sharyo, Siemens, Talgo, and WABTEC. At the end of the day, several hours were devoted to 1-on-1 business meetings between the rail car manufacturers and the 100 manufacturers providing information on their ability to contribute to the future of rail transportation. Manufacturers such as, International Rite-Way Products of Ontario, California with over 34 years’ experience providing parts to the aerospace industry and now looking to provide their expertise in hydro form, extrusion stretch, skin stretch, and roll forming processes to the railcar industry. Diversified Metal Products of Idaho Falls, Idaho is a company that made a name for themselves as a high precision stainless steel fabricator in the nuclear industry, is now bringing that expertise to train cab fabrication. Diversified Metal recently secured a contract to supply the cabs for a light rail commuter train and is seeking additional transportation industry opportunities. Crown Manufacturing Company located in the Northern California San Francisco Bay Area attended the event to offer plastic injection molding services. Micropac Industries of Garland, Texas decided to make the trip to California to discuss the possible rail applications of their microelectronic and optoelectronic components typically used in the medical, military, aerospace and space markets. Many of the meeting attendees, such as the manufacturers mentioned above, were past client of the Commerce Department’s MEP program. These firms worked with MEP to diversify into new markets, to improve their manufacturing shop floor operations, and to develop better business models. The MEP program is a national network of non-profit and for-profits resources – industrial, business, academia, and government – all working together to improve U.S. manufacturers’ competiveness. Through project contracts (yes, the manufacturers pay for the resources), the partnership resources of the MEP program provides the right information and needed education to many smaller firms allowing the firms to grow and to capture new business. The MEP program insures the expert resources deliver the help needed in a manner that is most useful to these smaller firms. These manufacturers and many others like them are investing in themselves for the future. They use the MEP program as their guides to the future – a helping hand; a trusted friend. These manufacturers are demonstrating their ability to compete for business here in the United States and around the world. They are looking for a chance, a chance to show what makes them uniquely qualified to play a role in the next generation rail supply chain. Partnering with the MEP program, and now the DOT, many smaller manufacturers have increased that chance.
California was round one of the new DOT and DOC partnership to support the domestic transportation supply base in the United States. Round two is the Chicago rail supply chain meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 14th – event details and registration information at www.imec.org – Rail Supply Fourm. The Illinois State Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Federal government will explain the planned rail transportation investments for the Midwest. We are expecting over 250 attendees for the Chicago event. I hope to see you there.
Maybe then I will have an answer to my question.