Guest post by Rich Markham, Polymer Ohio (part of Ohio MEP, a NIST MEP affiliate)
American manufacturing is at a noteworthy and exciting convergence of three powerful trends that provide the opportunity for growth of American industry into next-generation manufacturing.
- While “traditional manufacturing” as we’ve known it is may be fading, there remains a legacy of innovation that can be the basis for future growth.
- Post- recession companies are now growing again with renewed energy. The resulting profitability will provide the resources for industry to innovate and stretch its capabilities.
- The Digital Age brings methods and approaches that are having unprecedented impact on the efficiency and profitability of companies that apply digital tools wisely.
If American manufacturers continue to adopt new technologies and approaches, our industry can assure the continuation of its manufacturing leadership.
The New Age in U.S. Manufacturing Begins Now
The next five years can be a game-changing period in our history—a new age in manufacturing! If U.S. industry embraces the digital age, particularly in regards to modeling and simulation and its benefits, it will achieve unprecedented results—new products, more efficiencies, innovative designs and materials. The goal will be that every manufacturer, large or small, can become a next-generation manufacturer—agile and robust, applying new digital tools to increase the efficiency of their operations and functions as well as to develop new, innovative products and technologies that will assure sustainable growth for the company.
Modeling and Simulation: Don’t Miss This Bandwagon
A powerful digital tool—modeling and simulation— is available to help companies add to their bottom lines. It has been applied by large companies for decades saving millions of dollars, but the cost of hardware, software licenses and trained engineers have prevented many smaller companies from achieving the benefits of simulation software.
Other countries understand the value of modeling and simulation and are investing. The governments of China, India and Korea have established formal initiatives to increase the use of modeling and simulation by small- and mid-sized manufacturers, specifically to improve the productivity of their manufacturing sectors.
Although software is now available that can accurately simulate a wide range of processes on a common desktop or laptop computer, the cost of selecting a software, paying for a license, hiring an engineer to apply the software, purchasing new hardware and obtaining IT assistance is out of the capability of many companies’ resources—financial and human.
On the other hand, based on discussions with industry representatives over the past three years, there is little doubt that modeling and simulation will become “best practice” in the near future, including for small manufacturers. The important questions are “When?” and “Which countries will dominate this approach to manufacturing?” If we are to maintain our global competitiveness, American manufacturing must take the lead in transforming our companies into next-generation manufacturers, applying world-class best practices.
Manufacturing and Polymer Portal Opens the Doors of Innovation to All
In 2006 PolymerOhio, Inc. and the Ohio Supercomputer Center recognized the significant value that small- and mid-sized companies can gain through modeling and simulation and collaborated to find a way to make modeling and simulation easily and affordably accessible for small- and mid-sized companies. A prototype “portal” was designed to offer expensive modeling and simulation software and training in its use at affordable pay-per-use prices—delivered to the engineer’s desktop or laptop.
In 2010, the team received a competitive award from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop the Portal through a pilot project focusing on the Ohio polymer industry. The pilot Portal was successful and is now moving to the next phase to make its resources available across the U.S. to all types of manufacturers.
A newly designed website for the “Manufacturing and Polymer Portal” is now online with an array of modeling and simulation software and other digital tools to help American companies improve their businesses. Tools supporting welding, supply chain management, strategic planning, and production scheduling as well as simulations for plastics extrusion and injection molding are available. Tools will be added frequently to expand the selection of productivity-enhancing software, computational methods, digital tools, and training.
Our objective is to accelerate the acceptance of simulation as “best practice” by helping smaller companies understand the value in applying digital tools and provide tools through an easy-to-use, affordable mechanism. The Manufacturing and Polymer Portal works to help all American manufacturers recognize the opportunity to be gained using modeling and simulation tools.
More information about the launch of the Manufacturing and Polymer Portal can be found here as well as at manufacturingportal.org. Additional information about what is on the Portal, how to access the tools and what’s planned for the future can be obtained through an archived webinar after August 1.