The continued discussion of the resurgence in North American manufacturing is music to my ears. While there was a slowdown in the second half of 2013 for many of us, orders appear to be strengthening and economic indicators are poised for a good 2014.
But the key question for me is if the foundation of our manufacturing, and specifically our metalcasting industry, is poised enough to keep pushing forward 10 and 20 years from now. Another recession at some point is bound to cause a wave of belt tightening. Low cost country sourcing pressures aren’t going to disappear. Health care and regulatory costs will continue to rise throughout the Americas.
In a big announcement in February, President Obama gave a resounding yes to the question of whether the metalcasting segment of our manufacturing foundation is ready for the future as he detailed two initiatives to develop regional manufacturing hubs that will connect private business (including metalcasting) with research institutions as part of his National Network of Manufacturing Innovation. This is coupled with the January announcement that metalcasting is part of the America Makes initiative on additive manufacturing.
Below is a recap of these three projects:
American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute-Based in Canton Township, Mich., this regional hub will focus on the manufacture of aluminum, titanium and high-strength steel, while working with universities and labs on research and development. The American Foundry Society (AFS) is part of a consortium of 34 companies, nine universities and 17 other groups including Boeing, General Electric (GE) and The Ohio State University.
Digital Labs for Manufacturing (or Digital Lab)-Led by University of Illinois labs in Chicago, the Digital Lab will bring together manufacturing and software companies from Boeing to GE to develop compatible software and hardware for supply chains to reduce manufacturing costs. AFS will work with the other partners to use Digital Labs as a resource, focal point and network for resolving technical barriers currently limiting the application and integration of digital manufacturing and innovative design technologies.
Accelerated Adoption of AM Technology in the American Foundry Industry-This project was awarded funding from the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation’s pilot program and is led by the Youngstown Business Incubator, with partnership from AFS. The research will support the transition of binder jet additive manufacturing to the small business casting industry.
Review the focus of these initiatives-additive manufacturing, lightweight materials and supply chain constraints. These are forward-thinking initiatives that will translate to practical results in the near future.
These initiatives are focused to help the entire supply chain in metalcasting manufacturing.These initiatives are another brick in the foundation of metalcasting manufacturing resurging before your eyes. As you continue to look to U.S. suppliers as part of your answer to global supply demands, we will need this foundation to remain strong.