In June of this year, the Automation Alley, in collaboration with World Economic Forum (the Forum) launched the first thematic Center on Advanced Manufacturing in the United States to join the World Economic Forum’s Network of Centres for the 4th Industrial Revolution – the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. This new center, located in Michigan’s Oakland County – a hotbed of American manufacturing – will function to expedite the adoption of advanced manufacturing, while reestablishing America’s global leadership in the manufacturing industry.
To learn more about the center and the importance of advanced manufacturing (AM), the GovDesignHub spoke with the World Economic Forum’s Francisco Betti, Head of the Platform for Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains, and Cynthia Hutchison, Head of the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing.
GovDesignHub (GDH): The U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing was recently launched in Michigan, which it refers to as, “the first thematic Center on AM today.” What is a thematic center? What is the mission of this center, and how will it accomplish that mission?
Francisco Betti: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Network (C4IR Network), composed of sixteen centers internationally, is a global multistakeholder platform focused on inclusive technology governance and responsible digital transformation. Many of the centers take a technology-driven approach where the starting point is to identify action areas for transformative technologies like blockchain, drones, artificial intelligence, etc. Then the work focuses on supporting governance and policy development around those technologies.
The Forum has also launched thematic centers that instead build their vision, mission, and programmatic focus beginning from key issues and sectors that are pivotal levers to improve the state of the world.
The U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (USC4AM) drives local, national, and global initiatives that accelerate and strengthen advanced manufacturing in the U.S. while helping to inform the global manufacturing agenda.
Also, the USC4AM works closely with the World Economic Forum’s Platform Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains to drive impact and action, generate pioneering insights, and connect and engage peer communities.
This mission is completed by driving public-private collaborations to tackle key manufacturing challenges and opportunities, anticipating global trends, supporting U.S. manufacturers and policymakers that accelerate industry transformation, and engaging peer communities.
GDH: Why is AM so important today? What trends and challenges have we seen in global manufacturing and supply chains that are making a movement towards AM essential?
Fransisco Betti: Manufacturing accounts for nearly 23 percent of global employment and 16 percent of global gross domestic product. As the world felt the impacts of COVID-19, we were constantly reminded how manufacturing and value chains are inextricably connected to every aspect of our lives.
Additional global mega-trends, including geopolitical conflicts, trade tensions, climate change, and disruptions from emerging technologies, are challenging the global status quo and requiring businesses to rethink every phase of their operational strategies.
“Manufacturing accounts for nearly 23 percent of global employment and 16 percent of global gross domestic product. As the world felt the impacts of COVID-19, we were constantly reminded how manufacturing and value chains are inextricably connected to every aspect of our lives.” — Fransisco Betti
Cynthia Hutchison: As Fransisco said, worldwide disruption continues to accelerate due to climate change, geopolitical tensions, technology, and the long-term effects of the pandemic. This acceleration provides the opportunity and obligation for AM to serve as a force multiplier.
As more companies rely on the regional distribution of manufacturing, increasing speed and agility while enabling change, advanced manufacturing will be a key enabler for more distributed and resilient global supply chains. Circular operations will advance because manufacturers change the product design process to incorporate the next uses for products once their initial utility has been exhausted. This method will improve resource utilization and better manage the earth’s resources.
GDH: How can AM help global governments and economies fix these problems? How can AM help eliminate supply chain disruptions and other challenges these countries face?
Cynthia Hutchison: Governments will need to collaborate with industry to ensure that their region’s end-to-end supply chain remains intact. While global companies can develop or acquire resources to stay ahead, the smaller companies will need government support to keep pace. Nations and regions that want to see more production close to home may need to be part of the support system, including funding.
The new U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing is an example of a regional, state, national and global collaboration. The U.S. government and industry are working together to drive innovation and create new partnerships across sectors and disciplines to increase resilience and minimize future supply chain disruptions. This work accelerates transformation and increases the strength of the supply chain.
As we see this strength grow, we will begin to see more manufacturers overhaul processes, procedures, and production by executing a digital transformation strategy.
“As we see this strength grow, we will begin to see more manufacturers overhaul processes, procedures, and production by executing a digital transformation strategy.” — Cynthia Hutchison
GDH: We’ve heard the WEF position AM as a more carbon-neutral or sustainable alternative to traditional manufacturing. How does AM accomplish this? What about AM is more sustainable?
Cynthia Hutchison: There are several compelling examples. First, developments in advanced manufacturing will lower the industry’s carbon footprint by reducing considerable waste and wastewater. We’ve also seen that large manufacturers are investing in circular operations to reduce waste and imagine new uses for expended products and recycled materials. These methods are a critically important way to reduce and eliminate waste.
Artificial intelligence provides insights in real time. Data is gathered in unprecedented volumes, and 5G enables dramatically increased transfer speeds. This advancement allows manufacturers to move quickly to change design, modify products, reduce downtime, and adjust energy needs—all components to increase sustainability.
GDH: Why choose Michigan for the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing? Why not a technology hub such as Northern Virginia, or Silicon Valley?
Fransisco Betti: When the World Economic Forum established its first Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2017, it was critical to place the Centre in a technology innovation epicenter, which is exactly why we chose San Francisco.
However, given the U.S. Center for Advanced Manufacturing’s thematic approach, it was necessary to identify another location with a history and a culture built on manufacturing. Michigan has a history of being at the center of the industrial narrative, and for helping manufacturers make the transition to “Industry 4.0” through collaboration and innovation.
GDH: What needs to be done to increase the adoption of AM in the U.S.? Is there a skill and talent shortage impacting its adoption? What can this center and the U.S. government do to increase adoption?
Cynthia Hutchison: To increase adoption in the U.S., organizations like the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, large companies, and leading innovators need to be clear and transparent about the urgency we face in manufacturing. Part of our role is to highlight the hazard of inaction and the tremendous opportunity for those who lead.
“This industry-wide challenge cannot be solved by one company alone. As such, an augmented workforce will be a vital initiative of the U.S. Center.” — Cynthia Hutchison
In the U.S., it’s estimated that somewhere between five to seven million jobs are left unfilled because of a lack of appropriately skilled workers. With nearly-record low workforce participation rates, this trend will only accelerate.
This industry-wide challenge cannot be solved by one company alone. As such, an augmented workforce will be a vital initiative of the U.S. Center.
Working closely with the World Economic Forum to expand on their research, we are forming a community of executives and thought leaders in advanced manufacturing to drive advances in re-imagining the workforce.
One of our first and most robust initiatives looks at the augmented workforce and how to leverage technology to empower people and transform manufacturing. Our government partners are engaging in this initiative to learn from industry about barriers which government can remove.
GDH: When we think about AM, we think about robots on assembly lines, 3d printers, laser cutters, computer-guided CNC machines, and routers that precisely and repeatedly create the same part. But it’s not just hardware that drives AM. There is also a software and digital design component. How do advanced digital design solutions power AM? What role do they play in making AM a reality?
Cynthia Hutchison: A digital mindset is necessary to be successful in AM. Digital design in many cases makes re-tooling and prototyping both antiquated and unsustainable. Software design makes it possible to change production without prolonged delays for re-tooling.
In AM, for example, parts that had to be made separately and welded together can now be made as a single part using iterative software. While this is exciting and capable of dramatic cost savings, it also reveals a severe vulnerability for companies not moving toward a more software-focused development process.