While manufacturing is a global enterprise, there are success stories around like manufacturers settling in a given region. The auto industry in Detroit is one historic example, but other regions have continued to develop areas of expertise in particular technologies, supported by regional or state government, education and manufacturers.
A new article from Manufacturing USA notes that a regional approach to manufacturing often can be the solution not just to the sharing of infrastructure, but also to addressing problems such as workforce development. It also can be a competitive advantage for all manufacturers.
“Viewing a group of companies and institutions as a regional cluster (or what’s also often called a regional ecosystem) highlights opportunities for coordination and mutual improvement which benefit the industry, local communities, and national competitiveness,” the Manufacturing USA report notes. “The ecosystem fosters not only incubation of key technologies in the industry but also helps accelerate the scaling and commercialization of the sector. Being part of these regional networks helps firms build and maintain competitive strength in global markets.”
Manufacturing USA, made up of 16 manufacturing innovation centers around the country, has worked with cities and educational institutions to establish hubs of competencies. One example cited by the article is the work between the ARM Institute and the Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN), centered at Carnegie Mellon University. Over the past 18 months, the article notes the number of companies participating in the group has more than doubled from 40 to 105.
“One of the challenges in emerging technology sectors is defining the landscape,” said Joel Reed, executive director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network. “That includes identifying companies and their competencies, connecting industry members, and providing a roadmap to address gaps and opportunities.”
Reed said in the article that the ARM Institute, which is part of the Manufacturing USA group, has helped to deliver leadership on issues such as workforce development and innovation.
“You need someone who can lead the national conversation on workforce development, but you also need someone who can work on a command line and be able to turn a wrench,” Reed said in the article. “ARM has proven to be extremely valuable in this ecosystem, from creating conversation and addressing key topics, to bringing groups together to collaborate. It’s not just about hardware, software, and integrated systems. It’s also about supplying the industry with installers, assemblers, and service technicians.”