MFG Advocate …

A year in the life of the MFG Advocate

By  Penny Brown, MTAdvocacy Manager

When I joined AMT’s Advocacy department late in 2013, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in my new job but I had a feeling it was going to be pretty good. What I didn’t know was just how good. How cool is it to get to see and experience some of the most exciting things that manufacturing has to offer – and tell the rest of the world about it?

The past year has been filled with lots of these fantastic experiences. While there are really too many to write about, here are some highlights, in no particular order:

Illuminating at OLEDWorks 

If one were to script a great story about American manufacturing, it couldn’t be done any better than the real-life one behind OLEDWorks. The only U.S-based manufacturer of organic LEDs, OLEDWorks is located in Rochester, N.Y., and makes its home in a parcel of a former GM plant that is also shared by other smaller manufacturers and industrial businesses.

Most are familiar with LEDs – light emitting diodes. You find them in your TVs, traffic signals and all kinds of lighting. They provide a more natural style of light than incandescent bulbs and can be used in a variety of settings including healthcare, hospitality, architectural light displays, and more. OLEDWorks’s LEDs are organic – mercury-free and energy efficient.

OLEDWorks is a great collaboration between brilliant technical know-how and good business smarts. Two former Kodak scientists, Drs. Michael Boroson and John Hamer, armed with more than 50 patents, teamed with Rochester businessman David DeJoy to found the company in 2010. They took advantage of low-cost production equipment and leveraged state and federal grant programs to help get their business growing. They had just been presented with a $2 million Department of Energy grant from Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) around the time of my visit to help speed the commercialization of OLED products. 

Entrepreneurship and innovation plus a proud manufacturing heritage – the OLEDWorks’ story is lights-out!

Winning with MTConnect 

This year, AMT again partnered with the National Center for Defense Machining and Manufacturing (NCDMM), the Department of Defense and U.S. Army Beloit Labs for Phase 2 of the MTConnect Challenge. The challenge was to develop a great software application using MTConnect. I was in the audience when Valerie Pezzullo, a Clemson grad student, accepted the $100,000 prize for her winning app: Machining Process Monitoring to Aid in Chatter Identification. It detects vibrations in metal-cutting machines so that corrections can be made before parts are damaged.

A Google Glass app for shop floor monitoring and an app to allow for real-time visualization of MTConnect data won 2nd and 3rd prizes. There was also an app that provides better visual guidance for machine operators. It was exciting to see so many innovations from a variety of industry stakeholders. 

Just like MTConnect’s slogan – “Different Devices, Common Connection” – the challenge and MTConnect’s ability to create the smart, connected factory, aka the Internet of Things, is just what the industry needs to get excited about the possibilities of seamless operations on the shop floor.

IMTS Part 1 – the Smartforce Student Summit

While IMTS has long hosted a student-focused event, the 2014 edition of the Smartforce Student Summit was the largest in history and by far the most dynamic. Students ranging from grade school to college descended on McCormick Place to get a real hands-on education about what manufacturing has to offer. Likewise, parents and educators saw how manufacturing excites their young people and got to experience a field trip like no other. 

Engaging with students at an early age is absolutely imperative to address the skills gap that currently faces our industry. Beyond the events at IMTS, it’s heartening to see a number of AMT members taking action on their own to build relationships with their local community colleges and technical schools, and developing their own training programs to ensure they have the skilled workers needed for today’s advanced manufacturing industry. Let’s keep the spirit of the Smartforce Student Summit going all year long!

IMTS Part 2 – The MFG Advocate on IMTSTV

I was very excited to have an opportunity to host a segment on IMTSTV focused on the intersection between industry, government, and education – thus giving rise to The MFG Advocate on IMTSTV. I was honored to share time with Commerce’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing Chandra Brown, Capt. Wendy Lawrence of the Sally Ride Science Company, Vince Bertram of Project Lead the Way, Ed Morris of America Makes and many others who so graciously shared their time to talk about manufacturing, technology, STEM education and other issues important to our future.

It’s going to be hard to top 2014, but I can’t wait to see what’s ahead next year! Stay tuned for more great stories and excellent adventures.

Contact me at pbrown@AMTonline.org.