Many states boast a strong base of manufacturing firms that positively impact the state’s economy and contribute to national and global energy efficiency markets. To enhance the growth of advanced energy technology manufacturing within the state, state leaders could facilitate public-private partnerships that expand competition and innovation capacity of small and medium-sized manufacturers. This can be accomplished by promoting advances in manufacturing technology and the corresponding workforce trainings to ensure that workers can keep up with skill demand. High-performance computing technology and new modeling simulation and analysis can build competitive advantage through “innovative product design, production techniques, cost savings, improved time-to-market cycles, and overall quality.” However, without assistance, many companies cannot afford to invest in this type of technology, putting them at risk of missing significant business opportunities.
A state could expand these efforts by investing in digital manufacturing resources to drive future job creation. State policymakers could look to the success of the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium’s (NDEMC) public-private partnerships. NDEMC’s Midwest pilot program in Ohio and Indiana matched $2.5 million in private sector investment with $2 million in federal grants and technical assistance from local universities. The funding was used to increase the accessibility of high-performance computing and training resources for small- and medium-sized firms. The twenty manufacturers that received NDEMC funding saw a combined $20 million increase in sales revenue each year, with exports accounting for half of total sales. These manufacturers also created 160 new jobs in 2012 and developed three new products. A state could establish a similarly structured public-private partnership using state funding and leveraging the resources of the state’s public university network. Bolstering a state’s workforce and innovation capacity within the manufacturing sector will set the stage for future growth and allow the state to effectively compete in the advanced energy global economy.
Trends and Best Practices in Digital Manufacturing Training
To address rapidly evolving technologies, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation committed funding to the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in November 2012. The purpose of this allocation of money was to help establish the Michigan Grid Cell (formerly named the Predictive Innovation Center), a facility that provides companies with equipment and workforce training to aid in virtual design and prototyping. Additionally, North Central Michigan College has partnered with the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, Ferris State University, Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians, Precision Edge, and numerous manufacturers to create a “self-contained mobile digital manufacturing lab,” otherwise known as the “Fab Lab.” The mobile lab can be set up near the workforce to improve the efficiency and accessibility of training programs. Students who complete the program receive a nationally recognized certificate in Computer Numerical Control (CNC).