Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Future Is Not Made, It Is Manufactured 

Manufacturing hasn't been proven to sustain the US economy. It has been proven to sustain every economy in the history of civilization. No matter what else you do, you must build things. Those societies that abandon this central ideology do so to their sorrow.

Washington, DC has been described as "70 square miles surrounded by reality." This statement, so true, has never surprised me...but also never fails to fascinate. For most of us, escaping reality includes a two-hour movie, a good book, or Disney World (only 47 square miles). Americans today cannot escape the endless debates originating in our Capitol and spilling over into our daily lives. A 24-hour news cycle hungry for tasty content means no end to battles over healthcare, debt ceilings, budgets, taxes, and, of course, the mortgage crisis. A ray Washington Capitol Bldgof hope perhaps: recent meetings between the Obama Administration, the Hill and numerous agencies has revealed a newfound bipartisan interest in the reality that it is time to invest in our nation's biggest job creator — manufacturing.

Home prices are still in decline all across the nation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the national unemployment rate at 9.1 percent. We all understand that America needs to get back to work to turn this economy around — but not just any work. Flipping burgers for $7.50 an hour is not the answer. We need high-quality job creation, in a sector that has been proven to sustain the US economy. We need to invest in manufacturing.

Actually, let's be honest. Manufacturing hasn't been proven to sustain the US economy. It has been proven to sustain every economy in the history of civilization. No matter what else you do, you must build things. Those societies that abandon this central ideology do so to their sorrow.

Manufacturing job creation has the highest multiplier of any sector. For every new manufacturing job, at least 1.5 other jobs are also created. D.C. is finally listening to what this well documented data is saying.

The Administration is acting! On May 19th, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology shared a draft of their Report to the President: Ensuring American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing. The final report should reach President Obama's desk within the next week, and be made public shortly thereafter. And the overall recommendations outlined in the draft are very encouraging.

The report's most crucial proposal: the launch of an Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (AMI). This cross-agency working group would be spearheaded by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy, and coordinated at the Executive level. The report goes on to recommend initial funding of $500M (growing to $1B by year four) spread across the three departments to implement programs recommended by AMI.

Congress is acting! This recommendation dovetails well with the passage of the COMPETES Act this past January. Democrats and Republicans alike came together to pass this law, and both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue agree that our nation must empower innovation, invest in cutting-edge research (both basic and applied), modernize our aging manufacturing infrastructure, and bolster the education of our current and future workforce.

This bipartisanship must not get lost in the looming budget maneuvering and battles already in progress. With this in mind, we spent the last two weeks in a variety of exchanges across the Federal government.

First, NCMS briefed the Congressional R&D Caucus and Modeling and Simulation Caucus on our Digital Manufacturing Strategy in support of our efforts with the Alliance for High Performance Digital Manufacturing (AHPDM). A key shared objective is to make practical digital manufacturing tools available to small and medium sized companies. All American companies need these tools to compete and succeed in the global marketplace. In addition to myself, NCMS member Intel and NCMS alliance affiliates John Deere and Ace Clearwater sat on the panel briefing. The widely-attended event allowed us to raise visibility of our strategy across Congress and interested non-governmental organizations.

Agencies are acting! This past week, NCMS attended a series of meetings with DoE, DoC/NIST, DoD, and NSF along with our Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) partners, including DuPont, Rockwell Automation, UCLA and the University of Texas. With the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Initiative in mind, these discussions presented a wonderful opportunity to engage once again with key agency leaders to ensure that the message and strategies critical to enabling a successful program were communicated and understood.

The next several weeks are critical as we endeavor to keep the momentum growing. NCMS will be convening our next Digital Manufacturing Strategic Interest Group meeting on this topic in mid-July. Anyone interested in attending can find more information on our website.

To our delight, it seems as though the government is beginning to realize something that every American manufacturer already knows: the future of the United States will not simply be made, it will be manufactured.

Jon Riley,

Executive Director, Design & Engineering Programs, NCMS