Connecting the Supply Chain to Research

Last Thursday, April 14,2016, the Chicago Roundtable of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) visited the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). DMDII is a public-private research institute in Chicago which is provided digital manufacturing research for American manufacturing companies so they can succeed.

OK, lots of acronyms and words here. What does it all mean? In this brief essay, I will tell about my visit to the facility, examine how well this research works with the supply chain, why research is value and worthy of the taxpayers’ dollars and finally, an overview of the recently started national research centers, their acronyms, their purpose, where they are located and of course, their website.

DMDII and UI Labs share a brand new building, open last year, on Goose Island in Chicago, a few miles northwest of the loop. One of their Business Development personal, Mary Kate Love, gave us a brief history and overview of the operation. Manufacturing is undergoing changes as a result of the digital technology revolution. To be successful in this environment, research needs to be done to keep America competitive with the world.  DMDII is a public-private center where business, academics and the government can do this research. We saw machines being tested, labs areas and a lecture hall. Industries have provided, on loan, machines to be tested. Some companies assigned their personnel to work there. There is an engineering focus at this location. Memberships annual fees start from $500 and goes up to the several hundred thousand dollar.

Supply Chain/Logistics people are in are the unusual position, of not only looking at the organization inward, but outward looking to its suppliers and customers.  It is significant supply chain/logistics organization, the Chicago Roundtable of CSCMP choose to visit there even though it is not directly connected what supply chain practitioners do in their jobs. It is of value for logistics and supply chain to let management know organizations like DMDII exist and that information needs to be communicated to upper management of this source of research information.

It is of concern that digital research tends to be inwardly focused, just on the machine or the internal process. Data developed in these research projects have implications in production information for the supply chain and for the company’s suppliers and customers. If your organization chooses to join an organization such as DMDII, supply chain leaders should solicit input into the project to make sure these larger picture items are considered.

My belief is that that government has a role in investing in the economy and keeping it productive by doing research. In other nations, research might be controlled by the government. Working in team environment of industry, academics and the government  gives America a competitive advantage to do this research. There is a serendipity effect when people work together. The sum will be more than the parts.  Part of rebuilding America’s manufacturer sector, such inputs as this research will be needed to spur economic growth.  Yes, efforts should be made to minimize failures and wasted money, but fear of failure should not scare us, if we want to have a better future.

The visit made me curious about the other research facilities created recently by current federal administration. Here is a list the research centers which are in existence today and their location. All of these have been started in the last five years.

The national organization is the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). It is part of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO) in Gaithersburg, MD, part of the Department of Commerce.

Organization                                                                                            Acronym/Website

Advanced Functional Fabrics of America                                                AFFOA

Research into the new fabrics                                                     www.rle.mit.edu/fabric/

American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics     AIM Photonics

Research on photonics, use of light waves to convene data    www.aimphotonics.com/

American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute                                                                                                                                        ALMMII

Located in Detroit, MI Lightweight materials research.                         lift.technology/

Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute                          DMDII

Located in Chicago, IL Digital manufacturing research                        dmdii.uilabs.org/

Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation            IACMI

Located in Knoxville, TN.  Advanced polymer composites research  http://iacmi.org/

Nextflex                                                                                                                   Nextflex

Located in San Jose, CA. Research in flexible hybrid electronics      www.nextflex.us

PowerAmerica                                                                                        PowerAmerica

Located in Raleigh, NC. Develop wide bandgap          www.poweramericainstitute.org

power electronic technologies. Works with the Department of Energy

 

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