Changwon Suh

In the last two months, the Obama Administration announced the launch of five new Manufacturing USA institutes with the task of energizing U.S. manufacturing through improved public-private partnerships and accelerated research and development initiatives. The recently awarded institutes—listed below starting with the most recent award—are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC):

  • The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Institute — DoD
  • The Reducing EMbodied-energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute — DOE
  • The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) — DoD
  • The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) — DOC
  • The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute — DOE

Although the manufacturing industry has made significant strides following the Great Recession, the ideal manufacturing process—rapid, cost-effective production with minimal waste—has not yet been achieved. The current driving force behind advances in U.S. manufacturing is a combination of three principles:

  • Lean manufacturing: Originating from Toyotism, a management philosophy of Japanese automotive manufacturer Toyota, the term “lean” refers to creating maximum outputs with reduced inputs in terms of cost, time, space, energy, and effort.
  • Smart/digital manufacturing: This principle emphasizes the integration of data collected from advanced sensing, automated control, and simulation/modeling of product properties to optimize processes (i.e., minimizing manufacturing time and energy). More information about smart manufacturing can be found in my previous blog post.
  • Continuous manufacturing: The basic idea of continuous manufacturing is to facilitate fast and clean production by transforming traditional batch manufacturing processes into a single, streamlined end-to-end solution. According to a recent blog post by MForesight, continuous manufacturing is particularly critical in the pharmaceutical industry since the many stops and starts from batch processing can increase the risk of contamination.

By leveraging these principles, Manufacturing USA institutes can increase the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing while growing jobs and the U.S. economy. The plans of each of the newly awarded institutes reflect the manufacturing principles of lean, smart/digital, and continuous manufacturing.

  • ARM Institute: To successfully establish the industrial robotics ecosystem for manufacturing—including for the areas of aerospace, automotive, electronics, and textiles—the institute must leverage smart/digital manufacturing (e.g., learning, perception and sensing, analytics, and artificial intelligence).
  • REMADE Institute: To support the five technology focus areas of the REMADE Institute—system analysis and integration, design for reuse and disassembly, manufacturing processes, remanufacturing/end-of-life reuse, and recycling and recovery—the Institute will develop a new approach, called cradle-to-cradle technology, for the reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing of metals, fibers, polymers, and electronic waste.
  • ARMI: With advanced cell/tissue engineering, the Institute will focus on biofabrication that produces complex living/non-living biomaterials ranging from regenerative medicine and pharmaceuticals to artificial organs. Biofabrication technology tackles the challenges associated with three-dimensional bioprinting, bioreactor control, and scale-up cell culture, with the aid of smart/digital manufacturing (e.g., real-time monitoring, 3D data science) and continuous manufacturing approaches.
  • NIIMBL: NIIMBL’s activities will be based on its three-stage product pipelines—established platforms such as proteins and vaccines, new platforms including virus-like particles, and emerging platforms like gene and cell therapies—to allow more rapid and flexible biopharmaceutical production. NIIMBL fully supports all concepts of lean manufacturing, smart/digital manufacturing, and continuous manufacturing. For example, its expected outcomes include integrated continuous manufacturing strategies, process integration and intensification, real-time analytical technologies, automation, process modeling, and energy/water savings. You can find more detailed information on the NIIMBL information sheet.
  • RAPID Institute: A concept of lean manufacturing is well described in the mission of the RAPID Institute. In five years, the Institute aims to achieve 20% improved energy productivity and efficiency in energy-intensive chemical manufacturing sectors (e.g., oil and gas industries) through modular (i.e., combined) chemical process intensification. Here, process intensification describes any chemical engineering activities that lead to a substantially smaller, cleaner, and more energy-efficient technology.

I look forward to seeing how the Institutes will integrate the manufacturing principles of lean, smart/digital, and continuous manufacturing to advance manufacturing in 2017. As a technical program manager and materials scientist at Nexight Group, I believe that these Institutes can make an even greater impact on the U.S. economy and jobs by combining these approaches with manufacturing strategies to transform massive, heterogeneous data into information and knowledge; link time- and length-scales; develop scale-up methodologies; and handle the multidisciplinary nature of manufacturing topics.