A new partnership between US-based organisations the University of Northern Iowa (UNI); Youngstown State University, Ohio; and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) intends to leverage $10 million in first-year funding. The partnership is expected to provide hundreds of businesses each year with support to remove barriers to adopting Industry 4.0 technologies – including Additive Manufacturing, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics – in order to enable a faster output of quality parts while expanding and strengthening the supply chain.
“Implementation of Industry 4.0 practices in advanced manufacturing is a crucial element for maintaining a strong Defense Industrial Base,” stated Randy Gilmore, VP and Chief Development Officer at NCDMM. “NCDMM and America Makes are proud to be a part of the project team and to have the opportunity to play an essential role in this effort.”
Jerry Thiel, Director of the UNI Foundry 4.0 Center, added, “In the next five years, our nation’s manufacturing economy is positioned to achieve levels of efficiency and productivity not yet realised with current technologies. The integration of robotics, automation, sensors, and other Industry 4.0 technologies allowed through this partnership will position our nation for sustained global leadership in industry. Bringing Industry 4.0 technologies to the metal casting industry while training the future workforce will be critical in strengthening the country’s manufacturing base and removing supply chain issues with critical cast components.”
The project was made possible through competitive funding secured by a bipartisan Congressional coalition across Iowa and Ohio.
“We are grateful for the bipartisan effort in Congress to secure competitive funding for this project,” commented Mark A Nook, UNI President. “Special thanks to Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst, Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, Congressman Tim Ryan and Congressman Randy Feenstra for their leadership and support of this effort to support a strong manufacturing base for years to come.”
Senators and representatives from Iowa and Ohio spoke to the importance of the Industry 4.0 technology adoption project for global competitiveness.
“I am proud to have helped secure this investment in the University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) Industry 4.0 programme,” stated United States Congresswoman Ashley Hinson. “This initiative will strengthen Iowa’s workforce, foster new job opportunities and ensure our state remains globally competitive in advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing has long been a key part of our economy in Iowa, and as this industry evolves, our workforce needs to adapt and grow as well. UNI is at the forefront of this mission, and we’ll continue working together to invest in Iowa’s workers.”
The partnership is designed to address numerous challenges manufacturers face in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies, including an ageing workforce, confronting short- and long-term work shortages and prohibitive costs that may cause manufacturers to forgo upgrading to the new technologies.
“We are excited to be a part of this DLA partnership to help our region and the manufacturing community accelerate the transformation of its advanced manufacturing capabilities leveraging the YSU Excellence Training Center at Kohli Hall,” added Jackie Ruller, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Research and Commercialization at YSU. “We will be working with small- to medium-size businesses throughout the Midwest and East Coast to increase adoption of Industry 4.0 through research, commercialisation and new workforce training solutions.”
Project funding allows UNI and YSU to grow their outreach to small-to-midsize employers and provide industry-tailored training in automation, robotics and Industry 4.0 topics. This will provide several services to help manufacturers adopt new technologies, including one-one-assistance to focus on business strategy and consequential support processes. Training events, including webinars, will be offered regularly to provide awareness of critical elements and the training necessary to integrate them into the operation.
UNI and YSU are said to have experienced success in utilising applied technology to remove barriers to the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies. UNI’s research & training on sand-based Additive Manufacturing with multiple industry partners has led to growth in the number of manufacturers using these technologies. UNI also recently acquired an automated investment casting production system, which can also be used to help entrepreneurs learn about the integration of Industry 4.0 technology on their production floors as this innovation takes hold in industry.
“The distinctiveness of this project is that it blends training and applied research with personalised assistance to re-skill the existing workforce, prepare the next generation of our state’s and nation’s workforce and help the company owners create the financial and strategic plan for investing in and managing these technologies,” said Andrew Morse, Chief of Staff at UNI. “It will save existing jobs, create new jobs and help fortify our nation’s leading position in the global manufacturing supply chain.”