SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Obama Administration wants to form regional institutes focused on next-generation manufacturing technologies to help attract more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., said Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank in a visit to Silicon Valley.
The Obama Administration aims to propose spending a billion dollars to create a number of such centers. In lieu of Congress approving the funds, Blank called for a number of public/private partnerships that could make competitive bids for up to about $40 million in federal funds each with matching contributions from states and industry.
“It would be great to launch a number of these in next several years in areas such as robotics, new materials and cyber-security,” said Blank, at a panel hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “This is one of those investments we need to be doing… many of our competitor nations are doing this."
(From left) Cromwell Schubarth, Silicon Valley Business Journal; U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Jennifer Blank and Aart de Geus, chief executive of Synopsys.
An effort to leap ahead in technology is “a great idea--it’s the notion of Silicon Valley from 20 years ago,” said Aart de Geus, chief executive of Synopsys, also on the panel.
De Geus expressed some skepticism about a focus on manufacturing which is already heavily automated. “We’ve seen incredible increases in productivity--now the question is what’s the next wave,” he said.
One pilot institute is already up and running in Youngstown, Ohio. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) was officially formed late last year with a focus on 3-D printing.
It reportedly received about $30 million from the Department of Defense along with matching funds from private sector partners including Boeing, IBM and Carnegie Mellon University. A total of about 12 research universities and 35 manufacturers will take part in the center, Blank said.
Companies such as Rockwell Automation are doing good business these days, precisely because they are working in manufacturing automation. So, as has been said many times on this same subject, bringing manufacturing back to the US will not bring back the 1950s. It's a whole other paradigm. It is this sort of industry that will make the difference, not political slogans from politicians seeking votes.
I'm very skeptical of government initiatives in this sort of endeavor. They are invariably, predictably, consistently, off target and often counterproductive.
It will be fascinating to see the actual effects of sequestration, as a PERFECT example of reality vs political sloganeering.
Instead of preaching the private sector how to do better in manufacturing, the government should first apply these principles to themselves first. DoD is prime example where the manufacturing is mess. It has everything what a government is known for - expensive, inefficient and slow. F-35 program is trillion dollar over budget and counting (it would be cheaper to outsource such projects to China).
Outsource the production of our most advanced military equipment to our least-improbable enemy in the next great war? That's about as smart from a military point of view as burning our dwindling oil and gas reserves in a gluttonous orgy, so that JoeBob doesn't have to give up his F350 for a few more years.
One area that I think we need to focus on is lighting. Manufacturing of advanced LED bulbs is an industry that will not go away anytime soon and creates a significant repeat buy (even if the lifetime of the bulbs is longer than current incandescent bulbs. CFLs are short term replacement. LEDs are where we are heading and we probably have a decent supply of workers that are willing to do the jobs for a reasonable price. It would seem to me that we should be looking to these sort of oppotunities if at all feasible.
Many of those AMERICANS with the expereience and knowledge for manufacturing were all laid off and either retired or switched careers. The MBA's and lawyers at the top, with NO knowledge or experience should not be the ones who are in charge of setting up such centers. Sometime you have to put the best people in charge, even if the government is run by those least qualified.
One of the first industries to move offshore in 1950's sadly was Precision Machine Tools and then over longer time, Precision Machining. To me that is why Detroit lost out to Europe in cleaner diesels and to Japan in more efficient gasoline cars. Perhaps we should start by re-inventing precision machining and machine tools OTHER than 3D prototype printers?
No easy answers using classical capitalist short-term optimization. So there is a role for government, but not one that is popular with bankers and politicians. Many smart people want challenging jobs in the US. But they have no sponsors to recreate high tech infrastructure in the US.
But as they say, capitalism is not tasked with creating jobs, but rather in eliminating needs for jobs and other "wastes" in manufacturing or agriculture. And we know that in past, socialism did not work for very long, as it supported jobs but not innovation.
So given the types of problems we have globally, should all workers become MIGRANTS? Move to whatever state or country needs the skills you already have? My career in semiconductor industry kept me moving within the US, and then globally, for 54 years. Is that the future for everyone not born with large inheritance where their money can work for them while they drive BMW's and play golf?
Can workers follow the work, or should governments bring the work to the workers?
Should state unemployment services include finding jobs for people in other states?
Should most people RENT with short leases, so they can follow the work? How will the majority of people adapt as industries pop up elsewhere?