Accelerating Innovation in Manufacturing: A Look Ahead
This month, MForesight took part in the annual conference of SSTI, a national nonprofit that works to strengthen initiatives to create a better future through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. Approximately 40 participants joined MForesight at the event on September 14 in Washington, DC to explore a range of topics and initiatives: enhancing performance across the supply chain, improving cybersecurity for manufacturers, and developing an advanced manufacturing workforce.
MForesight Managing Director Christine Andres provided an overview of MForesight’s recent work, including a new major report on supply chains. Phil Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), moderated the event and emphasized the importance of supply chains for key national priorities including re-shoring and for the strength of the defense industrial base.
The impact of manufacturing on the economy is immense when taking into consideration all the up and downstream impacts — logistics, marketing, sales, follow-up service, and others. -Phil Singerman
Andres next provided an overview of the new cybersecurity report, emphasizing that many small companies are unequipped and uninformed in dealing with threats and also for meeting looming requirements, including the pending Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFARs) going into effect in December. These rules will require Department of Defense suppliers to be compliant with specific cybersecurity standards. As one attendee noted, this is a problem since some fourth and fifth tier suppliers may not even realize that they are defense contractors and therefore responsible for compliance. Phil Singerman noted some specific resources for diverse stakeholders including: Small Business Information Security (PDF), Cybersecurity Framework and Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder (PDF).
Want to learn more about the Cybersecurity for Manufacturers report? Join us tomorrow, Friday, September 22 in Washington, DC for the official report release and discussion with a panel of experts. Click here to learn more.
Following Andres’ review of the MForesight workforce report, attendees discussed the challenge of getting younger generations interested in manufacturing and addressing a crucial geographic mismatch: between where jobs are located and where workers are located. Attendees noted the immensity of the challenge of engaging young people in manufacturing careers and highlighted key promising practices for building interest and skill:
“One program, MFG Day, took off because companies could do show & tell. It’s not about manufacturing in the big sense, just individual companies explaining what they do [for their local communities].”
One attendee shared a particularly promising practice: a local technology college brought in all the district high school teachers for a day (not just STEM teachers) and let them play with the gadgets and tools — ranging from EMT training tools to robots. The hands-on time gave educators the ability to talk to their high school students in an informed and effective way.
The session concluded with an examination of how to engage local manufacturers early in the technology development process. Many state economic development organizations invest in new companies that are building prototypes, but it’s a challenge to get companies to the next stage — transitioning from building science projects to actually running manufacturing operations. This is an area of long-term focus for MForesight.
The SSTI annual conference set the stage for important knowledge sharing and networking among diverse stakeholders — state, university, local, regional, and federal innovation practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. MForesight is proud to have taken part in the conversation.