AHPDM Strategy in Manufacturing & Technology News

From Manufacturing & Technology News, October 19 2010.
Reprinted with permission.

NCMS Creates National Network to Promote Advanced Digital Manufacturing

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences is stepping up to the plate to help revitalize America’s manufacturing sector. The 24-year-old organization has created a program aimed at putting high-performance digital computing capability into thousands of lower tier manufacturing companies. Currently, only about one-third of the nation’s 300,000 small- and medium-sized manufacturers utilize high-performance computing tools such as product modeling and simulation.Without such capability they are losing to foreign competitors that are using technologyto place themselves into the internationalsupply chains of the major OEMs.

“We have a window of time to revitalize our competitiveness,” says NCMS President and CEO Rick Jarman. “I don’t know how long this window is going to last, but I’m determined from an NCMS standpoint to do everything I can to make the nation competitive. I’m determined to try to fix the problem.”

NCMS, which was created by an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, is building a nationwide network of “Predictive Innovation Centers” (PICs). These public-private collaborations will provide U.S. manufacturers with high-performance computing tools aimed at increasing product design cycles, improving manufacturing processes and reducing the need and costs of laboratory testing of new products. Large companies are using these tools, but not many small manufacturers that provide them with materials, parts and components.

NCMS will establish 10 to 12 PICs in the country over the next three years. It is in the process of raising $12 million a year for three years to launch the centers and
make them self sufficient.

“It’s a pretty inexpensive way to get our companies competitive again,” says Jarman.

NCMS is working in partnership with large OEMs such as General Electric, Caterpillar, Proctor and Gamble and Lockheed Martin; and hardware and software vendors such as Intel, Microsoft, Cray, SGI and Altair. It is also seeking financing from state and federal government agencies.

“We have identified the need and garnered the support to bring advanced computing power to the supply chain,” says Jarman. “It will change everything. The potential is huge. This is amounting to the kind of transformation not seen since the assembly line.”

Each of the centers will have a different focus depending on the industrial cluster in the region. Some will work on developing the capability of large OEM supply chains, and others on applications associated with energy, materials and automotive. NCMS will be the “hub” that collects lessons learned, “which will help us generate the education and the value of buying products in bulk for the usage of the many,” says Jarman. “It builds upon NCMS’s collaboration model that has put technology users, developers and providers on the same project,” he explains. “That is why our projects have been so successful. That is why you never hear from NCMS that we have a technology transfer or technology adoption problem because we design our collaborations for the fact that something is going to become commercialized or be put into a product or process. We’re taking a page out of the same book when it comes to this.”

Jarman says NCMS has had a “full-fledged pickup” from interested parties. The NCMS-created Alliance for High-Performance Digital Manufacturing has grown to 30 companies and interest is being expressed from government agencies and organizations like the Ohio Supercomputer Center. “We have parts of the PICs up and running and we’re making the business case, but the response has been very good from the OEMs who are willing to do this and are willing to help because they need a more competitive supply chain,” says Jarman.

NCMS has found that the commercial market for high-performance computing tools accounts for only 3 percent of the total computer market. Most of the users are large manufacturers. Those using high-performance computing tools have improved product cycle times by 66 percent, and reduced the cost for lab testing of new products by 98 percent.

As the large OEMs continue to push innovation into their supply chains, it is more important for the small companies to adopt these tools. Foreign countries have aggressive programs aimed at deploying digital computing tools deep into their manufacturing sectors. The U.S. has no such program.

“U.S. manufacturers specifically want this from an organization like NCMS rather than an academic institution or government agency,” according to a survey of 300 manufacturing companies conducted for NCMS by Intersect360 Research. “There is a sense of trust associated with a nonprofit whose stated mission is the enhancement of manufacturing in the United States.”

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