Lockheed Martin, General Electric and several other large American manufacturers have helped develop a framework for a Council on Competitiveness program that aims to provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with better access to high-performing computer technology.
Cynthia McIntyre, a Council senior vice president, wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog post Friday that while larger manufacturers can derive competitive advantages from their use of advanced computing tools, SMEs often do not have sufficient resources to implement such tools into their operations.
She said that not only reduces SME competitiveness in global markets, but also lowers the productivity and profitability of the larger manufacturers, who rely on SMEs across all levels of their supply chains.
The Obama administration began a push to address this imbalance in 2010 when it requested that the Council design a public-private partnership to promote collaboration between manufacturers, including group modeling and simulation of advanced technologies.
Working with Lockheed, GE and others, the Council helped form guidelines for the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium, which has united the U.S. government, large firms, university computing centers and non-governmental organizations behind this common goal.
And support is not just coming from the White House. Interagency partners include the departments of Defense and Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Small Business Administration.
A NDEMC pilot program is now tapping $2.5 million in private sector contributions and $2 million in grant funding from the Economic Development Agency to develop software, rent time on supercomputers and train SMEs on technical applications.
Five medium-sized companies are currently partnering in the pilot program, which is focused on the U.S. industrial base in the Midwest.
As a partner, hydraulic cylinder manufacturer Rosenboom Machine Tool Inc. will soon transfer Deere & Company“™s “cutting edge“ modeling, simulation and analysis tools to its headquarters to test and develop more advanced parts.
McIntyre calls this particular collaboration “a classic win-win: Rosenboom — a supplier to Deere — can leverage its new capacity to increase sales in adjacent markets and Deere gets a better product in its supply chain.“
Facing sizable international competition, Indiana-based manufacturer and NDEMC partner Jeco Plastic Products won a multi-million dollar contract with a European firm in 2011 for plastic pallets.
According to McIntyre, Jeco won the contract based on its ability to innovate the design.
Jeco, founded in 1979, brought on extra employees and began exporting products after winning the contract.