General Electric researchers in Niskayuna will contribute their technology and manufacturing expertise to two new Midwest manufacturing innovation institutes announced Tuesday by President Barack Obama.
The two new institutes will be led by the Pentagon to boost advanced high-tech manufacturing with the eventual goal of creating jobs that have been lost to global competition, The Associated Press reported. One of the institutes will focus on high-tech digital manufacturing and design in Chicago. The other will specialize in lightweight metal manufacturing at a new hub in Canton, Mich.
GE Global Research will be a “key industry partner” on both initiatives, with a significant focus of the work involving its headquarters in Niskayuna.
“Today and in the future, strength in manufacturing will come from being a part of a larger ecosystem of partners big and small working toward the same goals,” Mark Little, head of GE’s Global Research Centers, said in a news release. “It also will come from a strong commitment to materials and manufacturing innovation. That is exactly what these two institutes will help to cultivate and, in the process, encourage the growth of America’s manufacturing base and jobs.”
As manufacturing enters a third industrial revolution, Little said, it will be defined by a “digital thread” that connects each part of the supply chain.
“This digital thread will be our 21st century assembly line that not only transforms what we make, it will transform the manufacturing supply chain as we know it,” he said. “It will invite a whole new community of small and medium-sized businesses, individual entrepreneurs and the maker movement to be key partners in this new manufacturing ecosystem.”
GE is already working on an innovative manufacturing concept called “The Brilliant Factory.” The idea is a self-improving supply chain that communicates and operates through a digital thread in real time.
“Imagine a self-improving factory that can continuously improve products and processes in the plant,” said Little. “With a seamless digital thread that can gather, analyze and transmit data real-time to different parts of the supply chain, that day is coming.”
Simply put, manufacturing is not just about the factory floor anymore, said Christine Furstoss, manufacturing & materials technology director at GE Global Research, in a video blog on GE Global Research’s website.
“It’s about a total integration of all of our partners, small and medium enterprises, our designers, understanding how to use big data, being able to get better at predicting, at optimizing, at speed — all the things that GE cares about,” she said.
Obama said Tuesday that he envisions the military and private sector demand for a sheet of metal as thin as paper and strong as steel manufactured at one of these institutes. He also acknowledged his concern that manufacturing hubs like these are far more plentiful in Germany than here in America, which is why his administration plans to create four more additional hubs this year, whether Congress supports them or not, the AP reported.