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New Efforts Aim to Improve Manufacturing Competitiveness

September 30, 2009

Two recent efforts – a new program launched in Maryland and legislation introduced in Congress – aim to help manufacturers retool for the rapidly changing economy. Successful tech-based economies have an environment conducive to industry development of new, leading-edge products or services or processes that significantly enhance the competitiveness of existing operations. Programs and initiatives that provide industries with the essential tools and resources to effectively compete in the global marketplace are imperative to achieving this climate.

In Maryland, a new program that pulls together a network of resources from around the state recently was launched to provide expanded services to the state’s manufacturers. A partnership between the University of Maryland’s Technology Enterprise Institute and the Regional Manufacturing Initiative, the Maryland Manufacturing Partnerships program will deliver services to manufacturers focusing on four main areas:

  • Continuous improvement, lean manufacturing and an increased emphasis on transformational projects, including supply-chain development;
  • Sustainability and energy, incorporating green technology and sustainable practices in products and processes;
  • Innovation and technology acceleration, developing and modifying programs so manufacturers can seamlessly adopt modern technologies; and,
  • Strengthening the manufacturing workforce through education and training to meet 21st century demands.

Partners include University System of Maryland faculty, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s national Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, and in-house consultants. More information is available at: http://www.mtech.umd.edu/news/press_releases/mmp.html.

On a national level, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation earlier this year to help manufacturers retool for the clean energy industry and help states attract new employers through specialized workforce development programs, according to a press release. The IMPACT Act of 2009 calls for a $30 billion manufacturing revolving loan program in which states would receive funding to assist small and medium-sized firms in retooling, expanding or establishing domestic clean energy manufacturing operations, and improving energy efficiency.

In addition, the bill would expand the focus of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to include support for manufacturers transitioning to the clean energy economy. Currently the nation’s 59 MEP centers receive slightly more than $100 million in federal funds each year with ither funds matching the federal contribution two-to-one, according to a press release. Under the bill, the federal share of MEP funding would increase to 50 percent, helping manufacturers diversify to clean energy markets and adopt innovative, energy efficient manufacturing technologies. Based on MEP’s current cost per consultation, the additional federal funding could enable MEP to reach an additional 10,000 manufacturers each year, according to a press release from Sen. Brown's office.

More information regarding S. 1617 is available at: http://www.loc.gov.

Attend SSTI's Annual Conference To Celebrate Excellence in Improving Competitiveness of Existing Industries and More!
On Oct. 22, SSTI will unveil the winners of the highly anticipated 2009 Excellence in TBED Awards. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to explore the award-winning programs in depth directly with program administrators during dedicated breakout sessions on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Awards are presented within six categories.

Past award winners in the Improving Competitiveness of Existing Industries category include Connecticut’s Center for Advanced Technology Manufacturing Supply Chain Integration (2008) and The Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (2007). Download exclusive interviews with the award winners at: http://www.ssti.org/Awards/podcasts.htm