Most small and medium sized manufacturers (SMMs) have difficulty staying abreast of technology because:

  • Change continues to accelerate and take more unpredictable paths, making more frequent trend tracking essential;
  • It’s difficult to find the right people to provide expertise as very few have the time, talent, or motivation to stay plugged into the latest thinking; and
  • SMMs’ resources are limited, shortening the timeline for a needed return.

All of this is intensified by our lack of free time. We need every possible minute just to run the business – let alone improve it!

The National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI) is a transformational approach to catalyzing manufacturing innovation and a way for SMMs to stay connected with the key developments changing the manufacturing landscape. It is a way to focus time, attention, and energy on subjects that will affect operations around the globe.

The NNMI initiative calls for creation of up to 15 institutes – each focused on a critical manufacturing topic. Nine of these have been announced, with topics ranging from lightweight metals to wide band semiconductors. These institutes are designed to spur innovation by providing hubs for thinking, research, and sponsored projects. Each is formed as a Private-Public-Partnership in order to leverage both public and private investment of time and treasure. You can learn more about the specifics of these hubs

The institutes create opportunities for SMMs to engage technological developments in practical ways to help their companies. The institutes provide educational opportunities to learn about the latest developments around topics that create distinctive practices and change markets. They also provide connections with experts and like-minded manufacturers that can help SMMs clarify their approaches to engaging new technology. The hubs also allow organizations to organize around projects that can bring new research to bear in practical ways.

Wisconsin is tapping into the NNMI in at least two ways. First, through the MEP’s numerous NNMI connections and the projects inspired by the hubs’ research. Second, by creating a proposal to land the Smart Manufacturing Institute for the state.

The WMEP engages the NNMI institutes through our connections and active projects inspired by the institutes. We have direct connections with America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio and the Digital Design and Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Chicago. Our friends inside the institutes teach us how to engage these institutions – both as an MEP Center and as a SMM. We also know how to use the institutes to design projects that help our manufacturers in Wisconsin. For example, a WMEP alliance enabled several different organizations gather performance information on how additive manufacturing can be used within the sand-cast foundry industry for short-run projects. These engagements help Wisconsin SMMs use the NNMI Institutes to effectively innovate within their organizations.

Wisconsin is also putting together a proposal for a Smart Manufacturing Institute (SMI), which would give the state one of the NNMI Institutes. The SMI builds on Wisconsin’s leadership in power generation and control by engaging state and regional resources and capabilities to create a national smart manufacturing network. These activities will attract funding, activity, and the best talent to Wisconsin and extend our leadership position in the field.

The NNMI provides a terrific way for SMMs to engage in the latest thinking about manufacturing. These focused hubs of action and thought on critical issues make the best ideas available to every manufacturer. They also provide great connections to resources that can be used to improve operations. Finally, these institutes are excellent sources of information to make enlightened decisions.

All of these capabilities can make your operation more successful. The WMEP can help you engage in the most effective way.