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Shaping the Public Policy Environment for Advanced Manufacturing Success

News Type College News

Ned Hill (standing, right) takes questions from Ohio manufacturing leaders during a digital technology and workforce workshop hosted by MAGNET, a nonprofit manufacturing consulting group, in Cleveland in 2017. (Credit: Stephen Herron/MAGNET)

By Joan Slattery Wall

The John Glenn College of Public Affairs will examine policies to support the latest wave of U.S. manufacturing as part of a new national, multi-institutional engineering research center.

The National Science Foundation has granted $26 million over five years for the Ohio State-led Hybrid Autonomous Manufacturing, Moving from Evolution to Revolution (HAMMER) Engineering Research Center, with the ability to renew for another $26 million for an additional five years.

HAMMER will advance national goals to encourage American leadership in advanced manufacturing. Hybrid autonomous manufacturing uses multiple processes to control material properties and component dimensions to allow for rapid customization. These systems will learn from each operation, improving themselves over time.

“This promises to be so disruptive that it’s going to change the economics of global manufacturing,” said Glenn College Professor Ned Hill, who specializes in economic development and leads public policy research in the College of Engineering’s Ohio Manufacturing Institute.

In addition to Case Western Reserve University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Northwestern University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Ohio State will partner with more than 70 industry, educational and technical organization collaborators to develop and implement new manufacturing technologies for agile, high-performance and high-quality components.

Glenn Daehn, the Mars G. Fontana Professor of Metallurgical Engineering, directs the center, which in addition to the Glenn College and the College of Engineering also includes the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Medicine.

Public policy will need to lower the economic barriers to entry so that the success of hybrid autonomous manufacturing is shared by entrepreneurs, tinkerers and small and mid-sized manufacturers, rather than being restricted to large corporations, Hill explained. The HAMMER team also needs to implement a strategy for placing hybrid autonomous manufacturing into both higher education and employer-led workforce training as quickly as possible.

“As manufacturing digitizes and automates, less-skilled portions of the workforce will be replaced. However, demand will grow for workers with knowledge about manufacturing processes who can master and integrate analog and digital operations technologies. Effective public policy is required to make the transition work for all,” said Hill, who also is an affiliated faculty member of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State. “Our specific assignment in HAMMER is to help build an ecosystem for innovators or tinkerers’ around the new technologies so they are not left behind.”

Hill’s HAMMER team colleagues include Ohio Manufacturing Institute’s Executive Director Kathryn Kelley; Glenn College doctoral student Ken Poland and undergraduate Camryn Reitz; and engineering education doctoral student Winnie Opoku.

“It’s important for workforce development programs and policies to keep in mind the needs of the employer to ensure that the skills students are developing align with the requirements of the modern workforce. By allowing these workforce development programs to be influenced by the manufacturers themselves, you ensure that student outcomes are attractive to future employers, so this has been the guiding philosophy in the creation of these manufacturing education programs like HAMMER,” Reitz said. “It has been so gratifying to see our research have a tangible application being used to help support our community. Being on this research team has meant being surrounded by supportive mentors that have helped me grow personally and academically, and I am so grateful for the experience.”

The cusp of the work, Hill said, is building a foundation on which the new technology can successfully grow from a workforce and economic development standpoint.

“All academic policy researchers are historians because their research relies on data,” Hill said. “We’re trying to shape the world before the data is created. That’s fun.”

Read Ohio State’s announcement about HAMMER.

Glenn Daehn, the Mars G. Fontana Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at Ohio State, explains hybrid autonomous manufacturing in this article he wrote in The Conversation.

See the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.