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Vision with Action – A Peek into the NCMS DM SIG Meeting

That's a wrap — the first meeting of the Digital Manufacturing Strategic Interest Group is over, but the work has just begun. We had a blast (not to mention a great meeting). Here's the lowdown.

innovation and explorationI have written extensively about the importance of digital manufacturing and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) vision regarding this game-changing new approach to making things in the US (Innovation: The Assembly Line of the 21st Century, The Invisible Innovators and A PIC for Bob). The SIG is the collaborative vehicle that will add action to the vision.

"Vision without action is merely a dream.

Action without vision just passes the time.

Vision with action can change the world."

— Joel Barker

Joel was one of the first, if not the first, to popularize the now clichéd phrase "corporate paradigm shifts." His 1992 book on this topic, Future Edge, remains tremendously influential even two decades after its publication. At NCMS, we are interested in vision with action. Nowhere is that better seen than in our Strategic Interest Groups.

Hey Jon - What is a Strategic Interest Group?

Funny you should ask. Simply, a SIG is a group of like-minded individuals and organizations with a common goal: to see an advancement or innovation come to life, mature correctly, and get used. Being part of a SIG is like having a guiding voice in the advancement of the most exciting, most promising new applications and technologies. Each SIG innovates collaboratively, because collaboration makes it possible to combine the three drivers of innovation: talent, investment, and infrastructure.

A solitary innovator can usually only leverage two of those three, and the risk can be incredible. With proper collaboration, though — and NCMS has won over two dozen awards for collaborative project management — risk is reduced and innovation is realized more quickly.

Part Social, Part Networking, All Solution

The DM SIG came together on July 12th and 13th at Altair Engineering in Troy, Michigan. With my many comparisons of the impact of digital manufacturing to that of the assembly line, it seemed only fitting to begin by touring the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village on the afternoon of July 12th. The evening saw us chatting and networking with many SIG members over dinner. Then, on the 13th, the real work began. Altair's beautiful Troy headquarters served as host for the meeting, attended by more than 30 individuals representing numerous SIG member organizations.

This SIG exists to collaboratively investigate and implement commercial enabling bridges to the missing middle, our nation's small- and medium-sized manufacturers who drive so innovation but are in need of tools and enabling technologies. It operates under NCMS guidance while retaining its own mission, objectives, and organizational structure. For each SIG, NCMS will manage award funding for R&D projects, build awareness among targets, achieve buy-in from stakeholders, provide training and education, disseminate public information on the state of the technology, and coordinate with other alliances and shared interests, and report results.

DM SIG Meeting: Action Items

The discussion agenda focused on two primary topics:

  • Obtaining the required resources to implement Predictive Innovation Centers (PIC).

  • Bridging the gap and developing the means (e-Learning tools, social networking capabilities, multimedia resources) to effectively communicate to the missing middle.

What soon became clear is that the dynamic dialog in the room was falling into one of the following four categories:

  1. Structure: sharpen the definition of the SIG's role versus that of existing activities such as the Alliance for High Performance Digital Manufacturing (AHPDM) and the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC). Members of both of these groups were represented at the SIG meeting.

  2. Self-Funding Capability: While government funding is being pursued on several fronts, there is significant interest in determining the means to proactively explore privately funded solutions in parallel. NCMS will work with SIG members to better define the means to individually or collaboratively finance activities and projects that align with the overall mission of the SIG.

  3. Awareness / Engagement: NCMS and SIG members will work to coordinate efforts with other activities already in progress to investigate effective messaging, award programs and contests. In addition, potential aggregate points (MEP, community colleges, and vocational schools) will be evaluated as potential partners/members. Finally, the concept of developing an annual event or partnering with an existing event(s) will be studied.

  4. Government Engagement: Policy development for key audiences in the Administration and on Capitol Hill. The key question that needs to be answered and documented is what does the PIC strategy (Educate — Entice — Engage — Elevate) mean and look like from a policy standpoint. NCMS will work with current and future SIG members to align DC offices with our ongoing efforts.

Since we started with a Joel Barker quote, it seems appropriate to end with some as well:

"You can and should shape your own future; because if you don't someone else surely will."


"No one will thank you for taking care of the present if you have neglected the future."

At NCMS, the DM SIG is working to shape the future of US manufacturing. We must not neglect the future of our nation's competitiveness. I assure you that other nations are not.

Interesting in joining?

The next SIG meeting is scheduled to take place in Boston on October 26th and 27th, hosted by Microsoft. If you would like more information about the DM SIG please contact me:

Jon Riley

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