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New Directions in Manufacturing: Report of a Workshop
NCMS works with EPA on compliance assistance issues. NCMS reaches out to small and medium-sized companies to ensure that they can meet current EPA regulations and to help them meet future challenges. In collaborations with DOE, NCMS is in the forefront of alternative energy research, including fuel cells. In addition, NCMS works with DOE in looking at innovative ways to reduce energy consumption in the manufacturing enterprise.
Two NCMS programs are the Knowledge Solutions program and the Manufacturing Trust. The Knowledge Solutions program offers affordable, full-featured learning and communications services for member companies and the manufacturing community at large. NCMS creates e-learning tools and customizes them to fit the needs of the customer in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The Manufacturing Trust is the newest program area for NCMS. This program is a resource for industry members who share a common interest in improving their ability to defend the integrity of their critical infrastructure systems and trusted collaboration environments. The program provides access to advances and best practices that address critical infrastructure risks, threats, and opportunities for the manufacturing industry while striving to build trust among participants.
The landscape of manufacturing is ever changing. Previously, companies had large capital budgets that enabled them to easily make decisions to ramp up production or put in new production lines. Today, due to limited budgets, investments are being scaled back and enterprises are dealing with declining resources for capital investments. Formerly, automation was used to solve a problem. More technology was considered a good thing. Today, companies are increasingly aware of the benefits of having a good balance between machines and workforce. Previously, it was assumed that every problem had a technology solution, that it was just a matter of finding the right machine, system, or practice. Today, decisions must be balanced with business priorities and people priorities. The old model of a manufacturing enterprise was based on complex, integrated systems that produced all parts for an end product in-house. The new model of a manufacturing enterprise is simpler, modular, and looks at innovative production methods to achieve greater benefits.
For a long time, U.S. manufacturers were complacent about their position in the international manufacturing community. Today, however, there is greater interest in collaboration, sharing the risk, and sharing the cost. Previously, the arrival of a new technology would intimidate the workforce and cause them to feel insecure about their jobs. Today, these technologies are made invisible to the workforce to achieve efficiencies without intimidating the workforce.
21ST CENTURY CHALLENGES TO INDUSTRY
The manufacturing industry is currently facing a number of challenges. Increasing demands by primaries on their supply chains is one of the biggest challenges. For example, R&D requirements are being pushed further down the supply chain by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). R&D that was previously done in-house by a large company such as General Motors is now required of first-, second-, and even third-tier suppliers, who often don’t have the resources to conduct such R&D. In addition, the primaries are increasingly requiring best business practices from their supplier base. Those practices thus become necessary for companies to do business with the OEMs.
Another important issue is that of global sourcing and logistics. Companies that are dependent on overseas, or even nonlocal, suppliers, face challenges regarding delivery times, shipping, communications, warranty issues, and more. With global sourcing on the rise and