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Recommendations for the Third National Conference on Manufacturing Technology

The First National Conference on Manufacturing Technology, held in 1994 at the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology Conference Center (Gaithersburg, Maryland), had the theme “Manufacturing Technology Needs and Issues: Establishing National Priorities and Strategies.” It was oriented toward national manufacturing issues. The second conference, held in 1995, had the theme “Toward a Common Agenda.” While this second conference included elements of policy, its primary goal was to help develop a coherent strategy for developing manufacturing technologies. The National Research Council (NRC) committee believes that the third conference, to be held in 1996, can logically build on the directions established by the first and second conferences by firmly demonstrating industry leadership of manufacturing initiatives.

The recommendations in this chapter result from the NRC committee 's assessment of the second conference that are detailed in chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this report. The recommendations extend those portions of the 1995 conference that worked well and address those that required improvement. The key elements of the recommended strategy for the third (1996) conference include:

  • a conference framework that links conference objectives to national goals;

  • clear, concise conference objectives; and

  • results-oriented conference organization and planning.



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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology 4 Recommendations for the Third National Conference on Manufacturing Technology The First National Conference on Manufacturing Technology, held in 1994 at the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology Conference Center (Gaithersburg, Maryland), had the theme “Manufacturing Technology Needs and Issues: Establishing National Priorities and Strategies.” It was oriented toward national manufacturing issues. The second conference, held in 1995, had the theme “Toward a Common Agenda.” While this second conference included elements of policy, its primary goal was to help develop a coherent strategy for developing manufacturing technologies. The National Research Council (NRC) committee believes that the third conference, to be held in 1996, can logically build on the directions established by the first and second conferences by firmly demonstrating industry leadership of manufacturing initiatives. The recommendations in this chapter result from the NRC committee 's assessment of the second conference that are detailed in chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this report. The recommendations extend those portions of the 1995 conference that worked well and address those that required improvement. The key elements of the recommended strategy for the third (1996) conference include: a conference framework that links conference objectives to national goals; clear, concise conference objectives; and results-oriented conference organization and planning.

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology CONFERENCE FRAMEWORK The NRC committee recommends that the 1966 national conference be structured so that it provides both information to the participants regarding the national goal of manufacturing excellence and industry-initiated guidance to government technology program managers: The conference framework should allow the conference to answer the following types of questions: What actions must be taken to achieve the national goal of manufacturing excellence? What are the benefits to participating in the conference? What is specifically expected of the participants? The informational portions of the conference should allow sufficient time for audience participation in question and answer sessions immediately following a presentation. The proactive guidance portion of the conference could be structured as forums during which the participants (primarily from manufacturing companies, but also representatives from academia and labor organizations) could contribute their comments and assessments on specific issues. The conference should be structured to encourage participation from a broad range of manufacturers (including small and medium-size manufacturing companies), industrial research laboratories, and academic institutions. Established manufacturing partnerships and consortia should be represented. The conference plan should allow sufficient time for dialogue and reflection so that a tangible, value-added product results from the meeting activities. For the conference to be fully effective, all participants should be informed of how the conference results will be used by federal decision-making processes that affect manufacturing technology. These processes include decisions by the National Science and Technology Council and decisions by manufacturing technology program managers within individual federal agencies. Clarifying the roles expected of industry, academia, and government in accomplishing the national goal of manufacturing excellence would provide a

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology visionary but concrete context to the participants and a firm basis for discussion and consensus building. An important top-level consequence of the third conference should be to clearly demonstrate industry leadership in planning the manufacturing technology infrastructure. Government organizations that are addressing manufacturing infrastructure as a major element of their program should provide a high-level description of their activities and explain how they support the national initiative on manufacturing infrastructure and how they link to related activities in other agencies. A natural outgrowth of the manufacturing infrastructure white papers discussed at the second (1995) conference is the newly initiated industry–government project to develop an action plan for next-generation manufacturing. This project, first announced at the conference, will be funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. This activity involves developing a consensus description of the vision of advanced manufacturing in the next decade or more, the identification of enablers needed to achieve that vision, and the identification of manufacturing research projects needed to realize the enablers. The action plan that results will provide a chronological mapping of these projects against a timeline in a format that also graphically depicts relationships between projects. It is expected that the result will be the alignment of government priorities with long-term industry needs and the reduction of unnecessary overlap and duplication across programs. The status of this study on next-generation manufacturing should be a focus of the next national manufacturing technology conference. Clarifying how the activities of government agencies involved in significant manufacturing technology research (especially the departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy, and the National Science Foundation) relate to the technology development plans produced in the study will be important. A description of how the study results are expected to influence government planning would offer important insight to industry. Subsequent industrial implementation could be discussed as a logical sequence of steps toward realization of the national goal.

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology CONFERENCE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES The NRC committee recommends that the overall goals of the third (1996) national conference include: demonstration of industry leadership in the national initiative in manufacturing excellence, validation by industry representatives that further development of the manufacturing infrastructure area (with government programs addressing the high-risk, long-range projects) is a timely and crucial national objective, and broad-based industry input to and validation of the preliminary results from the study on next-generation manufacturing. The NRC committee recommends the following specific objectives for the third (1996) conference: Participants from industry, labor organizations, and academia should validate or suggest improvements to the relationships, status, key conclusions, and future prospects of (1) federal agency activities related to manufacturing infrastructure programs and (2) results of the study on next-generation manufacturing. (Government representatives could present the federal agency activities, while industry representatives present the next-generation manufacturing study.) Provide a review and description of the overall technology planning process, including the identification at previous workshops of the manufacturing infrastructure as a national need and the rationale for the manufacturing infrastructure categories, the use of the next-generation manufacturing study results by various government agencies, and assessment of how current projects fit into the technology plans. Identify critical issues and needs to facilitate technology implementation within industry. A forum, using the workshop format, for manufacturing companies to explain the processes through which decisions are made to implement manufacturing technology could be used to identify barriers to successful implementation. Actions needed to overcome these barriers and recommended roles for effective partnering in manufacturing technology development would form the basis of further industry, labor organizations, academia, and government

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology collaboration. The overall objective would be to accelerate industry implementation of needed manufacturing technology. CONFERENCE ORGANIZATION AND PLANNING To accomplish the above objectives, the conference must be structured to gain maximum benefit from the expertise of the participants. The roles and duties of the speakers, workshop chairs, and participants should be clearly identified and communicated before the conference to allow the selected conference theme to be properly executed, to reinforce objectives, and to assure the conference achieves tangible results. A planning lead-time of 9–12 months would not be unreasonable; thus planning for the 1996 conference could begin immediately. Planning Guidelines The objective and purpose of the conference must be clearly announced well in advance of the conference date. This will guarantee that the logistics of the conference support the attainment of the desired outcome. Speakers, panel members, and workshop leaders need adequate preparation time. Attendees from industry and academia must know what is expected regarding their input and endorsement well in advance of the conference so that the right level of management is represented. For example, if the purpose of the conference is announced as solely informational, the level of management attending from industry will likely be different than if an endorsement of a programmatic approach is expected. All material that participants should review before the conference must be provided to them at least several weeks in advance of the conference. The structure of the conference is crucial to achieving the desired outcome. For instance, in order for the participants to critique panel presentations meaningfully, the conference must be structured to facilitate active audience interaction with the key presenters (such as

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology through well-placed questions) that creates dialogue and draws out key issues. An effective way to add credibility to important points is to have industry speakers present relevant case examples. Actual examples of how portions of the manufacturing infrastructure (e.g., tools, process equipment, education and training) helped achieve success in the marketplace would reinforce their importance and the conclusion that these are the right areas to receive attention. Conference Program The conference program suggestions offered here are based on the conference framework and conference goals and objectives recommended above by the NRC committee, as well as the committee's conference planning guidelines. The NRC committee suggests that the first day of the conference be principally devoted to presenting results from the study on next-generation manufacturing. The background, scope, context, and limitations of the technology development plans should be clearly identified. In addition, government speakers can discuss their agency's involvement in the national manufacturing infrastructure activities. Several keynote speakers from industry could address why manufacturing infrastructure is important as a national initiative and the expected or actual impact of manufacturing technology on their business. A panel discussion structured to encourage industry feedback and response to the presentations would enhance continuing industry involvement. The second day should be devoted entirely to concurrent workshops structured to allow manufacturing enterprises to explain how they decide to implement manufacturing technology and the information they require at each step in the decision process. The objective would be to identify barriers to implementation of manufacturing technologies that need to be overcome. Each session should be planned such that all the participants can fully engage in the process. These workshops should be organized by industrial sector with both large and small companies participating. Several speakers should be identified ahead of time to present case studies (20 minutes) that could stimulate discussion; examples from large and small companies, including partnerships, should be included.

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Evaluation of the Second National Conference on Manufacturing Technology The NRC committee encourages the use of facilitators in each workshop session. The facilitators need not be expert in manufacturing technologies but should be trained to keep the discussion and interaction continually focused on the objectives, ask penetrating questions of the participants as required to clarify the different issues and recommendations that will arise, and free the workshop chairs to conduct the proceedings. These workshop sessions should be planned far enough in advance so that the general goals, objectives, and guidelines can be included with the announcement of the conference. Also, the role and responsibilities of the participants should be clearly stated in the meeting announcements, namely, make clear that this conference is not meant to be just an informational event. Early notice will allow time for advance preparation by the attendees, who will also be more likely to possess the expertise and authority to represent their institutions. The third day of the conference should be a plenary session in which the several workshop chairs present their results, followed by a roundtable discussion to extract common themes and identify differences across the industry sectors. The general audience would be able to participate in the discussions and suggest ways to consider the needs of their industries in the technology development plans. The exhibit booths at the 1994 and 1995 conferences contained useful information relevant to manufacturing technologies and thus effectively supplemented the conference presentations. However, their effectiveness can be enhanced by more fully integrating them into the conference through the following strategies: the type of information available in the booths should be announced during the opening conference plenary session; a short summary of each booth should be provided with the conference agenda; and the booths should be positioned closer to the conference refreshment area, to the extent physically possible, to facilitate interaction with the conference attendees.

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