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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

High Tech in Rural America

Worker from PRO-TEC inspecting coated steel (Photo: PRO-TEC)

Guest blog post by Patrick D. Gallagher, Commerce's Undersecretary of Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

That’s right. Rural America is also high tech. From the plains of the heartland to the cattle lands of the West and the rolling hills of farmlands in the East, our smaller communities are home to high-tech businesses that help expand U.S. exports and provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

Today, I was honored to take a tour of one such company, PRO-TEC Coating Co. in Leipsic, Ohio, population 2,093. The company employs about 250 people in a state-of-the-art facility surrounded by corn and soybean fields in the northwest corner of the state.  A joint venture between U.S. Steel Corporation and Kobe Steel Ltd. of Japan, PRO-TEC manufactures ultra high-strength coated steel, primarily for the auto industry.  The company is currently constructing an advanced $400 million continuous annealing processing line with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons that will expand its current capacity by 50 percent and create new manufacturing jobs.

Commerce's NIST Tests Help Ensure Reliable Wireless Alarm Beacons for First Responders

NIST engineer Kate Remley holds two Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices with wireless alarm capability. Photo copyright: Paul Trantow/Altitude Arts

Wireless emergency safety equipment could save lives—if signals are transmitted reliably. But few performance standards exist. Now, tests at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are helping to ensure that alarm beacons for firefighters and other emergency responders will operate reliably in the presence of other wireless devices.

NIST is providing technical support for industry consensus standards by developing test methods to evaluate how well these devices work under realistic conditions. The latest NIST study focused on interference between Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) with wireless alarm capability, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems. The methods developed in the study can test interference in other wireless devices such as radios, hands-free cell phone headsets, local area networks, and urban search and rescue robots.  |  Read the full NIST "Tech Beat" story

Spotlight on Commerce: Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Portrait of Singerman

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Phillip Singerman is the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

In January I was honored to be selected by Pat Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to serve as Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, with responsibility for NIST’s suite of nationally recognized industry-partnership programs, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Technology Innovation Program, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, technology transfer and SBIR grants.  These programs are central to NIST’s mission and to the president’s innovation strategy of using science and technology to drive economic development, and are staffed by professionals of skill, dedication and integrity.

My professional career has focused on economic development at the local, state and regional levels in public, non-profit and private organizations.  In my current role, I continue to have the opportunity to work with the regional public-private partnerships, young entrepreneurial firms and universities which populate the innovation ecosystem.   

This is my second turn at Commerce.  During the latter half of the 1990s I served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development; what has struck me upon my return to the Department is the higher level of coordination among bureaus, particularly NIST with EDA, USPTO, and ITA, and the leadership exercised by the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy to encourage inter-departmental collaboration.

Commerce Announces Appointment of First-Ever Chief Manufacturing Officer

Portrait of Molnar

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the appointment of the agency’s first-ever Chief Manufacturing Officer. The manufacturing sector is critical to the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration is committed to building domestic manufacturing capabilities to create the new products, new industries and new jobs of the future. The new position will leverage NIST’s strong relationships with industry to accelerate innovation that will create 21st-century manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

As Chief Manufacturing Officer, manufacturing industry executive Michael F. Molnar will be responsible for planning and coordination of the Institute’s broad array of manufacturing research and services programs and will support the broader Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recently launched by President Obama that brings industry, universities and the federal government together to invest in emerging technologies. NIST is particularly well-positioned to support this goal because of its unique mission to work closely with industry.

Molnar has extensive industrial experience, with past leadership roles in manufacturing technology, advanced manufacturing engineering, metrology and quality systems. He will serve as the central point of contact with the White House, the Department of Commerce and other agencies on technical and policy issues related to manufacturing.

Manufacturing: The Resurgence of American Innovation and Jobs

Tektite founder, Scott Mele, receiving the Export Achievement Award from the Department of Commerce. Scott Mele on left, Congressman Rush Holt on right.

Guest blog post from Miles Bodnar, Marketing Manager at Tektite Industries

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

There’s something really great that’s going on in America right now: people are talking about manufacturing again. If you ask individuals from the baby boomer generation, they’ll tell you that manufacturing was a cornerstone of the economy when they were growing up. Everyone’s job was associated with manufacturing in one way or another and we were proud of our products Made in the USA. Manufacturing was a part of patriotism.

Since the baby boomer generation has grown up, the world has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed though is that manufacturing is still a pillar of our economy. America is still the number one manufacturing country in the world; we out-produce number-two China by more than 40 percent. Despite our economic challenges in 2009, America created an estimated $1.7 trillion worth of goods according to the United Nations. Manufacturing will always serve as the foundation of our economy for two main reasons: manufacturing challenges us to become more innovative and manufacturing growth creates jobs.

The timeline of our company, Tektite Industries, is the perfect example of this. Like many start ups, company founder Scott Mele founded Tektite in his garage in 1990, developing and distributing the most advanced and quality flashlight in the world. A year later, the organization was manufacturing a Chemical Lightstick Alternative® and Mark-Lite®, which was designed to reduce solid waste produced by chemical sticks there by creating a more “green” alternative.  Over the past 20 years, our company has developed into a vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer that produces specialty lighting products, incorporating leading edge technology. From specialty flashlights, strobes, to signaling lights, we mold our parts, assemble our electronics, CNC machine, and stamp our metal parts all in New Jersey.

We here at Tektite Industries have only been able to evolve throughout the decades because of innovation. Manufacturing never stops–it just changes. Innovation is all about identifying ways to differentiate ourselves and implementing new ideas to serve new markets. While foreign products may be cheaper in price, we out perform all foreign competitors and produce the best quality available. We use technology and innovative ideas to train our workforce, becoming more efficient and productive while creating new jobs. This creates a ripple effect throughout our economy. It is estimated that for every new manufacturing job created, four to seven additional jobs are created for the economy.

NIST Working to Develop Adaptable Robots That Can Assist—and Even Empower—Human Production Workers

NIST’s new Autonomous Assembly Testbed includes an automated guided vehicle (left), conveyers, mannequins and an underslung robot arm (right).

Guest blog by Albert J. Wavering, the Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Robots have explored Mars, descended into volcanoes, and roamed the ocean depths.  Today, they also perform humdrum chores, such as vacuuming and waxing floors.  And in between the ordinary and the extraordinary, robots are carrying out a growing array of tasks, from painting and spot-welding in factories to delivering food trays in hospitals.

But, when it comes to these automated machines, you haven’t seen anything yet, especially in the manufacturing world, where robots were first put to use 50 years ago in a General Motors factory.  In fact, the first factory robot became something of celebrity, earning an appearance, along with one of its inventors, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Even today, however, manufacturing robots are akin to electromechanical hulks that blindly perform relatively simple, repetitive jobs and—Tonight Show demo notwithstanding—must be safely separated from human workers by fences and gates.

In laboratories around the world, the race is on to build a new generation of robots that are smarter, more flexible, and far more versatile than the current one.  A successful leap to more adept and adaptable robots could set the stage for a revolution in U.S. manufacturing that reaches from the largest factories to the smallest job shops.

Automation technology has found a place performing repetitive and, often, dirty and dangerous factory tasks. It also has helped U.S. manufacturers to achieve productivity increases that are the envy of the world.

But the best could be yet to come.  The next wave of robots could be the springboard to new U.S. companies and new domestic manufacturing jobs.

Agencies Working Together Results in Manufacturers Now Hiring

Alternate Text

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

UEMC, Inc., a woman-owned manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is now hiring. The company has over 50 years of experience in contract sewing, screen printing and textile related manufacturing … and now sustainable manufacturing practices.

In October 2009, UEMC, Inc. participated in a local Lean. Clean. Energy. program as part of a national manufacturing sustainable effort. Five Federal Government Agencies—Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) of The National Institute of Standards and Technology – have jointly created the E3 Initiative (Energy, Economy, Environment), which is focused on helping manufacturers implement sustainable manufacturing practices. The E3 program is designed to capture the knowledge and tools of the five agencies to run effective sustainability initiatives across the nation.

The E3 program benefits manufacturers throughout the country not only with cost savings, but also by providing access to technical and financial resources.

That’s exactly what UEMC, Inc. experienced. Linda Jordan, the CFO of UEMC, was quick to agree that E3 is about much more than just saving the company money and energy:

Make It and Move It

steel girder rails

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

Without manufacturing, transportation would mean walking barefoot. Without transportation (and manufacturing), there would be no global economy. Fortunately for us, there are trains, trucks, planes, bikes and cars (and shoes!), all of which need to be made. So do bridges, roads, terminals, safety signs and tracks. All these seemingly disparate things work in concert to create the economic systems that keep America buying and selling and building and moving.

And, fortunately for our country, most, if not all, of the transportation infrastructure and supporting transportation equipment can and perhaps should be manufactured here. Transportation is not an end in itself. It’s a means to achieving American manufacturing and economic prosperity — a very big and very important means.

I know that American manufacturers can make anything and everything. The problem is matching manufacturing capability with long-term, predictable business opportunities that make sense.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) teamed up to address some of the issues that have hampered the matching of opportunity with ability. The partnership was set up to find domestic manufacturing capacity for steel girder rails. Yes, steel girder rails. There are 60 cities in the United States that are planning, designing or constructing systems for street cars.  Yes, street cars. (If your mind just wandered off to the scene in Meet Me in St. Louis when Judy Garland sang, “the Trolley Song,” you’ve got the picture.)

Made in the USA – American Innovation

Richard Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

Guest blog by Richard W. Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

I grew up with the phrase “American Ingenuity” to describe the monumental accomplishments of our time. I grew up in a time that “Made in America” was the norm and made somewhere else meant inferior. We were proud to manufacture the best and supply the world. That was American Innovation and manufacturing might. We were the best at everything.

I started my company as a service business but soon realized that I was only trading hours for dollars.  I had limited myself because there are only so many hours in a day.  My income also fluctuated with the local economy. I turned to manufacturing because it was limitless and selling products on the global level insulated me from the ups and downs of my local economy. Starting with what I knew, Bogert Aviation became a FAA Certified parts manufacturer in 1986. My philosophy, “We are going to make the very best products – or we aren’t going to do it”.  Over the years we started other companies that manufacture a wide range of products. We call it the Bogert Group.  

I’ve got news for you. American Ingenuity and Innovation are alive and well. Most of the best new products and technologies have been created in the good old USA. Our young people are creative and inventive when encouraged.  We just need to create an environment that fosters innovative thought.

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