Published October 14, 2016
UB and Western New York recently played host to nearly 30 representatives from the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a Chicago-based public-private partnership formed to digitize manufacturing nationwide.
Backed with $70 million from the Department of Defense and more than $250 million in private investments, DMDII was formed in 2014 to solve large-scale challenges by bringing university and industry together with startups and government to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies through collaboration. UB is one of 11 academic institutions included in DMDII Tier 1 membership, the highest level possible.
Close to 30 representatives from DMDII’s Workforce Development Advisory Committee met in Buffalo Oct. 3-4, ahead of National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 7, to tour UB and partner organizations and businesses in Western New York.
“Everybody said that they loved Buffalo,” said Timothy Leyh, executive director of UB’s Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE), which was influential in bringing the meeting to the area and hosted the group. “They were very impressed with the community’s efforts, the entrepreneurship that’s present, the attraction of SolarCity to the region and the renaissance that’s happening here.”
Among other groups, the attendees are affiliated with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the U.S. Army, the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), Purdue University, Siemens PLM Software and the ManpowerGroup. The visit marked the first time the committee had met outside of its Chicago headquarters and at a member site.
The desire for new surroundings was prompted by DMDII’s recognition that workforce development and supply chain engagement take place at regional and local levels. The Western New York visit was a chance to “show our national membership a behind-the-scenes look at successful workforce development activities in advanced manufacturing in the vibrant region surrounding Buffalo,” said Haley Stevens, DMDII’s director of workforce development and manufacturing engagement.
Buffalo was attractive for multiple reasons, said Stevens, citing the area’s heavy investment in the advanced manufacturing sector, as well as its “incredibly unique assets in its diverse business sectors, particularly around advanced manufacturing.”
“UB boasts the largest engineering department in the state of New York. Early on, UB has effectively positioned itself as an academic partner within our national lab,” Stevens said. “They have played a really important leadership role that is returning value to its local community and the nation.”
UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is involved in two of DMDII’s three committees: the workforce development advisory committee, along with the technical advisory committee. The latter influences DMDII’s technical project calls. DMDII awards research and development funds for projects aimed at connecting different parts of the manufacturing life cycle through data.
TCIE’s Leyh is a member of the workforce group. TCIE has become a strong regional advocate of workforce development. The center — which provides businesses and community organizations access to UB’s engineering expertise and process excellence solutions — is expanding its support of growing manufacturing careers through outreach efforts, training programs and partnerships.
In bringing the committee to Buffalo, Leyh aimed to show how UB and the community are contributing to the new wave of advanced manufacturing, commonly called Industry 4.0.
An all-day showcase featured multidisciplinary perspectives provided by UB officials, the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance, Moog, SolarCity and the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board on skill gaps experienced by employers, and current and forthcoming efforts and policies to address needs. Tours included UB’s North Campus, with a peek at manufacturing and digital lab spaces, and a stop at Buffalo Manufacturing Works.