Smarter Will Be Better… From the Desk of LIFT CEO and Executive Director Nigel Francis

Nigel Francis

One of the opportunities – and frankly prerequisites – we have as a research and development organization is to look toward the horizon and see what challenges are coming next for the manufacturing industry.

We were created to be the engine to drive U.S. manufacturing forward in support of our national economy and national defense. To do that, we must look and see what lurks around the corner.

As we evolve and grow here at LIFT, we are challenging ourselves every day to look toward the future to ensure we are on the leading edge to better serve our members which, in turn, will better serve U.S. manufacturing.

As an example, we know that automation is here and is growing. We know that manufacturers are looking for lightweight solutions beyond just reducing mass, they are looking for new, affordable, materials and the processes required to manufacture them. We also know that the skills gap of workers is here and growing – due to retiring Baby Boomers and not enough students moving into advanced manufacturing careers…

With that future vision, there is no doubt that our core focus will grow beyond solely working in lightweight metals. Our widening scope will include other materials and different processes all with an eye towards advancing manufacturing and helping small and medium-sized manufacturers become smarter in how they grow and keep up with their OEM customers.

To start down that path of focusing on SMEs, we recently announced a new phase of our successful Fast Forge program, designed to assemble teams to find specific smart solutions quickly. We are in the process of soliciting ideas (until June 1), especially from small manufacturers, because we know many innovations are born there. If you have a lightweighting idea you’d like to advance or a manufacturing process problem you’d like solved, submit your idea for consideration. We want to support as many of these creative ideas as we can.

The evolution of our institute does not mean that we are moving on from our largest supporter and customer – the U.S. Department of Defense – in any way. In fact, we are still working on a new long-term agreement with them, with this evolution in mind, to expand the ways in which we can support them and the warfighter. In a point of fact, the DoD is doubling down on its support of LIFT.

We were proud to see the support of LIFT and other Manufacturing USA institutes during a recent hearing before the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Energy in the U.S. House of Representatives chaired by U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens from right here in Michigan. We were also thrilled to have the support of member companies like Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence and its Director of Business Development, Ryan Myers, who testified in support of LIFT and the other institutes.

After our first five years as an institute, we know that the public-private-partnership model is the best and most proven way to solve major problems that we all have in advanced manufacturing. It is our job now to ensure we are always working toward those solutions, not just for today, but the solutions to problems which are further down the road.

I invite you to join us as we keep looking towards that horizon to see the challenges which lay ahead and ensure we are steering our institute in the right way to overcome them.