Six Tips to Help Turn Ideas into Action
Have an idea that will improve work on the shop floor, but not enough resources to develop it?
Want to tweak one small part of your shop that could help in a big way?
When manufacturers don't have the time, manpower, or money to develop an idea that could enhance quality, increase output, or even reduce strain on workers, manufacturers can rely on the following:
- Internship programs. Firms can work with their local technical high schools and colleges to develop programs that benefit the manufacturer and the student. Sessions can range from a few hours per week during the school year to 40 hours per week in the summer.
“For their capstone project, local engineering and computer science majors choose from our list of projects that need research and development,” says Gary Kuzmin, President of All Axis Robotics in Dallas, Texas. “We mentor the students for three hours per week. Students gain college credit and an opportunity to build a prototype within a budget with guidance and insight from very experienced machinists and software coders. We gain a prototype and a preview of the talent out there. One of our goals is for the students to identify their respective talent and passion for their career choice. Many of these students have subsequently become permanent employees at the company.”
- Apprenticeship programs. Nearby technical colleges and universities combine on-the-job training in technical areas and college-level classes to develop, grow, and retain qualified, highly-productive employees. Need help starting an apprenticeship program? Visit the U.S. Department of Labor for their Apprenticeship Toolkit or the NIMS: Apprenticeship Readiness Assessment for Employers.
- NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers. These public-private partnerships are located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. In 2018, MEP Centers worked with 26,313 manufacturers on projects ranging from cybersecurity readiness to implementation of smart factory practices, automation, and robotics. To find the NIST MEP closest to you, visit https://www.nist.gov/mep/mep-national-network/connect-your-local-mep-center.
- Manufacturing USA Institutes. Also known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each institute is a partnership among industry, academia, and government that can leverage existing resources, collaborate, and co-invest in advanced manufacturing innovation and accelerate commercialization. To see a list of the institutes and their locations, visit https://defenseinnovationmarketplace.dtic.mil/business-opportunities/manufacturing-usa-institutes/.
- Your community chamber of commerce or economic development partnership. They advocate for a region's local businesses, prosperity, and quality of life. Some have come together to sponsor makerspaces where entrepreneurs can share ideas, equipment, and specialized knowledge. MakerSmiths Innovation Forge is an example of local forces joining together in Loudoun County, Virginia.
- Amazon-luring cities. Live nearby or in one of the 238 cities that submitted bids for Amazon headquarters? According to a CNN.com/business article, these cities are now standing out as high-tech places to locate other headquarters, Amazon fulfillment centers or even Amazon Go cashier-less stores. Perhaps your firm could benefit from one of these building projects?
Have you used any of these resources to bring ideas to life? Tell us your story at IMTS.com/stories.