How the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Can Help Your Business Embrace Smart Manufacturing

26 April 2023
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Image Credit: Brandon Mowinkel via Unsplash

 

At the end of last month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $50 million in funding as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, specifically ringfenced to contribute towards smart manufacturing technology.

The funding, announced on March 31, entitled the State Manufacturing Leadership Program, ensures that smart manufacturing technologies and high-performance computing are more accessible to small- and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). The program is designed to eliminate barriers preventing SMMs from utilizing innovative, data-driven tools and technologies that can increase production efficiency and support the domestic manufacturing base. The goal is to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050 and secure America’s global leadership in manufacturing.

This article will discuss the incentives behind State Manufacturing Leadership Program, the benefits of smart manufacturing technologies, and how eligible parties can apply for funding.

Why has the funding become available?

As part of President Biden’s drive towards a net-zero economy by 2050, it is key for manufacturing processes to become more streamlined and efficient, according to the DOE. Furthermore, there is an incentive to bring American manufacturing operations from overseas back home, a process called “reshoring” – all part of the drive to bring inflation down and increase America’s self-reliance in today’s tumultuous political and economic environment.

Generally speaking, larger, established OEMs and manufacturing startups alike have embraced digital transformation, employing technological solutions to solve their manufacturing woes and to streamline their workflows. Meanwhile, smaller machine shops are still lagging behind, running the risk of falling to the wayside as intra- and international competition eclipses them.

The funding, therefore, is a contribution toward the wider goal of establishing a clean energy economy, according to Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Unlocking the potential for small- and medium-sized clean energy manufacturing facilities to use the same technologies as larger facilities will make us more competitive on a global scale,” she said as part of the announcement.

What is smart manufacturing?

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Image Credit: Simon Kadula via Unsplash

Smart manufacturing aims to tackle these issues by improving the overall efficiency of production. The methods behind smart manufacturing involve interconnecting disparate parts of the manufacturing process, effectively creating a visibly end-to-end workflow. Such collaborative systems can benefit from dynamically updating cost fluctuations, key in the volatile manufacturing supplies market.

By utilizing high-performance computing, modeling, simulation, and data analysis can be conducted more quickly and accurately, reducing the need for costly “trial and error” approaches during development.

However, the majority of small and medium-sized manufacturers have not adopted smart manufacturing solutions, as they can often be costly and integrate unfavorably with existing, sensitive workflows. The skills shortage in the manufacturing industry is once again a factor, since there may be a shortage of staff with sufficient knowledge of each individual process that constitutes the workflow.

What opportunities are available, and am I eligible?

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Image Credit: Unseen Studio via Unsplash

Thanks to the funds, worth $50 million in total and awarding up to $2 million per state over a period of up to three years, new programs will be created (or existing ones expanded) that give technical support to SMMs seeking to embrace digital transformation.

When considering eligibility and submitting a proposal, keep in mind these three initiatives that the funds seek to accomplish, and whether your business could benefit from them:

1. The provision of financial assistance to SMMs

Consider where the funds could be spent in terms of providing assistance for the implementation of smart manufacturing solutions / high-performance computing technologies.

2. The promotion of smart manufacturing technologies

Consider whether your business could profit from the opportunities presented by smart manufacturing. Consider your business’s development in the context of regional and national economic / supply chain priorities.

3. Partnerships with labor unions to expand the smart manufacturing talent pool

Consider your business’s relationship with labor unions and other stakeholders, and whether the labor force for implementing smart manufacturing technologies is developed enough to scale the adoption of smart manufacturing training.

In addition to these key initiatives, the funds also represent an exciting opportunity for SMMs to connect with higher education institutions, as well as manufacturing institutes such as the National Laboratories.

When considering applying to the scheme, also bear in mind that the DOE seeks applications for programs that are able to self-sustain in the long-term.

The grants are open to applicants from all 50 States plus D.C., and States will be required to match successful awards by at least 30% of their value.

How to apply & deadlines

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Image Credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya via Unsplash

Full applications are due on May 30, 2023 at 5PM ET.

Apply here via the energy.gov online portal. Visit energy.gov‘s website to learn more about the State Manufacturing Leadership Program.

In additional to considering federal funds, SMMs seeking to accelerate their journey toward smart manufacturing should explore AMFG’s award-winning MES software offering. Work with our expert consultants on implementing autonomous processes across your whole manufacturing workflow, from end to end.

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