Thursday, December 7, 2023

UW/Manufacturing Works received grant to solve supply chain issues

Manufacturing Works has received a two-year, $400,000 federal grant to identify problems and provide solutions for the critical manufacturing infrastructure supply chain within Wyoming.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered into a cooperative agreement with the University of Wyoming to support the work described in the proposal titled “MEP National Supply Chain Optimization and Intelligence Network – Manufacturing Works.” The grant, which focuses on helping small- and medium-sized businesses in Wyoming expand manufacturing capabilities beyond the state’s traditional mining sectors, begins June 1 and runs through May 31, 2025.

“There is a massive list of components that the players in the critical manufacturing sector need but can’t find manufacturers in the U.S. to supply. We believe they exist, but they are just not on the radar,” says Rocky Case, center director for Manufacturing Works, a partnership among UW, NIST and the Wyoming Business Council. “On the Wyoming level, I would say it is diversification and creating resilience of our manufacturers to diversify their business portfolios beyond mining extraction of coal, oil and gas.”

For example, because of current geopolitical issues, Case points to a Center for Strategic and International Studies report that warns of the U.S. potentially having critical shortages of components for the defense industrial base, emerging energy sectors and other critical manufacturing infrastructure supply chains.

“Our work will be solely focused on Wyoming manufacturers, but it will be work that will hopefully help connect the dots on a regional or national level,” says Case, who adds Manufacturing Works will work with neighboring states Colorado and Utah. “If you have a manufacturer that is completely off the grid that no one knows about, but you have a major contractor that needs something they can make, we want to make that connection. So, we want to connect the unknown players with the known needs.”

“Supply chain resiliency and growth of the domestic supply base are absolutely critical to strengthening manufacturing capabilities and fostering economic growth in the state of Wyoming,” says Maria Jenks, a UW assistant lecturer of management and marketing, with a background in supply chain management in the energy sector. “This can only be accomplished by working with the vast network of manufacturers and suppliers across the state, region and nation.”

Jenks and Tyler O’Daniel, assistant director of Manufacturing Works, will be part of the grant team with Case. Case hopes there will be opportunities for UW students, most likely from the College of Business and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, to serve as interns on the grant work.

Manufacturing Works is part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network, which has centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. MEP is administered by NIST, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Every MEP center across 50 states and Puerto Rico will each receive a $400,000 grant to tackle the supply chain management problem, Case says.

“We feel like energy infrastructure, transportation infrastructure and defense infrastructure — all of those things are in a critical state nationwide,” Case says. “And given the fact that we are not in a good way with the situation in Russia and Ukraine right now and other geopolitical issues pointing at it, it’s very evident that our reliance on those foreign markets related to those categories is not a sustainable model.”

While the recent COVID-19 pandemic illuminated supply chain management problems and consumer product logjams in America and globally to the public, Case says issues with supply chain management date back to the mid-1960s. Rebuilding manufacturing in the U.S. will center on the fourth industrial revolution — which includes artificial intelligence, automation, cybersecurity and virtual reality.

About Manufacturing Works

Manufacturing Works provides technical and business assistance to manufacturing companies across the state. It is part of the Wyoming Business Resource Network, with offices in Afton, Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie and Sheridan. Manufacturing Works promotes innovation, manufacturing and industrial competitiveness to build a stronger and more prosperous Wyoming through enhanced economic security and improved quality of life. Services to manufacturers include broad technical assistance, engineering solutions, general business assistance, marketing assistance and financial counseling.