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Manufacturing with a Big "M"

Celebration of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Research Center’s 20th anniversary is marked by a plan to advance manufacturing in the U.S. through development of “collaboratories.”

Dr. Ben Wang, incoming executive director of the Manufacturing Research Center at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Dr. Ben Wang, incoming executive director of the Manufacturing Research Center at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Manufacturing Research Center (MaRC) at Georgia Tech in Atlanta is celebrating 20 years of operation this year. During an event held to mark the anniversary at the Institute on October 6, 2011, the incoming executive director of MaRC, Dr. Ben Wang, spoke of new initiatives planned for MaRC as well as new directions for manufacturing in the United States.

Dr. Wang’s vision for the next decade at MaRC centers on manufacturing with a big M. “Big M manufacturing goes beyond making stuff,” he said. “It envelops manufacturing processes as well as factory automation. It also includes supply chain management and enterprise transformation.”

His vision for big M manufacturing also includes a reuniting of materials and manufacturing. The worlds of “materials and manufacturing have gone their separate ways over the years, but they complement each other and need to come back together in the minds of manufacturers,” Wang said. “Without materials, manufacturing is just an empty word. Likewise, manufacturing adds value and transforms raw materials into products we use on a daily basis.”
To achieve his vision of manufacturing with a big M, Wang says that MaRC will focus on the creation of “collaboratories” (pilot plants or prototype shops) where academia, industry and government will work collaboratively on pre-competitive manufacturing technologies from which competition can develop over proprietary design, superior supply chain operations and personalized post-sales service.
A principal driver behind the idea of these collaboratories is the sense that “our innovation value chain is broken,” Wang said. Explaining his statement, Wang referenced the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), a measure used by the government and numerous companies to determine how ready a discovery is for the marketplace. A TRL of 1 is equivalent to a new idea; a TRL of 9 means that the idea has been fully developed and is ready for market. 
“Too much university research is focused on Level 1,” Wang said. “Without at least reaching level 6, there is no need to talk about commercialization. We must bridge the gap between Levels 1 and 6.” Thus, the role of the proposed collaboratories will be to “bridge the valley of death” between TRL 1 and 6 in which most ideas tend to perish, Wang said.

Cool Factor
Though Dr. Wang’s vision for MaRC’s next decade was certainly the most thought-provoking aspect of the anniversary celebration, on hand to provide some flash to the event was Ely Reeves Callaway III, the founder and president of Callaway Cars. 

The Callaway family has long been a major benefactor for Georgia Tech, as evidenced by the full name for MaRC — The Fuller E. Callaway Manufacturing Research Center at Georgia Tech.

Best known for his work as a specialist manufacturer of products to enhance automotive engine performance, Reeve Callaway’s name became synonymous with the Corvette. His work with the Corvette includes the factory RPO B2K Twin Turbo Corvette, the world record holding 254 mph “Sledgehammer”, C4 Aerobody package, LT-1 and LT-5 Supernatural Corvette, C12 Callaway Supercars, C5/C6 power group packages, and the current C6 Supercharged Corvette/C16 Supercar.

By 1995, Callaway’s manufacturing ventures had developed into three entities: Callaway Cars (development and sales of automotive products), Callaway Engineering (product research, design, development and manufacturing), and Callaway Competition (automotive racing). Callaway Engineering has also been involved in the design and manufacturing of the Big Bertha golf club for Callaway Golf, which was owned by Reeve’s father.
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