Elevating the profile of U.S. manufacturing

// Mechanical Engineering

Tags: Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, AMNPO, ASME Foundation Swanson Fellow, Manufacturing USA, Pfefferkorn

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Although Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Frank Pfefferkorn recently spent 12 months away from campus—working in the Washington, D.C., area—he notes that he wasn’t on a sabbatical.

“I was on loan to the federal government by the state of Wisconsin for 12 months,” Pfefferkorn says.

From September 2015 through August 2016, Pfefferkorn served in the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO), where he helped coordinate manufacturing policy for the United States as an ASME Foundation Swanson Fellow. This competitive fellowship provides funds that defray the cost of moving to and living in the Washington, D.C., area for 12 months to serve in a manufacturing-focused role in the federal government.

The AMNPO is an interagency office staffed by representatives from various federal agencies and by fellows from U.S. industry and academia.

Frank Pfefferkorn at the Hannover Messe in Germany, with a 3D-printed, electric drive vehicle that is a replica of a Shelby Cobra. The vehicle, which was manufactured by Oak Ridge National Lab’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, was located in the Manufacturing USA booth at the Hannover Messe in April 2016.
Frank Pfefferkorn at the Hannover Messe in Germany, with a 3D-printed, electric drive vehicle that is a replica of a Shelby Cobra. The vehicle, which was manufactured by Oak Ridge National Lab’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, was located in the Manufacturing USA booth at the Hannover Messe in April 2016.

The AMNPO is best known for coordinating the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. The network’s new public-facing name is Manufacturing USA, which resulted from an identity and branding campaign that Pfefferkorn worked on. Manufacturing USA was created in order to help ensure that U.S. inventions are also manufactured in the United States.

“This national network—Manufacturing USA—is intended to help these institutes communicate with each other and find mutual interests. It also helps them reach the public and companies,” he says. “Each institute is its own entity, and they each have a goal of creating a hub, of building enough critical mass of advanced manufacturing expertise in a region, that will sustain itself and create new jobs, new processes and new products.”

During his 12-month assignment, Pfefferkorn acted as a liaison from the AMNPO to other federal agencies. He also participated in many other activities, including: representing the AMNPO at the Hannover Messe in Germany; serving as liaison to a new think tank funded by National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; helping staff the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing; and performing outreach for the AMNPO and Manufacturing USA.

Pfefferkorn says his experience at the AMNPO is influencing his work back on campus. For example, he says that participating in high-level discussions about manufacturing has given him a valuable long view of where manufacturing is heading, which, in turn, is helping guide his research.

Working at AMNPO also gave Pfefferkorn a better sense of the pressing needs faced by industry in the manufacturing area, and that has prompted him to pursue more applied research projects that come directly from industry.

“I’m now actively working on doing more projects with companies,” he says. “I’m continuing to work on fundamental research, but I’m adding more applied research as well to help transfer that knowledge to industry.”

Author: Adam Malecek