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Robert Hebner, Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Opening Remarks
4th Annual National Manufacturing Technology Conference
Wednesday, April 16, 1997


  • Let me add my personal welcome to NIST and to this conference. We're glad you're here, and we are eager to hear from you. Like the six other sponsors of this conference, NIST is keenly interested in your ideas--in your recommendations on how this nation can best advance its varied technological and human strengths to help ensure a globally competitive manufacturing sector that will sustain a rising standard of living in the 21st Century.

  • These are lofty goals, but as the novelist John Galsworthy once reminded, "If you don't think about the future, you can't have one." And the future of U.S. manufacturing is, indeed, a subject worthy of thoughtful deliberation. It also is a powerful motivation for collaborative actions.

  • The Framework for Action Report of the Next Generation Manufacturing Project provides us with ample food for thought. NIST helped fund this landmark effort, and we are hopeful that it ultimately will yield the guidance and direction that this agency needs to invest its resources wisely and to deliver maximum benefit to the U.S. economy.

  • The semiconductor industry, I believe, provides a convincing example of the value of technology roadmapping, setting priorities, and galvanizing a set of cooperative R&D activities. These collaborative actions are helping the industry build 21st Century capabilities.

    For NIST, the Semiconductor Industry Technology Roadmap was both a clarion call and a catalyst. The roadmap identified measurement needs as potential "show stoppers." Priorities and recommendations guided the creation of the National Semiconductor Metrology Program--a NIST-wide effort that builds on NIST's four-decade tradition of semiconductor-related research and service.

  • We hope to be able to experience the same success with the NGM Project.

  • Permit me to tell you a bit more about NIST and its programs. After this arm-chair tour, I hope you will understand why industry input is so valuable to NIST.

  • MEASUREMENTS & STANDARDS. Nearing its centennial anniversary, NIST was created as the National Bureau of Standards in 1901--a time of tremendous industrial development in the United States. From the very start, the NIST laboratories addressed the infrastructural technology needs of industry, commerce, and scientific institutions. Traditionally, this has meant developing the methods and tools that are the basis for industry-adopted measurement standards--the underpinnings of process control, efficient marketplace transactions, product development, and more. Also from NIST's earliest days onward, industry has been an active partner. Our industrial guest researcher program dates back to the early 1920s.

  • Today, NIST-traceable measurements--which are core elements of this nation's vital but nearly invisible technology infrastructure--help to ensure fairness and efficiency in the sale of more than $2 trillion worth of goods and services.

    Measurement needs are proliferating--both in number and in complexity--and the stakes are rising. Consider the optical fiber industry. NIST's technical contributions have helped this American-born industry maintain its world-leading position by providing the basis for improved measurement capabilities and opening the way to higher quality and improved performance. To date NIST has worked with industry to develop the technical foundation for more than 20 industry-adopted standards.

    The NIST Laboratory Program also attends to the software side of the profusion of information technologies and applications. A new example--one that Ric Jackson or Mark Luce will describe more fully, I am sure--is the National Advanced Manufacturing Testbed. The goal of this laboratory without walls--this distributed and virtual testbed for manufacturing research--is to develop, demonstrate, test, and refine prototype standards for integrating equipment and information resources across systems, factories, and enterprises. The NAMT is an exciting and ambitious collaborative undertaking, and I urge you to learn more about it.

  • ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM. Begun in 1990, NIST's Advanced Technology Program invests directly in the nation's economic growth by working with industry to develop innovative technologies with strong commercial potential--technologies which, if successful, will enable novel or greatly improved products and services for the world market.

    This cost-shared, rigorously competitive program accelerates technologies that, because they are risky, would not otherwise be developed in time to compete in rapidly changing world markets. ATP does not fund product development.

    Here's an example: About eight years ago, Nanophase Technologies--a start-up company with five employees--set out to develop a practical method for making nanocrystalline powders on a commercial scale. At the time, these ultrafine powders could only be made in laboratory quantities of a few grams a day--at a cost of about $1,000 a gram. A 1992 ATP award enabled the Illinois company to pursue promising, but still experimental, processing methods. It progressed to the proof of concept stage when its ATP award ended. Nanophase Technologies went on to develop and refine its methods. It now has the capacity to produce 100 tons of nanocrystalline materials annually. The company's powders are finding a growing number of uses--catalysts, automotive and aerospace components, electronic devices, magnetics, skin care products, feedstocks for polishing slurries used by semiconductor manufacturers. The technology appears to have a very bright future--a prospect made possible by an ATP award at the crucial pre-venture capital stage of the technology's evolution. The company, by investing in the ATP program, appears to have also improved its own future.

    John Gudas, of NIST, will fill you in on ATP details tomorrow afternoon. And perhaps, Dwight Carlson, who is next up at the podium, will share some information on one particularly successful ATP project with automotive suppliers.

  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Automotive suppliers are also among the diverse array of companies tapping into the services of NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership. This program is aptly named. MEP is a true federal-state-local partnership of technical assistance centers that provide smaller manufacturers with unprecedented access to new technologies, resources and expertise.

    Over the last four years, MEP has grown from a promising, small pilot program operating in seven states and accessible to only 5 percent of the nation's smaller manufacturers to a coherent nationwide system that has placed sorely needed extension services within reach of manufacturers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Today, field engineers and other technical staff operating out of 360 locations are delivering hands-on technical assistance to an extremely important segment of the manufacturing sector.

    The experience of a rural New Mexico firm demonstrates the value of a timely assist from an MEP center. Southwest Tire Processors, which is located in Socorro, recycles tires, and this young firm is doing it with a great deal of ingenuity. It converts discarded tires into rubber blocks, roofing tiles, and into crumb rubber for several applications. Early on, the company tapped the services of the Industry Network Corporation--or INC, an MEP affiliate.

    INC hooked up the company with experts from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, who are helping it develop adhesives and other products made from tires. At the same time, INC is helping Southwest Tire Processors develop impervious landfill waste liners that are now being considered for use at Superfund cleanup sites. Opportunities for exports and overseas joint ventures are emerging. Since 1994, Southwest Tire Processors' payroll has grown from 1 person to 50--an especially welcome development in an area with higher-than-average unemployment.

  • National Quality Program. In business, quality is a matter of prime importance. This wasn't always the case, however. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which NIST manages in cooperation with the private sector, was initiated to raise American industry's awareness of quality--of performance excellence. The nine-year-old quality award program has done exactly that.

    In virtually every assessment of the program, the conclusion is this: In the quest for quality, you won't find a better guide than the Baldrige Award criteria. Crafted with the guidance of outside quality experts, the criteria are widely accepted as the standard for performance and business excellence. These criteria are in the hands of more than a million business leaders and are used by thousands of organizations for training, for self-assessment, and as a tool to develop performance and business processes.

    The fact is that quality pays. It pays in satisfied customers. It pays in motivated employees, who are committed both to their jobs and to their communities. It pays in an improved bottom line.

    The 16 publicly-traded Baldrige winners have outperformed the Standard and Poors 500 by about 3 to 1. Even the 48 publicly-traded applicants who received site visits outperformed the S&P by 2 to 1. Need any more convincing?

    If you do, I recommend consulting with any one of the 28 Baldrige Award winners, which include 19 manufacturers. They'll be happy discuss quality and quality methods. These companies have given about 30,000 presentations that educate other companies and organizations about the benefits of using the Baldrige Award framework and criteria. This is just one more example of the partnering and collaboration that we strive to make a core element of all our programs.

  • Today, collaboration--the theme of this conference--is part and parcel of working smarter, faster--a necessity for competing successfully. I am not talking about collaboration for collaboration sake. I'm talking about collaborating for a purpose, collaborating so that each of us accomplishes our individual goals faster and cheaper than we would if we had to do all of the work alone.

  • We can do this if there are shared objectives, and clear shared objectives are what good technology roadmaps provide.

    Good roadmaps define the course of a technology's or capability's evolution and, in so doing, set the context for revolution.

    Good roadmaps help to separate the wheat from the chaff, the expedient from the impractical, the imperative from the inconsequential. In other words a good roadmap outlines what really needs to be done to achieve or maintain global competitiveness.

    Good roadmaps are useful to all segments of an industry--suppliers, manufacturers, and customers.

    Good roadmaps are updated regularly.

  • Finally, but very importantly, good roadmaps stimulate effective public-private interactions that leverage resources and capabilities in both sectors. You can see plenty of example of this at NIST, NSF, DOD, DOE, and other agencies.

  • In short, we at NIST and at other federal agencies would very much like to see the NGM effort succeed. Ric has distributed copies of the complete NGM report to the NIST management team, and he has urged us to read it, be aware of its recommendations, and to act on these priorities as quickly as possible. There is still much work to be done and more input to be gathered. Today, you start this process.

  • There's an old English saw that goes something like this, "Of a good beginning, comes a good end." The desired end we all should have in our sights is global manufacturing competitiveness in the 21st Century. I wish you a very productive couple of days--a good beginning--so that we can make progress toward this very important end. Thank you.