Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the Economy

Editorial: Engineering Innovation, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

They are the invisible heroes in business, the men and women who make innovation possible. They are people like Mary Ann Wright at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, the former chief engineer for the Ford Escape hybrid who is leading a team bent on establishing world leadership in hybrid battery systems.

Or Werner Zobel, a Modine Manufacturing engineer working in Germany who hatched the idea for a new cooling system that the Racine-based company believes could be revolutionary. The system uses ultra-thin layers of aluminum to dissipate heat, a breakthrough that has potential for car and truck radiators and air conditioning condensers.

Intellectual candlepower will fire the regional economy, the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group believes. Its strategic plan relies on innovation-driven manufacturers that are heavy with engineers. But across the region, those companies say they can’t recruit enough engineers, and they worry that shortages will worsen as baby boomers retire. Complicating the picture is a shortage of visas for foreign-born engineers and increased competition from rapidly developing economies in China and India for those students even when they complete their studies in the United States.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering are racing to fill the pipeline. Marquette and UWM are promising expansive new buildings and increased enrollment of both undergraduate and graduate students.

The USA continues to be by far the largest manufacturing in the world. And one important reason is the contributions provided by science and engineering (fed by strong science and engineering schools). In addition to other smart economic policies (The World Bank’s annual report on the easiest countries to do business in ranks the USA 3rd – after Singapore and New Zealand). Wisconsin manufacturing continues to get good discussion on various lean blogs for good reason(More Wisconsin Lean, Wisconsin Continues to Lead in Lean Government, History repeats itself). The success Wisconsin is enjoying is not due to one single factor but the efforts of many actors including companies, universities, government, the press… and groups like the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Madison Quality Improvement Network (I have managed MAQIN’s web site since it was created – John Hunter).

Related: Best Research University Rankings – 2007S&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates LeadInvest in New Management Methods by William G. Hunter, Commentary to the Milwaukee Journal, 1986

4 thoughts on “Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the Economy

  1. Engineers and other innovators are not only invisible ‘heroes’ in business, as you indicated, but also in society in general. Innovation-driven manufacturers and professionals are the real value-producers that contribute to society more so than any politician. Yet the latter often gets most of the credit. How ironic.

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