University Manufacturing Centers Prove a Boon for Industry, Too

Colleges leverage industry partnerships to give students real-world experience and enhance research.

Preparing students for the workforce is integral to the success of a higher education institution. Manufacturing programs at universities have embraced the same technology that the industry is using for this specific purpose.

The Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute leverages a public-private partnership to foster research and give students real-world skills.

While many college manufacturing centers would struggle ­without support from private industry, increasingly, the reverse is also true.

Partnerships Are a Win-Win for Business and Colleges

Companies rely on ­academic programs for both industrial research and future employees, says Kurt Goodwin, general manager of advanced manufacturing works for GE Power Systems. The ­company works closely with Georgia Tech, Greenville Tech and the University of Maine.

“They’re three of my favorites,” Goodwin says. “They all take a very pragmatic approach to systems and embrace a broad range of students. It’s not just about engineering degrees, but also associate’s degrees and high-end technicians. These are things the country really needs.”

GE has hired interns and graduates from all three to tackle problem-solving challenges. For example, in 2016 GE asked a team of UMaine engineering students to redesign a singlet nozzle for steam turbines.

Working at the Advanced Manufacturing Center, four undergrads simplified the design, which reduced machining time on each item by up to 30 hours.

Greenville Tech College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation benefits from its proximity to local headquarters for GE Power, BMW and Michelin Tire — and vice versa.

“There is a significant benefit for Michelin in hiring locally when possible,” says Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America.

Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Institute has partnered with dozens of manufacturers to develop everything from 3D-printed heart valves to high-performance composites for fuel-efficient cars.

“Universities with strong engineering programs like Georgia Tech have a real affinity for these types of facilities,” says Jim Woodell of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. “They allow universities and their partners to come together and work together on issues. The collaboration with industry is a really important part of the story.”

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Oct 30 2017