Manufacturers Claim National Medals of Science and Technology

By February 15, 2006General

On Monday at the White House, the President presented the highly-coveted and prestigious National Medals for Science and Technology. We are very proud to report that 3 of the 5 company winners were manufacturers (and all NAM members, by the way). They include:

IBM Microelectrics Division – Somers, NY

Motorola – Schaumberg, Ill.

PACCAR, Inc. – Bellevue, Washington

They all have their stories, but the common thread is one of innovation and invention. We’ve profiled other Award winners here, namely Corning, in our fiber optic “Cool Stuff Being Made” video. They are all at the forefront of innovation. At the other end of that innovation is the prosperity we all enjoy. In the middle is the manufacturing process. We make stuff, we make prosperity. Thank a manufacturer if you get a chance. Click on the links above to read about the innovation and excellence that each manufacturer provided to society at large. It really is a great story — or, more accurately, three great stories. It’s a story being played out in thousands and thousands of manufacturing facilities in your states and towns.

Congratulations to all these award winners. They do all manufacturers proud.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • John Annal says:

    this posting is in reference to a related article,

    U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Leadership at Risk.

    I read this article with both interest and dismay. Interest, since it is something I’ve been watching for decades. Dismay, because back in 1989 I discussed this very problem with engineers from McDonnel Douglas when they came to Seymour Johnson to train us in the integrated avionics self test/aircrew debriefing equipment and procedures.

    The discussion started with a comment made by one of the engineers. He stated the Air Force had set the standard for quality in the military and we were the only branch that had every member with a minimum of a High School education. This triggered a discussion about the quality of education in general and the qualifications of a High School graduate. In my opinion, low in the first case, non-existent in the second.

    We took an informal poll; None of us entered into the technical field due to our high school experience. It was due to our hobbies and an outside mentor. In my case, a father who was literate, willing to teach and patient, and an uncle who was a ham, an amateur radio operator. Most of my technical abilites come from that foundation.

    The engineers stated that their hobbies as teenagers also included amateur radio, building hot rods, motorcycles, playing with technology in general. It was what took place outside, or in addition to, the classroom that most led them to their vocations. In short, teenage avocations led to adult vocations.

    Teenage avocations today seem to be little more than comic books or X-boxes. So where are our future innovators to come from?

    Answer: other countries.

    What are some possible solutions or responses from those who wish to maintain one of the most essential elements of our nation?

    1. Sponsor science fairs. I remember them from my youth. They led many into a career in science or technology.

    2. Make surplus equipment available to experimenters. I cobbled many projrcts together from cast off parts.

    3. Sponsor prototypes, assist in obtaining patents and setting up small businesses. There are many innovative and creative individuals out there with ideas but no capital. Help them get a start through a royalty program. One of the best innovations, from a mechanic’s standpoint is the Craftsman button release rachet. It was created by an employee who lacked the resources to manufacture it. It has been one of the major selling points of Craftsman tools. He sold it outright and helped make Sears fortune. What else might he have come up with if he had an income from royalties?

    4. Take an example from Apple and Microsoft. Integrate yourselves into the educational system. Sponsor science fairs, reduce rates for educational purchases. Tie the school’s welfare to your own.

    5. Lobby/politic for higher educational standards. Get rid of the watered down pap that seems to be our fare from public schools anymore.

    6. Examine the lessons from earlier manufacturers, both failed and successful. Two that spring to mind are Indian /Harley Davidson motorcycles and Polaroid. The best account I’ve heard of why Indian failed is the combination of two facts: First, Indian was turned over to businessmen, and all manufacturing decisions were mad e in the board room by accountants. Second, after recovering from the sudden termanation of government contracts at the close of WWII, the government sought another contract for the Korean war. Harley Davidson declined to bid, so Indian jumped on it, assuming they’s have a monopoly. The contract was terminated at the convienence of the government when it was discovered that motorcycles designed to eat up miles of U.S. roads did not fare well in the conditions of Korea. Indian never recovered.

    The decision by Indian to place the motorcycle manufacturing in the hands of businessmen was again illustrated by Harley Davidson. In the 60s, AMF bought Harley. We scornfully refer to any bikes manufactured while AMF was manufacturing them as Bowling Ball Specials. Once Harley was purchased back by the employees, and decisions made by those who loved, rode and built motorcycles, the company got back on solid footing.

    Polaroid is a good example to study, for Dr. Land inspired fierce loyalty in his employees. At the end of WWII, he had to let 1/3 of his employees go due to demobilization. He swore he would never do that again. On all government contracts, he used temps. If he had an idea for a new product, he used temps until the new product became part of the stable inventory.

    Also, he realized technology was not static. Polaroid pushed continuing education. They also paid for it. In short, Polaroid reinvested in its workers.

    7. Encourage creative thinking and cross discipline discourse.

    Willy ley was addressing a group of rocket scientists. He stated that there were three things essential to rocketry: 1. Liquid oxygen 2. A pump to handle it 3. A combustion chamber capable of withstanding the heat.

    Then he asked them when they thought all those elements were available. Most stated the late 20s, some thought not until the 30s.

    He showed them where all elements needed for liquid fueled rockets wer in place by 1903. There was at least 20 years where rocketry lay dormant until it finally came together.

    What three elements are out there right now that may lead to the next scientific adventure that are lying dormant because no one has connected the dots?

    John Annal