The Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) has opened a new competition for high-risk industrial R&D; projects under an expanded, five-year program to develop technologies that will ease the flow of real-time manufacturing data within an enterprise and between collaborating partners.
The new competition, announced in the May 17 issue of Commerce Business Daily, makes available an estimated total of $18 million in first-year funding for selected projects. Full project proposals are due by 3 p.m. Eastern Time, Sept. 12, 1995. Applicants who would like early feedback from the ATP on the direction and scope of their proposals may submit abbreviated pre-proposals by 3 p.m. Eastern Time, July 6, 1995. This will be the first of three competitions planned under the revised program for the next five years.
Broadly targeted at the nation's discrete manufacturing practices, the ATP program on Technologies for the Integration of Manufacturing Applications, or TIMA expands and replaces the earlier ATP program on Computer-Integrated Manufacturing for Electronics, which was announced in April 1994. Based on the results of the first competition under the previous CIM for Electronics and extensive consultations with industry, ATP managers decided that the original program was focused too narrowly to attract the generic, broadly enabling R&D; projects sought by the ATP.
The TIMA program encompasses R&D; projects to facilitate industry development of real-time "plug and play" manufacturing environments—affordable manufacturing software systems that can be rapidly integrated and reconfigured and, eventually, will be able to automatically adjust their performance in response to changing conditions and requirements. The TIMA program particularly focuses on the integration of and interoperability among the mid-level information systems known as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), which bridge the information gap between design and high- level management information systems and the factory-floor-control systems that operate and monitor production machinery. MES applications link business and manufacturing systems, tracking and managing all aspects of a job on the shop floor, in near-real-time at any point in the production cycle. They identify bottlenecks and material shortages on the shop floor and provide up-to-the-minute process performance results, with comparisons to past performances and to projected business results.
While obviously important to efficient manufacturing operations, MES applications today are often an unaffordable luxury for smaller manufacturers. Robust MES solutions are essentially custom integration tasks that either must be built from the ground up for a particular manufacturing operation or heavily customized from existing commercial applications. Initial installation and integration of custom MES applications are estimated to cost from $400,000 to $1 million. On average, a factory with an installed system spends $2 for in-house integration, maintenance and support for every $1 spent on products and services from MES vendors. Only larger manufacturers with average annual revenues in excess of $50 million can afford such systems.
The ATP's TIMA program focuses on developing and validating technologies, methods and infrastructures that reduce dramatically the cost and time needed to integrate manufacturing execution systems into a manufacturing enterprise.
The development of more flexible, easily integrated manufacturing execution systems based on ATP projects should lead to significant reductions in manufacturing costs and cycle time, concomitant reductions in time to market for new products, reductions in time and cost for starting new factories or changing over old ones, and reductions in inventory and more efficient resource utilization.
Discrete manufacturing enterprises include some of the largest industries in the U.S., such as electronics and transportation. In 1991, discrete manufacturing represented over $1 trillion in sales and accounted for more than one out of every three manufacturing jobs. Business goals for the TIMA program (to be realized within five years of the conclusion of the ATP research) include:
The percentage of manufacturing sites using MES is expected to increase from today's level of about 10 percent to 50 percent within five years of the end of the TIMA program while software life-cycle costs are expected to decrease 50 percent as a result of the TIMA technologies.
The ATP program manager for the Technologies for the Integration of Manufacturing Applications program is Barbara Goldstein, (301) 975-2304, e-mail goldstein [at] eeel.nist.gov (via Internet). Details of the TIMA program requirements, ATP proposal kits and information on the optional pre-proposal requirements may be obtained from the Advanced Technology Program:
phone: (800) ATP-FUND
fax: (301) 926-9524
e-mail: atp [at] micf.nist.gov
mail: Advanced Technology Program
National Institute of Standards and Technology
A430 Administration Bldg.
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-0001
An agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.