Creating Investment Opportunities of Robotic Technology at Manufacturing Companies

Objective

To help manufacturing companies implement automation and robotic technology.

Approach

We leveraged insights from local manufacturing innovation experts to develop a partnership landscape for the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. We helped ARM executed a successful on-site partnership information session in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Impact

Our work helped ARM win a $14.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This led ARM to work with over 30 companies to explore and implement robotic technologies.

Barrier to entry for manufacturers exploring automation and robotics

The implementation of automation and robotic technology can be transformative for the manufacturing industry, enabling companies to gain efficiency, expand capabilities, and close labor gaps. The benefits of adopting these technologies are especially compelling for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, but it often requires technical capacity, investments, and downtime that many of these companies lack the resources and risk appetite for. 

Recognizing this need, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute worked with RTI’s Innovation Advisors in 2018 to better understand and articulate the value of a pilot technology “de-risking” project for local Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, manufacturing companies. ARM developed a pilot program to help local manufacturers test and incorporate advanced manufacturing technologies, while providing subject matter expertise to help companies make informed decisions on technology adoption.

To implement this program, ARM needed to reach out to the right potential small/medium manufacturer partners and sought RTI’s help to identify interested, potential partners and organize a partner exploration event at Mill19, ARM’s headquarters co-located with Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Future Institute. 

Validating and Refining the Value Proposition of Automation and Robotic Technology

RTI Innovation Advisors, informed by its rich history engaging with small and medium manufacturing companies, worked with ARM from conception to execution of the partnership exploration event. To identify and attract these partners, we followed a human-centered process, including the following: 

  • Engaged with local experts in robotics and manufacturing.
  • Developed a curated list of small/medium-sized manufacturing targets.
  • Refined marketing materials.
  • Led outreach for the Mill19 event.

The feedback we received allowed us to better validate and refine the value position of the ARM pilot technology implementation project. It ultimately led to six high-potential companies expressing interest in working with ARM on the project. 

Developing a Proof-of-Concept for Automation and Robotic Technology Adaption

In the short term, ARM’s work with RTI led to one successful partnership with a small/medium manufacturer that enabled the organization to test and iterate upon the partnership model. The collaboration helped demonstrated the potential value of ARM as a “de-risking” partner.Consequently, ARM successfully obtained $14.2 million of grant funding from the total awarded to the city of Pittsburgh from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge in 2022.

This funding created five robotic cells that focused on common challenges experienced by manufacturers in Southwest Pennsylvania (e.g., welding and sanding), serving as testbeds for robotics and automation. Since then, ARM has worked with over 30 manufacturers in southwest Pennsylvania to evaluate their manufacturing environments and help them make informed decisions on implementing automation technology. Currently, ARM has a waiting list to implement their robotics in manufacturing facilities. Long-term, ARM is using their partnerships as proof-of-concept to partner with more regional innovation hubs. Additionally, ARM is focused on building workforce capacity via education about robotics careers. 

Work with RTI Innovation Advisors

RTI’s Innovation Advisors has a storied history of providing technical advising services with a human-centered focus to small and medium manufacturers. We provide technology scouting services for both federal and commercial clients. Learn more about how the Innovation Advisors team can help you understand and implement emerging technology such as automation and robotics today.

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