CATALYZING INNOVATIONS IN ROBOTICS AND WORKFORCE THROUGH COLLABORATION

ARM Members Drive Our Projects

Projects are the lifeblood of ARM. Through government funding and other sources, we fund multiple projects each year to meet our operational goals of accelerating the use of industrial robots in U.S. manufacturing and and helping to increase the pool of skilled labor to interact with and manage the robots.

Our Process

The first stage of the process is the Project Call, in which ARM defines the specific challenge we are seeking to address. We have dedicated calls for technology and education/workforce development projects to address both critical gaps in the manufacturing sector.

In response to the Project Call, investigators submit concept papers outlining their proposed project. We select our projects through a process that includes review from government sponsors, ARM technical staff, Technical Advisory Committee, and other members with expertise in the proposal’s subject matter. After a peer review of the concept paper, many project teams are invited to the full proposal stage which involves the submission of more detailed information followed by a final round of review.

From there, the positively reviewed proposals move to the selected phrase, during which they begin contract negotiations. Once negotiations are complete, the projects are considered active and begin having regular communications with our project management team.

Education & Workforce Development Project Calls

This project call is now closed.

PRE-SOLICITATION OVERVIEW
To best protect and pursue our interests at home and abroad, the United States relies on a robust and innovative domestic manufacturing sector. Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), a national, public-private partnership among leaders in industry, academia, and nonprofits, was established to develop, demonstrate and accelerate the early adoption of novel robotic solutions by funding technology and workforce training projects and by creating an ecosystem that advances robotics technology and education. Increased productivity gained by collaborative robotic automation will help create new jobs to build, manage, and maintain the robots, promote on-shoring by manufacturers, and replace dangerous jobs with safer jobs.

TIMEFRAMES

ARM posted our Education & Workforce Development Project Call on October 17, 2018 in the ARM Member Community.

Step 1: Concept Paper Submission Nov. 30, 2018

Step 2: Full Proposal (by invitation only) Feb. 15, 2018

CRITERIA

Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) is currently soliciting proposals that respond to specific needs of manufacturers as they relate to “Work and Learn” educational programs to engage individuals with both a classroom and on the job training experience. Proposals could focus on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, transitioning veterans and/or under employed and underrepresented groups in the talent pipeline who may hold similar skills and training in robotics and automation. A component of the ARM Education and Workforce Development mission is to train, certify and offer internships, apprenticeships and externships to students and educators through increased awareness of advanced manufacturing careers by member industry organizations. An additional mission goal is to address diversity by incorporating a broad range of groups into ARM education and training program. The topic areas in this call for proposals seeks to use these two goals to ensure a continued skilled pipeline of workers into these industries.

Proposed projects should feature innovations and/or scalability in education and/or training that enable more U.S. citizens to move into positions in the advanced manufacturing workplace. The culmination of the program should result in workers who find employment in advanced manufacturing facilities. Proposal teams may include a variety of organizations that have vested interests in this “Work and Learn” program. Many types of organizations could participate and benefit from the results of this project. Examples include: Two and four-year colleges, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), unions, Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP), industrial training centers, large corporations and small and medium manufacturers (SMM). As examples, possible teams might be comprised of a large manufacturer, a two-year college and a SMM(s); or a robotic manufacturer, an MEP, an industrial training company, and an SMM. Note however, that every team must include at least one manufacturer  or industry representative.

The following topic areas for this project call represent the top priorities from the ARM education and workforce development road mapping process, which integrates the input of manufacturers with a strategic view on the future of manufacturing. Successful proposals will clearly identify project deliverables and the benefit to other ARM Institute members. Please note that the topics described below are deliberately broad.

Topic Area 1: Work and Learn, Transitioning Military

According to a Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute report [1], more than three million manufacturing jobs are expected to open from 2014 to 2024; however, the same study estimates manufacturers will be unable to fill two million of them. Therefore, finding and developing talent is essential. When asked to cite the most effective skilled production workforce development strategies, 49% of executives answered, “the creation of new veteran hiring programs.” This population is particularly well oriented for working in advanced manufacturing. Veterans value rules and procedures, safety protocols are familiar to them, and a team approach is engrained in their training.

ARM invites applicants to develop a program or model that will translate the skills and competencies military personnel acquire to the skills and competencies required in manufacturing facilities. Creating or adapting a system that translates these competencies and allows manufacturers to hire United States warfighters is the purpose of Topic Area 1.

A Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) and a Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) are unique designations to identify an enlisted service member’s job in each branch of the US Military. These competency descriptions work well for designating skills needed for a military job in but do not translate well for civilian jobs. However, most of the competencies and expertise learned for some MOS are very close to what manufacturers need. Add to that the previously mentioned attributes of values, teamwork, and adaptability makes this population an important solution to our current and future workforce.

Suggested Project Outcomes:

A.   Develop a program or model to support transitioning veterans

  • i. Develop a cross-walk to aid veterans in matching skills from MOS to careers in advanced manufacturing, with emphasis on robotics and automation
  • ii. Provide component of paid on-the-job training
  • iii. Address employees who meet employability requirements but need additional training to meet civilian job requirements
  • iv. Seek connections with 2 and 4-yr colleges in close proximity to a military base to provide civilian training during 6-mo transition from service

Topic Area 2: Work and Learn, Underemployed Employees

Underemployment is defined as the under-use of a worker due to a job that does not use the worker’s skills, does not require a full-time schedule or leaves the worker idle. Although we cannot identify the total number of underemployed workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures workers who are working part-time because they could only find part-time work [2]. In January 2018, 43.4% of college graduates were underemployed [3].There are many underemployed workers from other industries that have potential to thrive in advanced manufacturing. Some are working several part time jobs, working with little opportunity for advancement, and many are working without benefits.

The second topic area asks proposers to devise a program or model that will match skills and competencies that employees from other industry sectors have that fit well with skills and competencies needed in manufacturing. The purpose will be to recruit employees from another sector to consider a career in advanced manufacturing and provide work and learn opportunities for them.

A.   Suggested Project Outcomes: 

  • i. Develop a training or reskilling/refresher program for individuals who are in either a completely different industry sector (retail/hospitality) or similar industry sector (construction) than manufacturing to expedite their competency building.
  •  ii.Create partnership for training for advanced manufacturing using robotics or automated processes job with a member (2 or 4-year college, training center, manufacturer)
  •   iii. Incorporate work experience provided through member industry partners

Topic Area 3: Work and Learn, Open Topic

ARM understands the importance of identifying populations outside of veterans and underemployed who can fill needed manufacturing jobs with specific skills in robotics and automation. The third topic area will continue the work and learn model but could include populations outside of the ones mentioned in the first two topic areas. Additionally, it provides the option of a non-paid opportunity for on the job training. This topic will allow proposers to expand their pipeline approach to K-12, gender specific and other underserved populations. Proposers should develop a work and learn model or program beyond the parameters set by the first two topic areas.

A.   Suggested Project Outcomes 

  • i. Develop a work and learn model/program or a non-paid internship as part of an academic/training program with a member partner
  • ii. Support the talent pipeline from any level (K-Gray) to gain training and work experience or an introduction to an advanced manufacturing experience

Topic Area 4: Talent Attraction, Open Topic

Although talent attraction is implied in each of the first three topic areas, the final proposal opportunity focuses only on talent attraction without the parameter of work and learn models. Through this topic area, ARM is soliciting unique program or model ideas targeting specific talent populations to increase the size and/or the diversity of the robotics and automation advanced manufacturing workforce pipeline. Successful proposals will include a program and talent population below or one of the proposers’ own choosing that fits in the ARM EWD mission.

Examples of programs: pre-apprenticeship programs, robot competition programs, robotics training programs, mentoring/shadowing programs, robotics boot camps, etc.

Examples of talent populations: women, underserved, veterans, disabled, ex-offenders, underemployed, workers from at-risk industries, residents from at-risk communities, 2-yr college students, high school students, etc.


[1]http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/Research/Skills-Gap-in-Manufacturing/~/media/FF00360FC3344AD9B62F600B9FDEBD5B.ashx
[2]Chohan,Usman W. “Young, Educated and Underemployed: Are we Building a Nation of PhD Baristas” The Conversation. September 13, 2016
[3]https://www.statista.com/statistics/642226/underemployment-rate-of-us-college-graduates-by-major/

This project call has closed. Download our Project Portfolio to view the selected projects.

Pre-Solicitation Overview

To best protect and pursue our interests at home and abroad, the United States relies on a robust and innovative domestic manufacturing sector. The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (“ARM Institute” or “ARM”), a national, public-private partnership among leaders in industry, academia, and nonprofits, was established to develop, demonstrate and accelerate the early adoption of novel robotic solutions by funding technology and workforce training projects and by creating an ecosystem that advances robotics technology and education. Increased productivity gained by collaborative robotic automation will help create new jobs to build, manage, and maintain the robots, promote on-shoring by manufacturers, and replace dangerous jobs with safer jobs.

Criteria
Each project has a minimum of 1:1 cost sharing (2:1 cost sharing is preferred). A typical award would have a budget of $200,000 in federal funding over 12 months (e.g., with 2:1 cost sharing, this means a $600,000 total budget). However, smaller project sizes and durations will be considered. Successful proposals will clearly identify project deliverables and the benefit to other ARM Institute members.

Topic: Apprenticeship Programs
Focus: Develop apprenticeship programs that respond to specific needs of small and medium manufacturers (SMMs) in robotics and automation.

Development of apprenticeship programs to address the needs of SMMs is identified as a critical component to ensure a continued skilled pipeline of workers into industries that depend on advanced manufacturing to remain competitive. These apprenticeship programs have characteristics such as paid training opportunities and work-based learning that complement course-based workforce development programs. The goal of this topic is to create sustainable apprenticeship programs that specifically incorporate “earn and learn” training opportunities in robotics and automation technologies. Such programs may be customized to regional workforce needs, while ideally being extensible for adoption nationwide.

Technology Project Calls

This project call has closed. Download our Project Portfolio to view the projects selected. 

Pre-Solicitation Overview

To best protect and pursue our interests at home and abroad, the United States relies on a robust and innovative domestic manufacturing sector. Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), a national, public-private partnership among leaders in industry, academia, and nonprofits, was established to develop, demonstrate and accelerate the early adoption of novel robotic solutions by funding technology and workforce training projects and by creating an ecosystem that advances robotics technology and education. Increased productivity gained by collaborative robotic automation will help create new jobs to build, manage, and maintain the robots, promote on-shoring by manufacturers, and replace dangerous jobs with safer jobs.

A successful plan to both energize and galvanize manufacturing ultimately comes down to identifying the key technologies that are both focused and have broad impact. The question becomes: which technologies to pursue? This raises the classic push-pull problem. On one hand, technologists have often developed technology for technology’s sake, without any regard for an application. Some may believe that this may lead to unintended uses and therefore new markets. Such a course may also lead to useless, and perhaps wasted or inefficient investment. On the other hand, using existing manufacturing needs to exclusively drive technology development will likely support a short-term need, but could limit creativity and therefore prevent high impact innovation from emerging. Our philosophy is to institute a hybrid policy where we identify technological thrust areas, identify manufacturing objectives and needs, break them down into component functions, and eventually map these components back to the technical thrust areas. The idea is that technological development occurs in a scaffold of manufacturing needs, with the hope of addressing a short-term need as well as open the possibility for a high impact unforeseen future gain. To actualize this strategy, the ARM periodically releases project calls that solicit solutions in the form of funded projects. Execution of these projects help explore and bridge between the push of technology and the pull of industry need.

CRITERIA
Proposed projects must develop within a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4-7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 4-7. Each project has a minimum of 1:1 cost sharing with deference to those with higher cost share. Projects must be industry-led and address an industry need. Projects must develop or integrate innovation. A typical award would have a budget of $500,000 in federal funding over 12 months (with 1:1 cost sharing, this means a $1,000,000 total budget). Projects of $750K will be considered at 18 months with good justification. In addition, smaller project sizes and durations will be seriously considered. Please note that the topics described below are very broad and offerors should submit a proposal focusing on specific technology areas and gaps. We do not expect projects to comprehensively solve an entire topic area, address all technology thrust areas or solve all the manufacturing objectives. Successful proposals will clearly identify project deliverables and the benefit to other ARM Institute members.

TOPICS
The following is an overview of the list of the eight topics to be released in the Technology Project Call on May 15, 2018. These include the same seven topics from the primary data call released in November of last year together with one new topic focused on software.

Topic 1: Identifying and Packing Objects
Focus: Develop mechanisms, algorithms and systems to organize parts for highly time-efficient use and transport.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend significant time locating items (i.e., parts, tools, products to be shipped for a specified task) and then gathering, and organizing them into the necessary receptacles (e.g., carts, bins, boxes). This is typically done to ready those items for transport – either within the shop or to an external customer. The purpose of this topic is to develop a collaborative robot capable of assisting workers with these activities.

Topic 2: Unloading and unpacking objects 
Focus: Automate the currently low-value, but necessary, time-consuming task of unloading items received and transferring to a desired location.
The act of unloading and unpacking is a major use of time for manufacturing and logistics workers. Parts, components and tools are typically made in different locations – often by suppliers. These items arrive at factories and distribution centers on trucks or in large container boxes, which must be unloaded and correctly triaged to the appropriate sections of a factory or warehouse. The goal of this topic is to develop a robotic solution that can enable workers to be more productive while executing this task.

Topic 3: Transport and Delivery through a Complex, Crowded Floor
Focus: Develop systems capability of transporting objects through cluttered spaces, both safely and efficiently, using low-cost technologies.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend a substantial amount of time transporting items such as tools, materials, and pallets around factories, warehouses and distribution centers. This may be done either on foot (e.g., pushing a dolly) or using a vehicle (e.g., driving a forklift). The goal of this topic is to automate these transportation and delivery related activities, freeing up workers’ time to focus on higher value-added tasks.

Topic 4: Inspection of Non-standard Materials 
Focus: Provide tools that assist or automate the inspection of soft, malleable, non-rigid objects to lower cost and improve product quality.

Human inspectors are highly efficient at recognizing minor imperfections and/or pattern variations, even when conditions are not standardized. As such, human inspection remains the industry practice for non-standard materials (e.g., fabrics, composites). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic inspection system for non-standard materials that augments and increases the efficiency of a human inspector.

Topic 5: Tracking and Traceability of Components 
Focus: Using robotics and vision systems, reduce the cost to automate the tracking of components in inventory and in the supply chain.

Developing and maintaining a clear view of the supply chain and inventory is a business mandate in all sectors of manufacturing and logistics. Additionally, in sectors such as aircraft and automotive manufacturing, traceability of individual parts can also be a legal requirement with laws dictating that manufacturers must maintain precise records detailing parts and components that go into each finished product. Currently, substantial human time and effort is spent on the ongoing collection of these data. Available technology aimed at streamlining the process is either costly (e.g., RFID) or does not entirely eliminate the human element (e.g., bar codes, direct part marking). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic vision system that reduces the time and effort American workers spend on this activity, enabling companies to develop a clearer view of their supply chain with reduced employee effort.

Topic 6: Surface Treatments
Focus: Advance robotics to significantly reduce the systems cost of manual surface treatment processes such as sanding and polishing of components.

The current manual nature of many surface treatment processes in manufacturing operations results in ergonomic issues due to repetitive motion; health concerns stemming from dust or chemical exposure; high levels of scrap, rework and repair because of inconsistencies in surface preparation; and significant variability in cycle time due to differences in the human element. The aim of this topic is to develop a collaborative surface treatment robot to assist the worker by eliminating some of these drawbacks while enhancing consistency and increasing efficiency in one or more of these manufacturing processes. Projects addressing this topic should focus on a specific surface treatment application and end in a demonstration, however the developed technology should be easily reconfigurable to perform other surface treatment processes.

Topic 7: Manipulating Compliant Materials
Focus: Advance robotics to meet product quality and demand for compliant components to address shortages of skilled labor and increasingly high labor demands.

Fabrication of parts consisting of a composite, textile or wire is a key process to realize components in many transportation applications like automobiles and airplanes as well as many defense applications such as body armors, ground vehicles and UAVs. Currently, composite, textile and wire harness fabrication in these applications require a significant degree of manual labor. The availability of skilled workers often imposes constraints on the consistency of part quality and on production lead-time. In addition, the ever-increasing size of composite components places additional demands on workers and on the quality of the product.

NEW TOPIC AREA
In addition to the same topics identified in the primary call, this supplemental call introduces a new topic centered on software enablers. Projects in this area are primarily focused on software tools, packages, processes, architectures, simulation and visualization environments that develop and enhance the foundations of a health robotic ecosystem and enable development across a wide set of manufacturing functional areas.

Topic 8: Software Interoperability 
Focus: Enable interoperability among a variety of different robotic software frameworks and hardware interfaces.

Interoperability has the benefit of reducing costs while advancing functionality and improving performance. Interoperability is not limited to common protocols, but rather captures high level interfaces that enable “plug and play” capabilities across hardware and software.  This project seeks to obtain interoperability by demonstrating key quality attributes such as: modularity, granularity, and reuse.  Example demonstrations of these attributes include, but are not limited to, demonstration on varied hardware/software platforms, ease and efficiency of development and deployment under different use cases, and software analysis metrics for complexity and structure.

This project call has closed. Download our Project Portfolio to view the selected projects.

Criteria
Proposed projects must be at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4-7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 4-7 at the start of the proposed project (DoD MRL guidance is located at www.dodmrl.com). Each project has a minimum of 1:1 cost sharing. A typical award would have a budget of $750,000 in federal funding over 18 months (with 1:1 cost sharing, this means a $1,500,000 total budget). However, smaller project sizes and durations will be considered. Please note that the topics described below are very broad and offerors should submit a proposal focusing on specific technology areas and gaps; we do not expect projects to comprehensively solve an entire topic area. Successful proposals will clearly identify project deliverables and the benefit to other ARM Institute members.

Topic 1: Identifying and Packing Objects
Focus: Develop mechanisms, algorithms and systems to organize parts for highly time-efficient use and transport.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend significant time locating items (i.e., parts, tools, products to be shipped for a specified task) and then gathering, and organizing them into the necessary receptacles (e.g., carts, bins, boxes). This is typically done to ready those items for transport – either within the shop or to an external customer. The purpose of this topic is to develop a collaborative robot capable of assisting workers with these activities.

Topic 2: Unloading and unpacking objects
Focus: Automate the currently low-value, but necessary, time-consuming task of unloading items received and transferring to a desired location.

The act of unloading and unpacking is a major use of time for manufacturing and logistics workers. Parts, components and tools are typically made in different locations – often by suppliers. These items arrive at factories and distribution centers on trucks or in large container boxes, which must be unloaded and correctly triaged to the appropriate sections of a factory or warehouse. The goal of this topic is to develop a robotic solution that can enable workers to be more productive while executing this task.

Topic 3: Transport and Delivery through a Complex, Crowded Floor
Focus: Develop systems capability of transporting objects through cluttered spaces, both safely and efficiently, using low-cost technologies.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend a substantial amount of time transporting items such as tools, materials, and pallets around factories, warehouses and distribution centers. This may be done either on foot (e.g., pushing a dolly) or using a vehicle (e.g., driving a forklift). The goal of this topic is to automate these transportation and delivery related activities, freeing up workers’ time to focus on higher value-added tasks.

Topic 4: Inspection of Non-standard Materials
Focus: Provide tools that assist or automate the inspection of soft, malleable, non-rigid objects to lower cost and improve product quality.

Human inspectors are highly efficient at recognizing minor imperfections and/or pattern variations, even when conditions are not standardized. As such, human inspection remains the industry practice for non-standard materials (e.g., fabrics, composites). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic inspection system for non-standard materials that augments and increases the efficiency of a human inspector.

Topic 5: Tracking and Traceability of Components
Focus: Using robotics and vision systems, reduce the cost to automate the tracking of components in inventory and in the supply chain.

Developing and maintaining a clear view of the supply chain and inventory is a business mandate in all sectors of manufacturing and logistics. Additionally, in sectors such as aircraft and automotive manufacturing, traceability of individual parts can also be a legal requirement with laws dictating that manufacturers must maintain precise records detailing parts and components that go into each finished product. Currently, substantial human time and effort is spent on the ongoing collection of these data. Available technology aimed at streamlining the process is either costly (e.g., RFID) or does not entirely eliminate the human element (e.g., bar codes, direct part marking). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic vision system that reduces the time and effort American workers spend on this activity, enabling companies to develop a clearer view of their supply chain with reduced employee effort.

Topic 6: Surface Treatments
Focus: Advance robotics to significantly reduce the systems cost of manual surface treatment processes such as sanding and polishing of components.

The current manual nature of many surface treatment processes in manufacturing operations results in ergonomic issues due to repetitive motion; health concerns stemming from dust or chemical exposure; high levels of scrap, rework and repair because of inconsistencies in surface preparation; and significant variability in cycle time due to differences in the human element. The aim of this topic is to develop a collaborative surface treatment robot to assist the worker by eliminating some of these drawbacks while enhancing consistency and increasing efficiency in one or more of these manufacturing processes. Projects addressing this topic should focus on a specific surface treatment application and end in a demonstration, however the developed technology should be easily reconfigurable to perform other surface treatment processes.

Topic 7: Manipulating Compliant Materials
Focus: Advance robotics to meet product quality and demand for compliant components to address shortages of skilled labor and increasingly high labor demands.

Fabrication of parts consisting of a composite, textile or wire is a key process to realize components in many transportation applications like automobiles and airplanes as well as many defense applications such as body armors, ground vehicles and UAVs. Currently, composite, textile and wire harness fabrication in these applications require a significant degree of manual labor. The availability of skilled workers often imposes constraints on the consistency of part quality and on production lead-time. In addition, the ever-increasing size of composite components places additional demands on workers and on the quality of the product.