ARM Institute Year in Review

Dear ARM Institute Community,

The year 2020 surprised all of us with unprecedented challenges, requiring us to pivot and operate in unchartered waters. Despite that, it has been a very exciting and productive year for the ARM Institute community. Multiple project calls were accomplished, some of them at a record pace to create technology related to COVID-19. We increased our visibility in a variety of forums including the Joint Robotics Organization for Building Organic Technologies (JROBOT), the Air Force Advanced Manufacturing Olympics (AF AMO), the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) and many others. We applied for several new funding opportunities with different areas of the Department of Defense as well as other government agencies, launched the testing of the AMS/Endorsement system, kicked off multiple enhancements in our Member Community Website, and, with your valuable participation, held a successful and fully virtual Members Meeting. We were proud to join with our colleagues at four other Institutes to propose a number of joint projects. In addition, our team was selected as a finalist for the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Tech 50 Awards and the 2020 Best Places to Work Award in Western Pennsylvania.

With respect to COVID-19, we continue to work remotely, which has delayed implementing meaningful activity in Mill 19 and has required us to develop virtual methods for supporting the very important work of networking and communications. However, we joined many of the other Institutes in using our consortium to execute over $5 Million of projects dedicated to battling the virus. Despite COVID-19, we have added a number of new ARM Members throughout the year.

Over the summer, we set a strategic planning process in motion that I have described in multiple forums, to define services and products that will provide a sustainable future when our initial contract with the government has run its course. We hope to close out this process in the spring timeframe. Most of you will have seen the new Mission and Vision for the ARM Institute that arose from this process:

Our Mission:

The ARM Institute accelerates the development and adoption of innovative robotics technologies that are the foundation of every advanced manufacturing activity today and in the future. We leverage a unique, robust and diverse ecosystem of partners across industry, academia and government to:

  • Make robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence more accessible to U.S. manufacturers large and small
  • Train and empower the manufacturing workforce
  • Strengthen our economy and global competitiveness
  • Elevate our national security and resilience

Our Vision for the ARM Institute:

Leading the way to a future where people and robots work together to respond to our nation’s greatest challenges and to develop and produce the world’s most desired products.

Here are further details recapping a busy but ultimately gratifying 2020:

Membership

It was a record year for ARM Membership. We not only retained virtually all of our members during this challenging period of disruptions but grew our membership to 289 as of this writing. We implemented a new payment plan for members to help struggling organizations stay current and particularly ensure that all organizations were able to remain part of the ARM Member ecosystem.

Operations

The team pivoted in response to COVID-19 to put more emphasis on digital engagement through a new webinar series for both members-only and for the public, as well as hosting our first large-scale virtual event: the 2020 Annual Member Meeting. The Annual Member Meeting resulted in record attendance, more sessions than previously offered, and many new member contacts as more people were able to attend without the cost of travel and accommodations. Our social footprint continued its steady growth as we reached 5,748 LinkedIn followers and over 1,400 Twitter followers. We also began improvements of the digital ARM Member Community in direct response to your feedback, including greater digital networking capabilities and greater project capabilities.

Government Relationships

We continued building new government relationships. In February 2020, we hosted the Joint Robotics Organization for Building Organic Technologies (JROBOT) group of the Department of Defense, managing the event logistics and project call process. The ARM EWD team worked with the military services in 2 JROBOT sessions this year to create 3 job classifications leveraging the ARM Robotic Technician Competency Framework. We continued this relationship in the summer during their August 2020 virtual conference. Beyond the Department of Defense, we have been engaging multiple other government departments including the Department of Labor, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the International Trade Association for potential collaborations and future funding vehicles, although the DoD will certainly remain our primary partner.

 

 

Technology

Our ecosystem enabled us to rapidly assemble talent for over $5M of awards under the COVID-19 CARES Act project call. We completed the process in under 45 days from RFP to Award, resulting in 22 members across 12 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico working on important technology developments to battle the virus. We also processed a 60-day call process under a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) grant program, to support high-impact projects for COVID-19 pandemic response and were one of the few selected for a grant, resulting in a method to automate the COVID-19 testing process.

We have now launched over 60 technology projects since the Institute’s inception. To help steer the Institute into the future and shape project calls, the tech team engaged with membership during four road-mapping workshops for the aerospace, automotive, logistic and textile industries. These in turn have led us to plan four additional “Deep Dive” Discovery Workshops in AI, autonomy, space, and hypersonics, as part of our strategic planning process.

Meanwhile, we adapted our program management processes to support our consortium teams struggling with access to their facilities and equipment and help them every way we could to successfully finish their projects.

Education and Workforce Development

Our largest efforts were surrounding the development of ARM’s “RoboticsCareer.org”, a public resource for U.S. manufacturing and DoD workforce focused on Industry 4.0 robotics career education and career pathways. The site will launch with nearly 10,000 educational programs representing approximately 2,000 training organizations. Simultaneously, we developed the ARM Endorsement Program that will provide an ARM “Seal of Approval” and that can be highlighted in the RoboticsCareer.org site. We successfully completed 7 more of the EWD project call projects which can be found in the newly published ARM EWD Project Output Guidebook found in the ARM Member Community portal. This serves as a career guidebook to help current and future workers navigate through the Industry 4.0 robotic career pathways and use the ARM funded EWD projects along the way. In addition to other Institutes, ARM was invited to partner with four of the six newly-designated Defense Manufacturing Community Support Programs (DMCSP) sponsored by the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA).

I would like to thank you for working with us to secure the future of robotics, autonomy, and artificial intelligence for our nation, truly the underpinnings of all advanced manufacturing activity. It has been my privilege to join you this year to do this important work. Please do not hesitate to send me your comments, thoughts, or suggestions as to how to make our consortium even better. I look forward to the opportunities that 2021 holds, with sincerest hopes for a year in which we can meet in person once again!

Regards,
Ira


ABOUT THE ARM INSTITUTE

The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute accelerates the development and adoption of robotics technologies that are the foundation of every advanced manufacturing activity today and in the future.  We leverage a unique, robust, and diverse ecosystem of partners across industry, academia and government to make robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence more accessible to U.S. manufacturers large and small, train and empower the manufacturing workforce, strengthen our economy and global competitiveness, and elevate our national security and resilience.  Founded in 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA by Carnegie Mellon University and operating as an independent non-profit funded by the Department of Defense, ARM is part of the DoD Manufacturing USA® network. Learn more at www.arminstitute.org.

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