Business Report: Chicago Will Host Digital Manufacturing And Design Innovation Institute

By Ed Feldman
From the March/April 2014 issue

Amada Schaumburg
The design for the 133,000-square-foot Amada Solution Center in Schaumburg was inspired by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The center offers advanced training and development services.

President Obama has awarded Chicago a $70 million grant from the Department of Defense to build a $320-million Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.

The Digital Lab will be the nation’s flagship research institute in digital manufacturing and is expected to spur research and engineering growth in the Midwest. The Digital Lab will apply computing technologies to address the manufacturing challenges faced by the Department of Defense. The lab’s computing technologies will include mobile computing, cloud computing, and high-performance computing, the city said.

Three other innovation hubs are being built in Canton, MI near Detroit, Youngstown, OH and Raleigh, N.C. The Detroit-area consortium of businesses and universities, announced by the White House on the same day as the Chicago lab, will a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing.

Obama says the hubs will keep America at the cutting edge of technology and innovation, and help ensure the steady creation of good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing that will expand the middle class.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, representatives from UI Labs and World Business Chicago, and various industry partners who supported the winning bid were at the White House for the announcement.

“We started Illinois Manufacturing Lab with the University of Illinois. Our state invested in this and this helped us win the grant from the federal government,” Gov. Quinn said.

The digital lab’s experts, including specialists from universities and private firms, will use supercomputers to develop advanced manufacturing techniques. “People want to be on the front door where the newest designs are coming the newest innovations are coming,” Mayor Emanuel said, in a report posted on

The 18-month effort to prepare Chicago’s bid was led by Emanuel, UI Labs and World Business Chicago. Local universities also contributed to the effort. Support also came from huge defense contractors including GE, Lock- heed Martin, Rolls Royce and Boeing.

Sen. Durbin announced that the DOD awarded the grant to UI Labs, a partnership between public and private groups, including universities and manufacturers, which adds to the $250 million that UI Labs has already raised for the innovation hub.

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, to be build on the northern end of Goose Island, will research ways to make factories more efficient and improve military readiness, including the use of big data and supercomputing to solve manufacturing problems. Durbin says the lab will revolutionize the way the U.S. approaches manufacturing, making America more competitive globally.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (NCSA) will play a key role at the new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. The technologies produced at the lab will be used to make everything from consumer products to heavy machinery to equipment for the military.

The University of Illinois’ Top 5 College of Engineering and NCSA are key partners in the Digital Lab, with William King, an Abel Bliss Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, serving as the Digital Lab’s Chief Technical Officer.

Many of the Digital Lab’s industry partners already have strong connections with NCSA. Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere, Dow, GE, P&G and Rolls Royce are all members of NCSA’s Private Sector Program, which has served nearly 60 percent of manufacturers in the Fortune100. These collaborate with NCSA’s expert staff, as well as with hardware and software vendors, to address their digital challenges, including finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, extreme scaling of commercial and home-grown codes, multi-physics modeling and remote visualization.

“We’ve been helping the nation’s most sophisticated manufacturers with some of their biggest problems for more than 25 years, and our work with the Digital Lab is an extension of that,” says Merle Giles, head of NCSA’s PSP, in a posting on the center’s website.

NCSA also provides partners with access to powerful computing and data resources. The Private Sector Program has built and tuned the iForge cluster to address the specific needs of “power users” at leading manufacturing companies. Partners also have the opportunity to use the extreme-scale Blue Waters supercomputer, which offers hundreds of thousands of compute cores and can work with massive data sets.


One of the most successful industry-specific manufacturing hubs in the United States is located in an area known as the Golden Corridor, which stretches along I-90 in northern Illinois.

A burgeoning cluster of precision machine tool producers and their suppliers has taken root in the Corridor, centered on Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Elgin, and Rolling Meadows. Among the major precision tool makers to establish operations in the Golden Corridor are industry giants Mori Seiki, FANUC Robotics, Amada, BIG Kaiser and Mazak Optonics. Amada decided to place its Amada Solution Center in Schaumburg because it was impressed with the Golden Corridor’s reputation for fostering an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, key factors in attracting highly skilled workers.

The 133,000-square-foot Solution Center, the design of which was inspired by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, provides access to technological expertise and research, real-time demonstrations of metal fabrication systems, and advanced training and development to companies throughout North America.

The Golden Corridor Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (GCAMP), spearheaded by Hoffman Estates, began to come together four years ago in the wake of series of meetings between local manufacturers, toolmakers, educators and municipal economic development representatives in which the companies indicated the best help they could receive to spur job retention and future recruitment was in workforce development. The toolmakers said their customers—manufacturers—were telling them they would love to buy more tools but they could not find skilled workers to operate them.

Consequently, the economic developers ‘retooled’ their strategy to work with local secondary, post-secondary as well as workforce investment staff to develop more of a systemic approach to changing the perception of manufacturing as a career choice. From this emerged GCAMP, which focuses on promoting manufacturing to students who are just beginning to think about career choices. GCAMP operates in conjunction with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) along the I-90 Illinois corridor (Golden Corridor) from O’Hare International all the way out to Huntley, IL., and points north and south along the way.

Initially conceived as a “virtual” innovation park, GCAMP began to hold “myth-busting” events about manufacturing. The manufacturers opened their doors to middle school to high school students, teachers, career advisers and parents. They sponsored buses to transport students to national trade shows held at McCormick Place in Chicago, including IMTS and Fab Tech. They developed videos of the events for playback on local cable access and other formats like YouTube for students and parents, and launched a web site:

In 2013, the group was awarded a Technical Assistance grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). It produced a comprehensive report on the importance of manufacturing for the Corridor, a communications and marketing report, sustainability report and a strategic plan.

GCAMP has $30,000 in funding commitments from three municipalities, to be matched by the private sector. The organization strives to create a sustainable manufacturing workforce in the region. GCAMP helped convince Harper Community College to create an advanced manufacturing program. The group is work closely with a local WIA program on a youth manufacturing careers internship program (MCIP). The program allows 18-21 year olds meeting WIA qualifications have their 6-8 week manufacturing internship paid for by program funds at local companies. About 70 percent of participants have gone on to work or continue their education on a manufacturing path. The program has gotten national recognition and is expanding to adjacent counties in the metro area. The newly formalized (as a non-profit) GCAMP organization hosts open houses to accommodate daytime student field trips, evening open houses for students and parents, and plans to send students to the September 2014 IMTS show in Chicago.


Method, a maker of personal care products, has broken ground in Chicago for its first U.S manufacturing plant.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Method officials and architect William McDonough to unveil designs for Method’s first manufacturing facility in the U.S., located in the City’s Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. The new facility is expected to bring nearly 100 new jobs to the City of Chicago and Method plans to recruit local residents throughout the hiring process for the plant’s workforce.

“The City of Chicago continues to attract companies looking to access our highly skilled workforce, transportation system and diverse business climate,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Method choosing to build their state-of the-art manufacturing facility in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood is a major economic investment for the south side of the City. Method has made a significant commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability and I am proud they will open their doors in Chicago.”

Attracting and retaining manufacturing jobs is a key component of the city’s economic development plan, the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, produced by World Business Chicago at the mayor’s request. Promoting green jobs in our neighborhoods is also a key focus of the plan. Method is building an advanced facility with the goal of being the first only LEED Platinum certified manufacturing plant in its industry. Method’s choice demonstrates the City of Chicago continues to be the ideal choice for cutting-edge companies.

“Building our world-class factory is an important evolution in our company’s growth and we hope it serves as a model of what manufacturing and urban revitalization looks like in the 21st century,” said Drew Fraser, CEO of Method. “We aim to show that sustainable business is better business by creating an advanced, flexible and cost-effective facility that will fuel both the growth of our business and the renewal of the Pullman area.”

Designed by William McDonough + Partners, the plant features a refurbished 230 foot wind turbine will generate a significant portion of the plant’s energy. The turbine, combined with the solar energy from solar panels in the parking lot and on the building, will provide approximately half of the facility’s annual electrical needs. Method also plans to have a functional roof with urban agriculture to benefit the local community.

“Method’s new facility is a clean home—using clean energy, water and materials to create innovative household products,” said architect and sustainability leader, William McDonough. “The implications of ‘industrial hygiene’ at this scale are beneficial to communities; it provides jobs and it is a facility that is a healthy, delightful neighbor. Entrepreneurial companies like Method are modeling a new, clean industrial model for our country. It’s a genuine pleasure to work with them.”

Five of the 22 acres Method occupies will house buildings while the remaining acreage will remain as greenery that Method maintains. A sidewalk will be built around the facility, instead of a fence, and only native trees and perennials will be planted throughout the area using non-irrigated, sustainable landscaping. The tree selection for planting is based off the natural pre-settlement oak-hickory savannah that once inhabited the Pullman area and will provide array of brilliant fall color.

“We have built Method to be the business of tomorrow, aligning our interest as a business with the interest of society and the environment so that the bigger we get, the more good we do,” said Adam Lowry, co-founder and chief-greenskeeper of Method. “Our plant is the next step in this journey and we’re incredibly grateful to the City of Chicago and State of Illinois for their partnership and support in bringing this vision to life.”

Construction on the facility is expected to continue throughout the year, with the facility expected to open in early 2015. The facility will include the manufacturing and bottling of formulas for both Method and its sister eco-cleaning brand, Ecover, as well as an on-site distribution center.

Founded in 2000, Method is the pioneer of premium planet-friendly and design-driven home, fabric and personal care products. Formulated with naturally derived, biodegradable ingredients, Method cleaners put the hurt on dirt without doing harm to people, creatures or the planet. Today, Method can
be found in more than 40,000 retail locations throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Major national retailers include Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers and Kroger.


Illinois is buying more renewable energy than any other state in the nation, which has reduced pollution by the equivalent of removing a million cars from the road over the past few years, according to a report national and state environmental groups.

A 2009 state law allowed communities to buy their own electricity, rather than relying on a central purchasing agency. Since then, more than 600 Illinois cities and towns have adopted aggregation, which allows them to bundle residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers.

Of those, 91 are providing 100 percent renewable energy, either by buying it directly or buying credits that help fund renewable energy development, the report says.

Five other states—California, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island—also allow communities to buy electricity, but none comes close to matching the renewable energy Illinois is purchasing, said Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach at the World Wildlife Fund.

Buying renewable energy credits encourages development of power sources such as wind and solar, she said. The next step is for more cities to buy renewable energy directly, which will help create jobs in Illinois while benefiting the environment.


Through a partnership between the City of Chicago and Google, free wireless service is now available at two of Chicago’s largest and busiest parks: Garfield Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.

The new network will enable hundreds of thousands of people to get online and will enhance the park experience, improve civic engagement, and offer park patrons and community residents the benefit of extended connectivity.

“This partnership with Google supports our efforts to boost wireless services to public places in neighborhoods across the City,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Increasing the access to high speed internet in Chicago homes, businesses and public places
like our parks helps our residents to stay better connected and fortifies our reputation as a tech-savvy City.”

“Google is proud to join with Mayor Emanuel’s goal to ensure that the City of Chicago is one of the most connected cities in the world,” said Jim Lecinski, Vice President of Customer Solutions at Google Chicago. “We know that the Internet has the power to not only connect people around the world but also bring together communities like the Garfield Park and South Shore which have so much to offer. And we know the Internet is a powerful tool for education, businesses and for connecting people around the world.”

Internet access around Garfield Park will extend to the park’s tennis court, artificial turf area, and the nearby Garfield Park Conservatory located at 300 N. Central Park Avenue. Wireless access around the South Shore Cultural Center will include the main building and beach house area.

Over the last 14 years, Google’s Chicago Offices have gone from a staff of two to more than 500 employees representing all sorts of key organizations in the company, including Large Customer Sales, Google Enterprise, the Google Transparency Report and more.

This latest venture is part of the Broadband Challenge in which Mayor Emanuel seeks to create a gigabit speed fiber network in targeted commercial and industrial corridors, establish free wireless service in parks and public spaces and increase accessibility and affordability of internet service in underserved areas across the city.
To support these efforts, the City is leveraging assets, including existing City-owned fiber; right of way access to freight tunnels and sewers; coordination with planned City construction work to modernize water and sewer infrastructure; and other investments.