Each military service has a manufacturing technology (MANTECH) function, and I recently visited one at the Navy-Industry Day in Washington. "Awesome, Dude!" is not really my expressive style, but you get the idea. Managed by Deputy Under Secretary for Defense, DOD MANTECH began in the late 1960s and since has contributed greatly to defense-essential manufacturing processes, enabling cost-effective transition of new technology to military and subsequent civil use with reduced life-cycle costs and assured high quality products. Within Navy, criteria for MANTECH programs are that projects pertain to specific needs; have significant, positive impact on manufacturing across the U.S. industrial base; be sufficiently difficult to warrant expenditures; are not duplicative of other military or industrial work; have strong commitment via defined transition to users; and has direct benefit for multiple Navy or other defense agency programs and the private sector. If your firm provides items to the Navy supply chain, and you believe fabrication processes might be improved, you may be a MANTECH candidate. Check the web sites shown as you explore this concept.

The Best Manufacturing Practices program began in 1985 to foster identification, validation and sharing of best practices. Core competences of BMP are on-site, no-cost, voluntary surveys of your operation. Ten regional centers offer technical references, a technical risk identification and mitigation system, and data bases describing 125 surveys and 5000 practices can be found at www.bmpcoe.org. This is just one of many centers of excellence described by Navy at www.navymantech.com and the annual Defense Manufacturing Conference, traditionally held the week after Thanksgiving, with sponsorship alternating between military services (see http://www.dodmantech.com.)

Of special, potential interest to readers of this journal are six other centers:

  • Center for Naval Shipbuilding Technology (www.cnst.us) Operated and managed by Advanced Technology Institute in Charleston, S.C., CNST efforts focus on development and deployment of ship building and repair technologies that improve productivity and reduce costs.
  • Composite Manufacturing Technology Center (www.cmtc.org) The CMTC is located in Seneca, S.C., and together with a sister organization (The Composites Consortium) serves prime contractors, industry suppliers and universities in improving technology for organic, ceramic, and metallic composites.
  • Institute for Manufacturing and Sustainment Technologies (www.arl.psu.edu/centers) The iMAST is located at State College, Pa., and specializes in materials processing (including laser treatment and cutting), system monitoring, repair and sustainment.
  • Navy Joining Center (www.ewi.org/njc) Operated by Edison Welding Institute in Columbus, Ohio, NJC focuses on materials welding and joining.
  • National Surface Treatment Center (www.nstcenter.com) This center in Louisville, Ky., focuses on surface preservation, coating, inspection and treatment of metals.
  • National Center for Excellence in Metalworking Technology (www.ncemt.ctc.com) Established in 1988, the NCEMT is located in Johnstown, Pa., and is operated by Concurrent Technologies Corporation. This center specializes in process optimization (advanced forming, heat treatment, secondary remelting, powder metallurgy), technology transition and metalworking. About mid-September NCEMT will open a new low cost titanium database at this website.

These centers of excellence offer wonderful competence and are a resource to use for qualified manufactures. However, there are other laboratories that certainly provide industry with venues for contracting via Broad Agency Announcement or Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, the BAA or CRADA www.fedbizopps.gov. It is worth review to see www.npt.nuwc.navy.mil for technology partnership opportunities or www.nrl.navy.mil for the Naval Research Lab (Materials Science Division), both with metallurgy interests.

But of equal (ultimately greater) importance compared to technical matters are business issues. You are referred to two sources. The first is Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technology (C-CAT) in San Diego (www.ccatsandiego.org). C-CAT is funded by Navy to assist (especially small) businesses to define and plan exploitation of commercial interests. A second is Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization (http://ottc.csusb.edu) at San Bernadino, Calif. These two centers assist private industry in preparation of market and business plans at no charge to the company and can assist in strategic partnering and finding investment sources.

My job here is to tell you what I saw and heard, not to recommend. As you check it out, understand the phrase "caveat emptor" that protects prey from predator. But my view is that this is a good deal worth a look.