Walmart Pledges $10 Million to Make U.S. Manufacturing More Cost-Competitive
Walmart has been talking about new support for U.S. manufacturing lately. This summer, the company announced that it has set up the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, with the added participation of the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Its goal is to help develop new methods of cost-effective production of the types of consumer products sold in their stores, especially textiles. Projects for improving common manufacturing processes with broad application to many types of consumer products are also being sought. The fund will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years.
This year, seven leading research and development institutions were awarded a total of $4 million in grants. Three of the 2014 grants are for improvements in mold making, and for cost effective methods of manufacturing motor systems:
- Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) will be developing new optimization methods for metal 3-D printing, which is currently about 50 percent more expensive than machining. New methods of optimizing design could reduce costs by 30 percent and increase performance 20 percent.
- Oregon State University will develop novel alternative mold fabricating approaches, and evaluate them for functionality, precision, and cost reduction potential.
- University of Texas at Arlington is developing novel methods for autonomous manufacturing and assembly of small motors.
Four other grants support a revival of textile manufacturing in the U.S.:
- Georgia Tech Research Corporation will be working on thread-count-based fabric motion control for the automated production of sewn goods.
- North Carolina State University College of Textiles is seeking new technologies for fabric printing and cut-and-sew automation.
- Texas Tech University will be doing research on cotton breeding and biotechnology, as well as on textile manufacturing, dyeing, and finishing.
- University of Georgia Research Foundation is working on new approaches to reduce, and perhaps eliminate, consumption of water in dyeing fabrics and yarns.
This $10 million is a good investment in manufacturing’s future. So is Walmart’s commitment to buy $250 billion in products that support American jobs over the next few years. Let’s hope Walmart will continue leveraging its profitability and purchasing power to support the future of American manufacturing. Learn more about Walmart and manufacturing here.
Karen Wilhelm has worked in the manufacturing industry for 25 years, and blogs at Lean Reflections, which has been named as one of the top ten lean blogs on the web.