GREENVILLE — Top-level executives from some of South Carolina’s largest and most influential companies came together in Greenville on Oct. 9 for an unprecedented forum on how higher education can best partner with industry to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers.

Clemson University President James P. Clements hosted the forum, an important step in an ongoing conversation between the higher education community and advanced manufacturers. Higher education officials are now working to create the research, education and outreach partnerships that will ensure advanced manufacturing remains successful in South Carolina for years to come.

Clemson University students work on advance manufacturing technology at the Vehicle Assembly Center in Greenville.

Clemson University students work on advance manufacturing technology at the Vehicle Assembly Center in Greenville.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

The six panelists were:

  • Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing;
  • Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America;
  • Scott Clark, chairman and president of Michelin North America;
  • Dochul Choi, senior vice president, global business and technology strategy, Samsung Electronics America;
  • Wolfgang Rubrecht, vice president, strategy and business development at Siemens; and
  • Tim Hardee, president of the South Carolina Technical College System.

Clements said the number of high-level executives who participated underscores the importance of higher education to the success of advanced manufacturing in South Carolina and beyond.

“Higher education plays an important role in moving new technologies to the marketplace and in creating a well-qualified workforce,” he said. “This forum provided a great opportunity to establish a dialogue with some of the state’s most influential advanced-manufacturing leaders. We look forward to continuing an important conversation that will ultimately lead to new and improved programs, helping promote job creation and economic growth.”

For states along the Interstate 85 corridor, manufacturing is a cornerstone of a combined $1.9-trillion regional economy, accounting for more than 1.57 million jobs in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

South Carolina alone has 239,500 manufacturing jobs, which is 11.7 percent of nonfarm employment, the association found.

The Oct. 9 forum is the latest in a series of Clemson efforts to support and accelerate advanced manufacturing. The organizing force behind those efforts is the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing, led by director Mark Johnson.

The Vehicle Assembly Center, an assembly line built for research, opened last spring as part of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Clemson officials announced last month they have received $3-million from the National Science Foundation to start a graduate education program in advanced manufacturing across the campus.

The forum helped clarify a plan for more action at Clemson and beyond, said Johnson, who is also the Thomas F. Hash ‘69 SmartState Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

“This forum was a critical step,” he said. “Private sector partners and educational institutions are now working together to build on this framework to ensure the region is successful in advanced manufacturing for years to come. Our homework assignment is to build cooperation between companies, colleges, universities and government working toward a shared goal: a stronger, more prosperous advanced manufacturing community.”

Nikolaos “Nick” Rigas, vice president for strategic initiatives and executive director of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, said the forum built on a long history of successful public-private partnerships in South Carolina.

“Our state continues to attract industries whose competitive advantage is based on advanced manufacturing technology, and the existing advanced manufacturers in our state are continuing to expand,” Rigas said. “One of the keys to their success and remaining globally competitive is the higher education community listening to the needs of industry and then creating the research-and-education programs that companies need to thrive. CU-ICAR and Deep Orange are excellent examples of this concept in action.”

The forum was called “A Vision for Advanced Manufacturing in the Region 1.0: A Framework for Competitive Growth.”

Johnson served as moderator, with questions for the panelists on advanced manufacturing issues. The audience was made up of leaders from colleges, universities, technical colleges, business and government.

Here is what the panelists are saying about the forum:

Knudt Flor: “A highly skilled, well-educated workforce is essential to secure the future of advanced manufacturing. As the need for technological innovation transforms the industry, this collaborative forum further developed the great partnerships with higher education and industry. In the end, preparing a workforce with the skills needed to be successful in the premium automotive industry and beyond.”

Mike Mansuetti: “The remarkable talent pipeline produced by the higher education community is essential for long-term success at Bosch. We value our partnerships with professors, students and graduates — the intellectual capital that enables growth throughout the advanced manufacturing community.”

Scott Clark: “In our 40-plus years of manufacturing in South Carolina, Michelin has benefited greatly from partnering with higher education to create a qualified and capable workforce. In today’s dynamic, digital environment, partnerships with higher education are more important than ever to ensure the future success of industry, the state and the nation. Michelin looks forward to finding new and creative ways to strengthen our educational partnerships to generate the workforce of the future.”

Dochul Choi: “Samsung is proud that in the span of just 15 months, we have announced a U.S. manufacturing facility in South Carolina, renovated it and launched two product lines. At each of these junctures, the key to our success has been access to the state’s highly skilled manufacturing workforce. We are excited to join manufacturing leaders from across the region to discuss ways to nurture and support the next generation of advanced manufacturing professionals in South Carolina well into the future. Doing so is essential to meeting the high demands and desires of customers across America, our fastest growing and most important home appliance market.”

Wolfgang Rubrecht: “Digitalization in manufacturing presents tremendous opportunities in South Carolina and the Southeast. The role of educational institutions is critical in promoting this mindset and building the talent base. This is why Siemens values strong partnerships with academic institutions in support of the human capital needs of manufacturers, including the upskilling of existing employees.”

Tim Hardee: “South Carolina has one of the fastest-growing advanced manufacturing industries in the country. This forum and collaborations like it help ensure we are meeting the workforce needs of industry. We look forward to learning more about how the higher education community can adapt to meet industry’s changing needs.”