Q&A with Mary Ellen Doran

Director of Emerging Technology at AGMA

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Your position is fairly new. What happened in the industry to move the creation of that position forward?

It was a board directive as part of AGMA’s 2016 strategic plan. The Board of Directors made a strategic plan. And from this strategic plan they saw the need for members to understand what’s happening with all of these new emerging technologies that are coming into manufacturing. So, the board decided that they wanted to be aggressive and put in a fulltime position to develop information for the members, and the board actually chose the topics that I’m pursuing currently.

Those topics are 3D printing or additives with an emphasis on metal; electric drive technology, which is the newest one we added this year; the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), new materials; and robotics and automation.

What areas of emerging technologies is AGMA focusing on? Why those specific areas?

As a trade association, it’s our job to connect dots for our members. Hopefully, those dots will eventually lead to building bridges. With emerging technology, we started by having one emerging technology committee that met once a month for 12 months. The emerging technology committee was self-selected and individually invited members of AGMA member companies. In October 2018, we had our second face-to-face meeting, and at that meeting we established five separate subcommittees with five separate chairmen for each of the topics. Now we are building subcommittees that will do deeper dives into those topics.

How are emerging technologies shaping the gear manufacturing industry?

That is what we are working to help with: Manufacturers in general are getting hit from all sides by technology. They’re getting hit with new ways to make things, i.e. 3D printing. They’re hit by algorithms that are creating new alloys at record speed. They’re getting hit by their vendors wanting to have closed loop supply chains. Manufacturing is just getting hit by all sides; it’s being bombarded. And we’re working on providing information to our members so they can make much more informed decisions.

One example: The emerging technology committee has goals, and one of the goals is to bring emerging technology to the speakers stage at AGMA events. But it’s not just “bring a speaker.” At the SRN in October, we didn’t just have an electric drive speaker. We specifically went to a member company, Meritor, and asked them if John Bennett, who is their VP and CTO, could come and talk to the group about how Meritor is approaching electrification of drive trains — and he did. He literally told us what Meritor is doing with electrification of drive trains, because that is the kind of information our members need practical information on how new technology is hitting the marketplace, not just fluff. They need to know what’s happening within their peer companies, within their supplier companies, within their end-user markets.

Another example is we took the SRN on a tour to Fanuc America. We didn’t just take them so they could see the consumer or customer experience. We specifically asked Fanuc if they could present to us information on their use of IIoT, and they gave us a presentation on predictive maintenance solutions. We asked them if they could bring in the guy who buys gears for the robots they make in the United States, because it’s important for our members to see the market and to figure out how to get into those new markets. And they did; they gave us both of those presentations.

The other point that’s really interesting is, within the committees themselves, we are looking for thought leaders. In the new materials group, we have metallurgists; we have people that make powder metals; we have people that are developing alloys for 3D printing who are helping with the 3D printing group. We are talking with all of our steel providers, so they’re all on the same page and talking about development of new materials.

We’re inviting people who want to learn more to take part in committees. Because the members that are not experts are the greatest sounding board for the work that we’re doing. It’s a combination of members that need to learn this information. Then we have the experts who are telling us if we’re off the mark, and they can kind of knock us back onto the straight path.

The emerging technology committee is distinctly different from our technical committee. The goal of the emerging technology committee is to provide information. We do not do any testing; we are not doing anything that has to do with standards development. We are leaving that to the technical committees. We are just making sure that the information we are gathering is valid and that we are taking it in the right direction for the gear industry.

What is AGMA doing to make the industry more aware of these emerging technologies?

The ultimate goal is to provide our members with the opportunity to be informed in their decision making, so they don’t miss an opportunity.

Every Wednesday, we have a Tech Deck on the AGMA website. The tech deck is one article from each of the five topics from the past week. These are the five critical articles that, if you don’t read anything else that week, you should at least be aware of these five things.

The emerging technology committee is committed to providing speakers, so we assist in finding speakers for the FTM, the SRN, the annual meeting, and now a new conference in conjunction with our trade show: Motion + Power Technology Expo. The emerging technology committee is responsible for the emerging technology pavilion. We hope to have several more companies who will provide 20 minutes talk every day. 

MORE INFO  www.agma.org/emerging-technology