Depending on which survey or poll you read, manufacturers are either on the edge of despair over the workforce and attracting viable candidates or euphoric over tax cuts and improved capital spending. However, the real state of manufacturing in the process industries today is far more balanced and optimistic than pundits would have you believe. After nearly two years of operation, the RAPID Manufacturing Institute continues to foster innovation and productivity enhancements through the work of over 70 members, all of whom are actively engaged in building a robust community focused on developing and commercializing new process intensification (PI) and modular process technologies.
RAPID’s CEO, William (Bill) Grieco, has an accomplished career as a senior executive leading teams in R&D, with a focus on product and process development and commercialization. Prior to joining RAPID, he was the Vice President of Energy & Environment at Southern Research, a nonprofit research institute based in Alabama, where he transformed the business from serving only the fossil utility sector into a boutique innovation testing, development, and consulting organization focused on reducing the environmental footprint of energy generation and chemicals production.
After four months in his new role, we sat down with Bill to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing advanced manufacturing in general and the chemical process industries in particular:
RMB: What attracted you to RAPID and, after four months on the job, how have your perceptions changed or shifted?
Making U.S. manufacturing more agile and competitive in the global market is really important to me. Being able to do that on a national stage through RAPID is what brought me to the role. While I’ve spent the bulk of my career in R&D, the innovation work that I’ve led over the years always focused on improving existing or developing new-to-the-world products and processes. That work only mattered when the products and processes that my teams and I invented were commercialized and put into production. When that happens, workers in manufacturing plants stay employed and often their companies grow, manufacturing plants expand, and new jobs are created. I’ve come to appreciate how truly important RAPID’s role is! We are a nexus between process innovation, economic development and job creation.