Marquette University and A. O. Smith Corporation have agreed to lead a top-level national initiative aimed at ensuring the continued global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. Focusing on water and manufacturing, the initiative will develop a sector study that includes evaluating the use and re-use of water, the energy-water nexus, identifying water-use related risk and highlighting new technologies for water use efficiency, in addition to exploring policies for water-manufacturing and energy across the United States.
This initiative is part of a larger action plan known as the U.S. Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership (EMCP), a national effort of the Council on Competitiveness. It will solidify the Milwaukee region’s strength in both water and manufacturing, combining faculty expertise from Marquette and other academic institutions with A. O. Smith’s energy-efficient solutions in water heating and water treatment products as well as process technology innovations.
“It is an incredible honor to join a national leadership effort that will shape solutions for the most complex water issues facing businesses from coast to coast,” Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said. “We look forward to convening the brightest minds from both the public and private sectors to develop a bold and innovative action plan that will drive our country’s manufacturing sector forward.”
Marquette and A. O. Smith will form a team of experts that will work for the next year to develop the sector study that ultimately will be delivered to the next President of the United States and Congress to help define America’s energy and manufacturing agenda, technology and policies related to water.
“The availability of fresh water to large portions of the world is becoming a serious global problem,” Ajita G. Rajendra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of A. O. Smith Corporation, commented. “With this need come opportunities for manufacturers to address the issue with new products and innovative fresh water technologies. We hope to do our part to ensure that U.S. manufacturing can play a role in this initiative.”
“As the Council on Competitiveness explores the tremendous potential to the U.S. economy of the convergence of low cost abundant energy with a manufacturing renaissance, analyses like those being led by Marquette University and A. O. Smith are critical to our understanding of the potential opportunities being created and the policy implications that can either turbo-charge growth or stand in its way,” said Council on Competitiveness President and Chief Executive Officer Deborah Wince-Smith.
Ensuring U.S. competitiveness
Lovell and Rajendra will lead the water and manufacturing team to conduct an analysis that focuses on four pillars: infrastructure, talent, new technology and investment.
Water is integral to manufacturing operations as a raw material, a process component, or both. To gain a competitive advantage companies must strategically manage water across the supply chain. The EMCP study will uncover opportunities for developing a more efficient and productive use of water in the manufacturing sector, evaluate water use and re-use and identify water use-related risks. Policy strategies and best practices are to be included as well as an assessment of current and new technologies, potentially including; advanced sensors for metering and monitoring, new and novel materials, Internet of Things and new methods and technology for waste water treatment, re-use, and purification.
In addition to their specific focus on water and manufacturing, Lovell and Rajendra also will serve on the national EMCP steering committee. EMCP combines leaders from the private sector, academia, labor and national laboratories and includes representation from the top leaders at Whirlpool Corporation, Deere & Company, Siemens Corporation, Exelon Corporation, the University of Texas at Austin and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, among others.
Carmel Ruffolo, Marquette’s Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation, and Robert J. Heideman, Senior Vice President-Chief Technology Officer at A. O. Smith, will serve on the EMCP national advisory committee.
As members of the Council on Competitiveness, Lovell and Ruffolo traveled to Washington, D.C., in September to take part in the American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit. The meeting included a broad coalition of national leaders who met to deepen understanding of the complexities of the energy and manufacturing industries and develop strategies to bolster the nation’s economy. Lovell was able to meet with leaders from academia, private industry and government, and have conversations with U.S. Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David T. Danielson and Council on Competitiveness President Wince-Smith.
Despite facing serious challenges over the past several decades, America’s manufacturing sector remains the nation’s primary driver of research and development, according to the U.S. Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership. The sector also continues to be the largest employer of science and engineering graduates in the country, and a central catalyst for technology innovation throughout the economy. With questions about the adequacy of water supplies in this country driving a search for technological solutions, water issues loom as both a challenge and opportunity for the U.S. economy.
Marquette’s role as a leader in solving water challenges
Over the past several years, Marquette University has emerged as a leader in developing solutions for the nation’s most complex water issues. A few key areas include:
- Research projects exploring the use and re-use of water; wastewater treatment; improved detection of water-borne contaminants; and new treatment and monitoring systems to remove consumer product chemicals from wastewater before they are released into Lake Michigan.
- Development of water technologies, including one for an efficient water-flow metering technology developed by a Marquette professor and licensed for development to Badger Meter Inc.
- New space on the sixth floor of the Global Water Center — custom-designed for faculty, staff and students to partner with leading water technology companies and government entities, such as the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District
A.O. Smith’s role as a leader as a global water technology company
In addition to being North America’s leading manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers, A. O. Smith is a growing leader in the water treatment industry in China, India, and other parts of the world. Its engineers in China and the U.S. have developed a patented technology that significantly increases the amount of fresh water delivered by reverse osmosis water purification equipment while prolonging membrane life. Products employing this technology are currently marketed in China, India, and Vietnam.
The company has been a leader in introducing energy-efficient technologies for residential and commercial water heating products for more than 35 years and today offers the most extensive line of high-efficiency water heaters (including those using renewable technology) on the market. The company continues to invest in its engineering resources, most notably at its Corporate Technology Center in Milwaukee, Wis., with special emphasis on water purification and sensor technologies.
A.O. Smith was one of the founders of the Milwaukee Water Council, a one-of-a-kind collaboration between business, government, and education to raise the awareness of the need for fresh water and support companies that are developing new technologies in the areas of fresh water science.
About the Council on Competitiveness
The Council on Competitiveness is the only group of corporate CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and directors of national laboratories committed to the future prosperity of all Americans and enhanced U.S. competitiveness in the global economy through the creation of high-value economic activity in the United States. The Council is a non-partisan and non-governmental organization.