Reflection Serves as Guiding Force for Developing America Makes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The past year served as a time for reflection for America Makes, Executive Director John Wilczynski said at the additive manufacturing group’s Technical Review & Exchange meeting Tuesday.

Over the course of 2020, America Makes completed an organization-wide SWOT analysis that informs a wide range of initiatives across the organization, from internal progress to measuring the success of a partnership with the Air Force.

The SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – analysis provided  more than 300 pieces of feedback that were sorted into three key areas: value proposition, operations and strategic positioning.

On the value operations front, Wilczynski said, the organization is examining how it can create a diverse membership and partnerships that create a good return for members. For operations, the focus is on improving communications to better engage members.

And for strategic positioning, America Makes is taking a hard look at what the organization does for members and how it communicates its mission.

“In all the interaction that took place in feeding those inputs back to our larger team, we started to understand that people are unsure of what exactly we’re working on or where we should be working,” Wilczynski said. “Depending on the industry point of view or technology point of view they’re coming from, they have different perspectives. It’s a key challenge for us to best identify what we focus on, how we focus on it and how we communicate it to our membership.”

The SWOT analysis also serves to guide America Makes’ strategic initiatives, which Wilczynski outlined at last year’s Members and Meeting and Exchange. Divided into four areas, the additive manufacturing organization is focusing on strategic positions through the creation of its 2025 Vision and Strategy plan due to be released in May, strategic communications through the creation of usable content for members in July, strategic leadership through the release of its biannual report in October and, finally, upgrades to its building in downtown Youngstown.

“We’re moving from America Makes 1.0, if you will, to a new concept that’s less focused on equipment and more on the collaboration side of our mission. You’ll start to see that come together. We’ve got some conceptual drawings together and we’re working through the permitting process,” he said. “You’ll start to see that through the buildout of a collaborative space. We don’t intend to compete with members. We don’t do technical demonstrations on-site. We have the members who can meet that need.”

Through a $322 million cooperation agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory, America Makes’ is also developing the Annual Program Plan to make progress toward the 100-plus goals it’s expected to make progress toward. Those goals span six areas: technology, memberships, communications, partnerships, operations and education/workforce development. 

Among the objectives within each area are expanding the scope of America Makes’ information assets and creating industry standards (technology), highlighting success stories (communications) and generating national, state and regional engagement in additive manufacturing careers (education and workforce development).

“If we start with technology – an area we’ve put lots of energy from the very beginning – that’s not stopping. We’ll always be focused on technology and technology development, the same as it is on workforce and education development,” Wilczynski said. “One thing we heard loudly in the SWOT analysis was focus – doing what we do and doing it well. We’ll focus on growing the scope of our information assets. We’ve been working over the past year on collecting them and understanding what’s available.”

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