AutoHarvest Tapped by New Supply Chain Initiative to Lead Online Component

8/27/13Follow @XconomyDET

AutoHarvest, a Southeast Michigan-based nonprofit website that aims to connect the auto industry with entrepreneurs and inventors, announced this week that is has been selected to facilitate the online efforts the new National Supply Chain Network Initiative (NSNI) pilot program, which came out of the Clinton Global Initiative. Other partners in the regional pilot program are GlobalFoundries, San Diego’s Connect, the Connectory, the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center, and the Center for Economic Growth.

Jayson Pankin, AutoHarvest’s CEO, says that the NSNI is charged with strengthening U.S. suppliers to bolster the country’s manufacturing base. What’s needed to grow manufacturing in the U.S., the Clinton Global Initiative determined, was a way for large manufacturers to connect with smaller suppliers, and for smaller suppliers to know where their potential markets are, and have the innovative tools to reach them.

The NSNI will also generally help provide direction through the use of an online network, which Pankin says AutoHarvest will facilitate. “How do we provide a scalable model?” Pankin asks. “We realized we needed both a virtual and physical strategy. In any connection model, you need to reach out and enroll people. We became a part of this effort because we can offer an actionable online community.”

The physical part of NSNI involved a regional pilot in the Hudson Valley of New York, otherwise known as “Tech Valley,” that is intended to better connect the supply chain. If the pilot project works, Pankin hopes it will open the doors for a national program.

Pankin says the folks behind the NSNI were alerted to AutoHarvest’s existence by Sridhar Kota, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. Koda was part of an early group organized last year to produce a white paper on what could be done to invigorate U.S. manufacturing. Koda knew of AutoHarvest’s work after he hosted a town hall meeting in 2011 at Ford that introduced both the local TechShop outpost and AutoHarvest, which was then in its infancy.

Today, AutoHarvest is completing its beta test and so far has 200 members , including Johnson Controls, which recently signed on to be a part of AutoHarvest’s Innovation Advisory Council—something Pankin characterizes as an important validation of AutoHarvest’s mission. Although he’s cautious about providing realistic timelines, Pankin says he expects all of the functional challenges on AutoHarvest’s platform to be met by next spring, when it could theoretically be open to qualified individuals and organizations to become members.

“The beta process will help us tweak and refine and reveal, but Gmail was in beta for four years, so we want to avoid giving a specific date,” Pankin adds.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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