Bringing digital-manufacturing street cred to Washington

Jan. 3, 2019
A Q&A with Rep.-Elect Haley Stevens of Michigan.

Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan worked on manufacturing policy as an appointee under President Obama. Now she’s back in Washington, where her suburban-Detroit constituents expect her to contribute her fresh perspective on manufacturing’s high-tech future.

Haley Stevens is a member of the history-making class of 42 women joining Congress in January, having been elected in November to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional district. But this won’t be the suburban Detroit native’s first go-round in Washington—or her first time “rolling up her sleeves,” as she says, to work on U.S. manufacturing policy at the highest levels of government.

In 2009, Stevens (then in her 20s) was chief of staff on a Treasury Department task force working on the federal rescue of Chrysler and GM. She also helped create the White

Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan

House Office of Manufacturing Policy under President Obama. In 2014, Stevens joined UI Labs’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) in Chicago, eventually becoming the organization’s director of workforce development and manufacturing engagement.

Stevens says that advocating for U.S. manufacturers—and, specifically, for the digitalization, skills-gap solutions and industry collaboration critical to ensuring the sector remains globally competitive in the years ahead—was a key motivator of her run for Congress and a top priority as she heads back to Washington. She spoke to our sister publication Plant Services' Managing Editor Christine LaFave Grace about the opportunities she’s looking to seize in Congress. Take a look...     

PS: With your work at DMDII, you have a unique perspective on the digital future of manufacturing and the workforce challenges that go along with this transition to a more-connected manufacturing environment. What’s an experience from DMDII that you’re eager to apply in Washington?

HS: There are a few things I take from working in an advanced manufacturing research lab focused on digital manufacturing design technology with respect to the future of work and the changing nature of manufacturing. The Industrial Internet of Things has changed systems and, in many cases, improved culture, but there’s a little bit of uncertainty around where the future of manufacturing work is heading.

There’s a big role for our public policymakers to emphasize and support the role of technical talent and to encourage economic conditions favorable to the innovators and individual workers. The story of our country’s greatness has been couched within our innovation capabilities, particularly in the IoT space, where we were the ones who proliferated the internet and web applications and propagated the iPhone and stood up the 21st-century mobility economy. This, in turn, has come to support the modernization of our manufacturing economy and a new race for the future. We must seize R&D and innovation opportunities on shop floors and what’s taking place in regions like mine in Michigan.

The other big lesson that I take from working in an advanced manufacturing research lab—which was also part of President Obama’s Manufacturing USA network—is that interconnectedness is paramount. Bringing together unlikely alliances, opportunities to sit large companies down who are often competitors with each other to advance a research agenda, or a shared workforce-development need, the government can propel new outcomes and catalyze job growth. Seeing new technologies manifest before my eyes while working in a research lab showed me that we need to win the future by competing rapidly and globally and meeting the demands for our manufactured products. And I am willing to work with any of my colleagues to get this job done.

Want more? Read the full story at InfluentialWomenInManufacturing.com