Tackett Takes leadership Reins of AMIST Core Facility and GLI Initiative

Feb. 23, 2022

By Holly Hinson

Speed School’s newly named Director of Advanced Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology (AMIST) Core Facility wears a lot of hats. A typical week might include working on: 3D printed metal material for Navy warships, newly developed dental tools at University of Louisville’s Dental School, creating a life-sized colon for clinicians, and using sensor data from an athlete’s jersey on the field to tailor sports drinks to enhance performance.

Now Ed Tackett has added another hat as the incoming Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics (AML) Network. The AML Network, an initiative of Greater Louisville Inc., (GLI) is a collaborative of manufacturing and logistics companies that come together to share best practices and engage with resources to improve individual business performance and strengthen the community as a whole. More than 40 companies are currently part of the AML Network.

For Tackett, who joined the University in 2014, this role, which continues utilizing his talent for dot-connecting in community, is about creating and leading a coordination network for manufacturing and logistics groups that can promote workforce and economic development for the region in a sustainable way. In the fall of 2021, there was an open pitch competition for Economic Development Administration funding and Tackett presented his ideas to the city of Louisville. His decades of experience in advanced manufacturing and logistics and connections to the industrial community makes him the perfect candidate to chair this effort that will marry his AMIST position at University of Louisville with the needs of the business community for advanced manufacturing.

Tackett demonstrated his strong and nimble leadership skills when it became apparent in mid-March 2020 that COVID-19 was endangering front line healthcare workers due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Tackett moved quickly to engage Speed School students to proffer a solution that would make a real difference on the ground.

Over a period of just a few months, the 3-D printing and production pool created with more than 90 undergraduate and graduate Speed School volunteer engineering students produced, assembled, sanitized and distributed more than 50,000 face shields to health care workers to help keep them safe from the pandemic.

“One thing we learned from the Covid-19 response was that these manufacturing and logistics networks are fragmented,” said Tackett. “How do I find a supplier that makes X&Y&Z? And how do I put them all together? How do we put together an advanced manufacturing effort and build it to where it works for the whole Commonwealth and for the long term? That was the pitch, trying to align companies to research.”

Tackett also previously tackled the kind of coalition creation he is directing for GLI in San Diego, where he took all their aerospace suppliers and built an entire database of who could actually build aerospace products. “We helped our companies be more competitive, and the tangential effect was that they utilized the university for local and regional workforce research.

One challenge is that many companies, from local to global, aren’t aware of the logistics and advanced manufacturing expertise that University of Louisville can currently offer. For example, UofL is the only university partnering with NASA in the space manufacturing (Fab Lab) program.

“We are #3 in the country in aerospace main component manufacturing, but if the aerospace company doesn’t know that we have companies here that make certain things or have certain processes, they’re shipping out of area, and then drop ship from there, which means we lose revenue twice,” he said.

This can also lead to “brain drain.” When our engineering students graduate, we want them to go to companies that are able to make stuff like this or engineer these solutions,” said Tackett. “If we keep sending this stuff out of area, all of our students also leave.”

The biggest challenge in spearheading this effort for a viable regional manufacturing network is workforce, said Tackett. “We need to create opportunities, and it’s going to require more skill sets. We have to educate the workforce and provide a pathway,” he said. “When you look at our role as a university, we can help catalyze this monumental change over in workforce that we’re going to be seeing, help provide guidance.”

By closely aligning the university with the ALM, Tackett will glean some powerful insight into what kind of companies are coming in and what kind of engineers we need to train.

“Through my ALM effort to my efforts here at the engineering school, I don’t want to get people jobs, I want to get people careers. I want to give them the opportunity to continually move forward.”

With an influx of emerging companies moving into the region, Tackett said there will be demand for a workforce with specific sets of technical skills such as the excitement spurred by Blue Oval, the new Ford plant being built in Hardin County. “They are going to hire 5000 employees and according to economic development data, for every single job they hire, it will create 7.4 other jobs,” said Tackett. “Where do you find 40,000 technical workers? From my past experience, you either recruit them from other areas, or you grow your own workforce,” he said.

Preliminary discussions were held among administrators regarding the potential development of a satellite campus in Hardin County to teach UofL Engineering courses. “We could do a shared facility with Elizabethtown Community College and reach a student population we haven’t tapped that could dual enroll, giving them a pathway to come to UofL,” he said.  “So we get more enrollment, better quality students, and a career direct pathway from community college, while we are also serving the engineering needs of the Hardin County facility. So we all win.”

According to current economic trending, such as the “Great Resignation” and other tangential factors such as COVID-19, experts have identified that the volume of workforce needed in the next five years cannot be met by engineers alone. “That’s why we have to reach out and work with our community partners, community colleges, high schools and get everybody in the room and at the table, and let’s do it,” said Tackett. “With everyone playing defined roles, everybody will rise together.”