The HPC Gap in US Manufacturing

By Michael Feldman

February 24, 2011

Using high performance computing to help modernize US manufacturing is one of those good ideas that seems inevitable but always just out of reach. A recent study confirms this, and provides a framework for strengthening the HPC landscape in this sector.

Of course some might ask what’s the point of trying to boost manufacturing in the US when the sector only employs about 10 percent of the workforce, a figure that is projected to decline further in the coming years. Also, the use of HPC to make manufacturing more efficient is not likely help the downward employment trend. Employing virtual product design and development and automating other manufacturing processes will probably eliminate more jobs than it creates.

By world standards, the US manufacturing market is already fairly efficient. Despite the relatively few workers employed in the segment, because of its sheer size, US manufacturing dominates world production. Output in 2009 was $2.15 trillion (expressed in 2005 dollars), besting China’s contribution of $1.48 trillion and representing about 20 percent of the world’s manufacturing output.

But the real value of the US manufacturing sector is that it’s at the heart of much of the science and engineering innovation on which the remainder of the economy rests. Today US manufacturers employ more than a third of the country’s engineers and account for 60 percent of all private sector R&D. As such, it creates products that are used by the more lucrative service industries. Think, for example, of all the myriad services that are dependent on the production of computer chips and other electronic devices. Manufacturing, like agriculture before it, is a foundational activity that acts as a catalyst to other business sectors.

Furthermore, according to a recent article in The Atlantic, there is no realistic way to balance US foreign trade that relies exclusively on the service sector. Nor is there a feasible way to employ existing (and future) blue-collar workers without a healthy manufacturing sector.

And healthy it is not — at least from a global perspective. Based on a survey of CEOs conducted by Deloitte and the Council on Competitiveness released in June 2010, the US is ranked fourth in manufacturing competitiveness, behind China, India, and South Korea, and is expected to drop to fifth place, behind Brazil, by 2015. A National Institute of Standards and Technology factsheet recounts the need for the industry to focus on developing technologically-advanced products that can compete in the global marketplace. “There is widespread agreement that rather than engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ for low-wage production facilities, the United States should aim for high-value-added manufacturing opportunities,” says the factsheet.

Moving up the manufacturing foodchain often leads to a much better bottom line, and in some cases, extra jobs. For example, Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies, claims that the US is in a good position to build a silicon chip industry for solar cells. According to Mierlo, the nation produces around 40 percent of the world’s high grade silicon for both chips and solar cells, which is worth about $1.7 billion. He says if US-based companies turned that silicon into wafers, it would become a $7 billion business and add 50,000 jobs.

That kind of thinking is being embraced by non-profit groups as well. US government agencies, the Council on Competitiveness, and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) are all big proponents of high-tech solutions. HPC, in particular, is seen as a key driver in upgrading the nation’s manufacturing capabilities. The use of such technology allows engineers and designers to perform prototyping, product design and analysis, product lifecycle management, and product optimization/validation, with much less reliance on physical mockups and testing.

But despite better access to HPC than is generally available in other countries, in the US fewer than 10 percent of manufacturers use this technology — that according to a recent study conducted by InterSect360 Research in conjunction with NCMS. The report surveyed 323 respondents across industry, academic, government and trade organizations in July 2010 to gather a snapshot of digital manufacturing practices and attitudes in the US.

Source: http://www.nas.nasa.gov/SC08/HPT.htmlNot surprisingly it found that top manufacturers were already major users of high performance computing. Based on the survey, 61 percent of companies with over 10,000 employees are using HPC today to model everything from engine parts to product packaging. The numerous case studies of digitally-engineered products at companies like Boeing, Procter & Gamble, and General Motors attest to the acceptance of HPC at these large firms.

Meanwhile, small manufacturers, which by number represent the vast majority of the companies in this sector, have barely touched the surface of high performance computing. Here only 8 percent of businesses with under 100 employees are using such technology. Where modeling and simulation tools are being employed, they’re mostly restricted to desktop systems, representing a sort of poor man’s HPC.

The study found the most significant barriers to adoption were the lack of internal expertise, the cost of software, and to a lesser extent, the cost of hardware. To some degree, though, cost concerns may be a misconception. Over 80 percent of companies that currently use HPC report they spent less than one-third of their IT budgets on HPC — not an insignificant amount, but not an overwhelming expense either.

Importantly, 72 percent of desktop-bound CAE users did see a competitive advantage in adopting more advanced computational technology. In such environments, long simulation times and other software issues (compatibility, robustness, data management) were cited as major limitations.

When asked about the importance of different business drivers — production efficiency, time to market, product novelty, product quality, industry leadership, etc. — the survey takers said all were important, but it was product quality that garnered the most intense response. Since HPC enables iterative product refinement in a virtual design and test environment, that could turn out to be a big selling point for the technology.

In manufacturing, as in most verticals, smaller companies tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to adopting HPC, and this is certainly reflected by the InterSect360 study. But costs, at least of hardware, are coming down. And software costs, while more worrisome, would likely be no more expensive (or at least not substantially more) on an eight-node cluster than on eight standalone workstations.

What most of these manufacturers require is a low-risk path that allows them to segue into high performance computing. Whether that turns out to be partnerships with HPC-savvy organizations, system vendors who can understand and cater to low-end HPC users, or something else remains to be seen. What seems much more certain is the need for manufacturers in the US to be able to compete at the high end of the market with superior quality products. To do that, companies will need to accept HPC as a foundational technology for their businesses.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale companies and their embrace of AI and deep learning – tha Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Creating a Roadmap for HPC Innovation at ISC 2017

In an era where technological advancements are driving innovation to every sector, and powering major economic and scientific breakthroughs, high performance computing (HPC) is crucial to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Read more…

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network designed to emulate and compete with the human brain. In thi Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big data and artificial intelligence software to its top-of-the-l Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “global” launch event in Austin TX. In many ways it was a fu Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it, analysts and journalists want to report on it. Deep learni Read more…

By Doug Black

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “g Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This