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!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitiv Read more…

By John Russell

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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