Catalyst Connection

By Petra Mitchell, President and CEO, Catalyst Connection and David Bonvenuto, President, Oberg Industries, Inc.

It was not too long ago that Pittsburgh was firmly positioned as the steel city, in both the practical output of the economic product, and in the national conscience that viewed the skyline with smoke colored glasses. Now, buoyed by strong partnerships with excellent higher education institutions and a thriving medical community, Pittsburgh is nationally ranked as one of the most desirable places to live and work. As Catalyst Connection enters its fourth decade of promoting, providing support, and strengthening manufacturing in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we are excited to continue the positive dialogue around Pittsburgh while addressing the ways in which the region still has room to grow and embrace the future as an innovative and global hub for advanced manufacturing.

This dichotomy of old and new is being played out on a tangible scale, as Catalyst plans to move our headquarters into the Hazelwood Green development – an old Jones and Laughlin steel mill reimagined as a manufacturing hub and sustainable development that would reflect Pittsburgh’s future. It seems fitting that a parcel of land that once represented the main pull of industry in the city would now be home to several high-tech tenants in Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Initiative (ARM) and the Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI).

By “co-locating” with these influential neighbors, Catalyst Connection will be able to introduce clients to cutting edge technology and personnel. A quick look into the stated institutional ambitions of our new neighbors – MFI’s objective in “leading the digital transformation of manufacturing to accelerate innovation for economic prosperity” and ARM’s intention to “actively develop, demonstrate, and facilitate… early adoption of emerging technologies to bolster productivity and adaptability for business of all sizes” – makes the move an exciting step into the future of our organization.

While we look to the future, we also want to take the opportunity to reflect on the major accomplishments of 2018. Catalyst Connection’s mission is to advance the performance of manufacturing companies in southwestern Pennsylvania by accelerating their growth and productivity improvements and a new headquarters, co-located with CMU will certainly enable us to grow in that mission. In 2018, Catalyst engaged in two major projects that show how we approach our mission – through big picture engagement of the future of manufacturing, and detailed and practical tools for the current businesses with whom we partner on a day to day basis.

The Digital Bridge 2018 Conference: Industry 4.0 was an intriguing look at the fourth industrial revolution that has taken place on a global scale. With complex worldwide supply chains and data networks, physical connectivity being replaced by digital links, and greater international collaborations leading to a decentralized and more flexible market, the manufacturing industry needs to adapt to stay relevant. Catalyst Connection is here as a resource to help develop the necessary skills needed to deliver a product with speed, flexibility, quality, efficiency, and security in this new emerging market. It is only through understanding the ever-changing consumer demands, and implementing a strategy that will allow companies to compete on a global scale, that manufacturing growth in our region will result in the economic boon that is present for the taking.

While focusing on the big picture allows for innovation and preparation for future expansion, Catalyst recognizes that the talent shortage is a potential barrier to growth. To that end, we released the “Manufacturing Employment Demand Study for Southwestern Pennsylvania,” as part of our Making Your Future and the Metals and Advanced Materials Manufacturing Community Partnership. The key goals of the study were straightforward – Investment, Improvement, Perception, and Practice, and how these ideals work within the current and projected demand for workers by the regions’ employers. The results of the study were clear – there are simply not enough people in the employment pipeline.

With over 90% of respondents citing a skilled worker shortage impacting their business, Catalyst recognizes that there is a sizable area of need to help small and medium sized manufacturing companies recruit, hire, train, and retain workers. With so much excitement and optimism around the future of manufacturing – be it the technological leaps and bounds within advanced robotics, or the revolutionary change in approach brought about by a global market – the study was a great reminder that for many companies in SWPA, the biggest need is finding workers with basic employability skills such as attendance, timeliness, and work ethic. Catalyst Connection is perfectly positioned to provide the training and resources necessary to fill the gap.

As we reflect back on 2018 and look forward to an exciting 2019, Catalyst invites you to join us as we continue to grow, develop, and equip Pittsburgh’s manufacturers to succeed within Industry 4.0. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the “people” side of your business – by focusing on hiring, training, retention, and management skills, you lay a foundation for employment growth and sustainability for years to come. Likewise, Catalyst Connection can help you dig into the manufacturing process of your company, and can introduce Advanced Manufacturing Technologies that can revolutionize the way you and your people run your business to be able to operate efficiently and effectively. Or maybe this is the year that innovation is key, with new products being introduced to new markets allowing for new opportunities. We are ready to offer support and services to help you sustain your competitive edge, as well as financial funding and grants that will enable growth and advancement.