ME Professor Yoram Koren has been named James J. Duderstadt Distinguished University Professor (DUP) of Manufacturing. The Distinguished University Professorships recognize exceptional scholarly and creative achievements, national and international reputation, and superior teaching skills. The professorships, along with an annual research supplement, are bestowed with the intent to give recipients the opportunity to pursue scholarly activities that will ensure the greatest contribution to the University and the nation. The distinction is held until retirement. Koren is the second DUP in the ME department of a total of seven in the College of Engineering.
In 1981, when Duderstadt became the Dean of Engineering he established the Center for Robotics and Integrated Manufacturing, and appointed Koren as the director of its Integrated Design and Manufacturing Division. Koren worked jointly with Duderstadt to establish the University of Michigan as a prime research institute for manufacturing. From 1988 until 1996 Duderstadt served as the President of the University. Today, Koren is internationally recognized for innovative contributions to flexible automation and reconfigurable manufacturing systems. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and is credited with conceiving of the reconfigurable manufacturing paradigm and as a pioneer in establishing flexible automation, computer numerical control and adaptive control of machine tools as research fields and an educational discipline.
A significant and internationally-recognized aspect of Koren’s professional career is his pioneering research with reconfigurable manufacturing. In 1996, Koren founded the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS), and currently serves as its director. The ERC-RMS, sponsored first by the National Science Foundation and currently operating solely on industry support, graduated 80 Ph.D. students and 270 Masters students, many of whom are working in U.S. industries and national labs, and 12 as professors at universities. Koren is credited with conceiving of the idea of RMS and defines the term as a system that has “exactly the production resources needed, exactly when needed.” Koren has seven patents on reconfiguration technologies, and an additional seven patents on flexible automation and robotics. According to GoogleScholar more than 9000 papers have cited Koren’s works in these areas.
Koren’s agenda is to create a new manufacturing paradigm for the new century. Sustainable manufacturing and personalized production will be the foundation of the new paradigm. Koren views RMS as an important cornerstone of sustainable manufacturing. “I want to build on what we’ve achieved in reconfigurable manufacturing and go to the next step by doing something which is good for the nation’s economy, can increase and sustain manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and is also good for the environment,” he said. His interpretation of sustainability, as applied to manufacturing, also means manufacturing that will sustain within the United States. This feature, called Competitive Sustainable Manufacturing, is vital for building a healthy society, because the jobs that manufacturing makes available fit the middle-class, and a strong middle-class is essential for building a healthy society.
The economic advantage of competitive sustainable manufacturing affects both large corporations and small businesses. One example is the personalized production paradigm in which products, without their accessories, are designed by enterprises with an open-architecture structure that allows consumers to personalize their products by adding accessories. Under the personalized production paradigm, consumers would be able to design the interior of their cars to fit their specific lifestyles. Koren advocates this model as a strategy for sustaining manufacturing jobs within the United States because on one hand it depends on small businesses to design and produce specialized modules such as the dog baskets, and on the other hand it depends on domestic enterprises like General Motors to assemble the cars quickly so consumers get their personalized cars within a short delivery time.
Koren believes that this model, in conjunction with the flexibility and efficiency gained by RMS for assembly and machining systems, are the direction that industry must move toward in creating a new competitive manufacturing paradigm that will benefit the society, the economy and the environment.