By James Marien —

Robert B. Tucker is a nationally renowned innovation expert and advisor for over 200 Fortune 500 companies. Tucker has also written several books and does speaking tours across the country. In early November, he will make a visit to University of Wisconsin­–Stout’s Manufacturing Advantage Conference as one of two keynote speakers.

The Manufacturing Advantage Conference, running for its eighth straight year, is the result of the cooperation of Stout’s Manufacturing Outreach Center (the host of the conference) and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The conference, which takes place 2- 5 p.m. on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is bringing in a number of industry experts, including Tucker, to speak and show exhibits in industrial innovation.

Tucker’s presentation, “Driving Growth Through Innovation”, takes place Nov. 5 from 1- 2 p.m in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

“I think Robert Tucker is going to be great,” said Larry Blackledge, director of the Northwest Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center. “He is a visionary, a futurist… it’s a view of the future that really stimulates thought.”

In past years, the conference was mainly focused on inventory or manufacturing. This November, however, the conference is all about technology. “[It’s about] using technology to solve problems in companies… how it can help, what its benefits are, how you can pay for it, that kind of stuff,” said Blackledge.

Other speakers at the expo include representatives from multiple institutions and companies across the country, including PRI Robotics, Iowa State University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Hutchinson Technology. Chief Economist for the Department of Revenue and Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the IRS John Koskinen, the other keynote speaker, will be speaking before Tucker from 8:30- 9:15 a.m. on Nov 5.

The seminar also includes displays and exhibits that feature innovative technologies, including automation tools and other types of robotics. The main focus of the conference on Nov. 4 is a daylong workshop, which includes tours of Stout labs and Menomonie businesses. Afterwards, a Manufacturing Works dinner and reception take place.

The Manufacturing Outreach Center’s goal is two-fold, according to Blackledge. “We are a NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology], so our mission there is to work with small to midsized manufacturers… but we are also part of the discovery center, so the other part of our mission is to bring a project back here for faculty and students to work on so they’re working on real world problems,” said Blackledge.

The Manufacturing Outreach Center is even beneficial for those not involved in a manufacturing career. It helps reinforce industry partnership with Stout, another factor that has definitely helped Stout students thrive and find success in their careers. Employers are happy to come to Stout because of the experience students have. “They thought it was so well done, met great students… and explained that they would be back, often,” said Blackledge in regards to Stout’s recent Career Conference.

Events like the bi-annual Career Conference and the Manufacturing Advantage Conference are periodic reminders of the consistent work done to make sure Stout students prosper in their future careers.

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