In this issue of Insights, we talk with Michael Ulbrich, the president of Buffalo Manufacturing Works, which runs the Shift program. Shift helps small and midsized manufacturers start the process of identifying and investing in achievable and implementable technology. Three years ago, he returned to his hometown after years in New York and Europe. Here, Ulbrich shares his thoughts on the exciting Shift program, working with Insyte Consulting, and raising his family in Western New York.
Can you explain what Shift is and what it does?
The Shift program launched in December with Insyte and Next Street to address the growing technology needs of Western New York manufacturers. Shift focuses on Western New York’s roughly 1,500 small and medium-sized manufacturers to identify and adopt different technologies, getting technology on their shop floor so that they can better operate, grow and compete.
In Western New York, we have found a huge variety of industries with diverse technology profiles. We help these companies assess and identify where they are on the spectrum, and provide different content workshops and training to give them a road map of how they can improve their operations using manufacturing technology.
How is Insyte Consulting involved?
Insyte has been a valuable partner from the beginning, guiding the design of this program with their experience and expertise and is now part of the implementation team working with the manufacturers we serve. Our program is laser focused and provides a full scope of services, from assessing to educating, to actually doing on-the-floor audits with these companies. We are just getting started and are really excited about what it’s going to be able to offer.
What are you excited about regarding the future of technology in Buffalo manufacturing?
It is an awesome time. There is something called the Human Knowledge Doubling Curve, which says that until 1900, all human knowledge doubled every 100 years, and by 1945 it was every 20 years, and today it doubles every year. The fact that this mega trend is not slowing down anytime soon, if ever, raises the bar. Technology is a huge challenge manufacturers face, and we are here to help them be more competitive and grow. So, we have a lot of work to do. One could look at that and say it is a daunting task; one could say there has never been a better time. The companies that are really going to excel are the ones that are able to step out of their day-to-day operations, look at strategic planning and manufacturing technology as tools, and really create a niche for themselves to be more competitive.
You lived in Europe for a few years before returning home to Buffalo.
I was in banking for 10 years—financial services in New York for most of the time—and then in London for three years before I moved back. I also spent time in Scandinavia: Norway and Sweden. Go Norway! My wife is from Norway, too.
Do you miss life abroad?
London is a great city; to me, the best international city. I loved to be able to interact with people from so many different cultures on a daily basis. I loved every second of it, but I am really happy to be here. My family is here, and we are raising our two daughters here. We were between Buffalo or Oslo. When I saw [the resurgence], the fact that there are so many dedicated, hardworking people that are grinding it out every day to make Buffalo and Western New York better, I was really excited to be a part of that and do whatever I could in my small way to help.