Dean Bartles: An Ingenious Mind Transforming Advanced Manufacturing

Dean Bartles, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group, Inc
Dean Bartles, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group, Inc

The future of manufacturing looks promising after it has adopted digitalization accompanied with evolving technologies. At the helm of this transformation are some proficient leaders, who have come forward to advance the manufacturing space. Amongst those leaders, one such leader is Dean Bartles, a leading light behind the inception of the Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group, Inc. (MTDG).

Dean is serving as President and Chief Executive Officer at MTDG. The group was formed with a commitment to transforming the advanced manufacturing industrial base throughout the world by driving innovation and accelerating growth.

Creator Since Childhood

Dean grew up in a home where his father’s welding and machine shop was located literally in the back yard. At a very early age, he began working in his Dad’s shop and quickly learned the basics of how to operate a lathe, milling machine, drill press, welder, etc. This hands-on education sparked an interest to learn more. After graduating from college, Dean began his career working for Fairchild Republic in Hagerstown, MD as an Associate Industrial Engineer doing time studies in the fiberglass composites bonding shop.

After spending five years with Fairchild, Dean was recruited by a small defense contractor in York, PA to be a Program Manager overseeing a facility installation project in Egypt that involved an entire machining line to produce tank training ammunition. This was followed by a similar project in Turkey. Eventually, the small defense contractor was acquired by General Dynamics Corporation and Dean was promoted to a Vice President in charge of three manufacturing plants with more than 800 employees. Driven by a desire to challenge his plant managers, he sought and eventually earned a Ph.D. in technology management part time over ten years focused on advanced manufacturing systems.

After spending nearly 31 years with the same organization, Dean was recruited by a new non-profit startup in Chicago and was hired to design, build, and stand up from scratch the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. It was a very difficult decision to walk away from a very lucrative VP position with a $32 billion corporation, but Dean saw the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of helping small and medium manufacturers (like his father’s shop) get better! All of his professional pursuits have focused on this for the last ten years.

Helping Small-Medium Manufacturers Get Better

Dean is driven by a passion to help small and medium manufacturers, the lifeblood of American Manufacturing, get better. He firmly believes the best way to do this is through the adoption of digital manufacturing – smart manufacturing technologies. He has served in numerous volunteer Board positions over the last ten plus yeas including the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the North American Manufacturing Research Institute, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, the National Tooling and Machining Association, etc.

After serving for ten plus years on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (“NCDMM”), Dean was asked by the Board to assume leadership of the organization in May of 2019. One year later, realizing there are non-defense market opportunities the organization could address, he stood up both the Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group (“MTDG”) as the parent company of NCDMM as well as a sister company of NCDMM named Advanced Manufacturing International (“AMI”). Both MTDG and AMI have received IRS approval for 501c3 not-for-profit entities incorporated in the state of Florida.

Towards Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing

MTDG is the parent “holding” company of NCDMM and AMI. NCDMM runs the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute branded “America Makes” in partnership with the US Air Force. This consortium has more than 200 company members as well as numerous university members all focused on maturing various additive manufacturing technologies and sharing the results with all members and the USG. AMI has recently affiliated with the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition and plans to launch a new consortium directed specifically at helping small and medium manufacturers with their journey towards Industry 4.0.

Stayed Unaffected Due to Pandemic

Dean states that manufacturing has been somewhat segregated due to the pandemic. All U.S. defense manufacturers, such as NCDMM, were considered essential businesses. But even more importantly, NCDMM was able to readily adapt to a changing environment and quickly organize manufacturers toward a common goal of supporting necessary PPE and other items while continuing and expanding existing customer efforts.

Positioned for the Growth in Future

In 2020, the Board of Directors of NCDMM approved the formation of MTDG and AMI as well as the affiliation of SMLC. All of these moves were strategic in nature and have positioned the enterprise for growth in 2021 and beyond. “At the time of this writing, the organization is positioned better than ever to deliver more impact to their mission to accelerate advanced manufacturing!” Such growth manifests itself into more significant impact on the execution of the mission of the organization.

A Win-Win Approach for Leadership

According to Dean, to be an innovative business leader one has to be a prolific reader of business-related journals, magazines, and newspapers. Additionally, it’s important to stay abreast of academic literature which can reflect new emerging technologies that can have a direct impact on one’s business down the road. Furthermore, an innovative business leader needs to surround themselves with staff who have diverse opinions and challenges leadership from time to time.

In his opinion, technologies that will afford connectivity are essential technologies a manufacturing startup should employ in its initial stages. Customers are demanding transparency. They want to see where there parts are in the supplier’s production process. Transparency for customers also means transparency for leadership which is a win-win.

Advice to Aspirants

In his advice to the young entrepreneurs who are looking to enter the Manufacturing space, he says, “Research current and emerging technologies to determine which ones should be explored for adoption and which ones should be put aside to watch. There are so many choices out there and not all of them are worth adopting.”