Asked & Answered: Daljit Doogal on innovative manufacturing institute

 By Steve Thorpe

Legal News
President Barack Obama recently unveiled plans for the $148 million American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Canton Township. The purpose of the facility is to speed development of lightweight materials across a number of industries, including automotive manufacturing. Daljit S. Doogal is managing partner of the Detroit office of Foley & Lardner LLP and is chair of the office’s Business Law Department. Doogal focuses his practice in corporate, securities and restructuring law matters and is a member of the firm’s Transactional & Securities, Private Equity & Venture Capital and International Practices, its Automotive Industry Team and serves as a thought leader in the firm’s Legal Innovation Hub? for NextGen Manufacturers.
Thorpe: You’re obviously excited about this development. Why does a research and manufacturing initiative light a lawyer’s fire?
Doogal: By growing up and working my entire career in Michigan, I have a passion for manufacturing. Research and development is how the manufacturing industry will survive, grow and innovate. It is very exciting that some of this innovation will take place in Michigan, and this aligns with Foley & Lardner’s focus on the convergence of technology and manufacturing and how that impacts next-generation manufacturers.
Thorpe: What might this mean for Michigan’s slowly recovering economic picture?
Doogal: This is just another sign that Michigan is the center of the automotive industry and from where the next wave of automotive manufacturing will surface. It is another indication that the federal government is supportive of Michigan and its recovery. The additional jobs will obviously aid Michigan’s recovery, but this will also help retain the engineering talent we have in Michigan and help attract talented people to the state of Michigan.
Thorpe: Ford recently rolled out its new F-150 truck with a significant amount of aluminum designed and built into it. Are light metals a wave of the future in all manufacturing? Why?
Doogal: Lightweight metals are definitely the wave of the future. Many manufacturers are switching to lightweight metals to increase fuel efficiency given the increased CAFÉ standards and the need to conserve oil. 
Thorpe: The aviation industry has used aluminum extensively for more than 75 years. Why is automotive late to the party?
Doogal: Aluminum has primarily been used in the aviation industry due to its strength and stiffness and because it is more flexible than steel. In the past, the flexibility had caused issues when stamping the metal into shape for automobiles, which has generally been worked out with newer technology.
Thorpe: You’ve spoken in the past of the importance of keeping young talent in Michigan. Will this help?
Doogal: There is an immense amount of engineering talent that resides in Michigan and the federal government recognizes that. It certainly is a reason why Michigan was chosen for the new institute. The fact that the cutting edge of technological advancements in the automotive industry will be centered in Michigan will no doubt help retain talent in the state.