RTP Photo

Robotics Technology Park gets new leader to direct strategic upgrades

RTP 2.0 initiative will prepare facility to meet future training needs

Chuck Ernest photo

The Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT announced today that Chuck Ernst, a former Honda manufacturing executive, has been appointed to lead Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) as it embarks on a strategic plan to prepare the training facility for new technologies and additional capabilities.

The goal of the “RTP 2.0” initiative is to ensure that the $73 million center located in Tanner is positioned to meet the evolving workforce development needs of Alabama companies as technology brings radical changes to manufacturing techniques.

As part of the initiative, RTP will add needed next-generation technologies, manufacturing simulation areas and training solutions that support key Alabama industry sectors including automotive, aerospace, aviation and logistics.

“Alabama Robotics Technology Park is a unique asset for the state and the manufacturers that utilize this facility to provide cutting-edge training for their workforces,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “The RTP 2.0 initiative will increase our leadership position in advanced job training, even as technology continues to change how factories operate. And, with his experience at Honda Alabama, Chuck Ernst is the perfect choice to direct this effort.”

Ernst, who retired from Honda in 2014 after nearly three decades, will play a key role as plans are developed to advance the park and design its next level of services. He will work alongside RTP’s robotics and automation professions and AIDT leadership as the 2.0 initiative is implemented.

“The opportunity to work with the Alabama Robotics Technology Park as it has developed and matured over the last several years is a career high for me, personally and professionally. We are extremely proud of the RTP as it has served as a great technological resource for Alabama manufacturers as well as the brilliant staff who are the very heart of the work there,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and Deputy Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce for Workforce Development.

“We are looking forward to RTP 2.0 as we take the park to the next level with the assistance of Dr. Jay Baron’s strategic planning and the leadership of Chuck Ernst. With Chuck leading the RTP along with our incredible staff, we are confident in the RTP’s ability to assist our Alabama companies in becoming more successful in the ever-changing manufacturing world,” he added.

Baron, the former CEO of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology Group at the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, has provided his expertise for the RTP 2.0 initiative.

Ernst’s assignments at Honda included serving as project manager and operations executive at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, a $2.6 billion assembly plant in Lincoln. He finished his 29-year career with the automaker as the Powertrain Division’s chief engineer at the North American Shared Services Group in Marysville, Ohio.

“The opportunity to join the AIDT team at the Robotics Technology Park and assist the business community in Alabama to study and utilize technology that improves their future competitiveness is a chance of a lifetime for me,” Ernst said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said he is committed to supporting efforts to secure the funding needed to implement any new technologies at RTP, which opened in 2010 and now comprises three buildings for highly specialized, company-specific training.

“By retooling our leadership at the RTP, we are setting the standard of having a nationally recognized reputation for a well-trained and highly skilled Alabama workforce in the usage and repair of robotic technology and advanced manufacturing machinery,” Orr said.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the RTP 2.0 initiative reflects Alabama’s commitment to ensure that manufacturers operating in the state are prepared for disruptive technologies.

“At Alabama Robotics Technology Park, we intend to prepare companies for a new world in manufacturing by providing them with technology and facilities dedicated to research and development, simulation, modeling, product design, and training,” Secretary Canfield said. “Supporting companies in this way creates and preserves jobs, while making Alabama a more attractive location for business.”