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Strengthening Smart Manufacturing

If we want smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 to be successful, we need to involve everyone in the ecosystem: large and small manufacturers, technology providers, academia, and more. As the saying goes, we are only as strong as our weakest player, and we need to raise the tide, so all boats float higher together.

Perhaps one of the biggest implications of the Third Industrial Revolution—which spanned from 1970 to 2010—for small and medium-sized manufacturers was the cost and complexity of automation and digitization. Perhaps this is the reason many digital transformation initiatives are not successful—some suggest this statistic is between 78-80%. Now that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to minimize disruptions in the manufacturing ecosystem, which is easier said than done.

Small to medium-sized manufacturers make up roughly 90% of a large manufacturer supply chain. Everyone in the supply chain needs to be more agile, more digitized, and have a more modern approach to value creation if we want to move forward into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If we don’t engage in this together, we are going to see that digital-divide gap grow larger. And when disruptions occur—like pandemics, natural disasters, and more—then the fractured supply chain will crack even further, impacting nearly everyone in the process.

This is precisely what CESMII and SME aim to do together. The two organizations are aligning their strengths and resources to benefit the ecosystem. Combining their expertise, the two organizations aim to communicate the value of smart manufacturing as well as demonstrate technology solutions for everyone in the ecosystem.

John Dyck, CEO, CESMII, and Bob Willig, executive director and CEO, SME, recently joined me on The Peggy Smedley Show to talk about why they are working together to create a more effective way of bringing insight, innovation, and workforce development to the manufacturing industry. Specifically, they express the opportunities that exist to help small to mid-sized manufacturers, which is desperately needed today.

On the podcast, Dyck says, “The small and mid-sized manufacturer sits there overwhelmed and wondering which of these 250 new capabilities are potentially helpful for me and where do I start. How can I learn? How can I make sense of this?” He suggests we must collectively contribute to the consolidation and simplification of messaging and content delivery and training and workforce development.

One area we talked about in depth is IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) convergence and lean and continuous improvement. One objective is to scale innovation in a way that truly reduces costs. This can be done by leveraging smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0.

Willig suggests we need efficiency in the truest sense of the word, and we need to uncover how we get a little bit better every day. He says, “The next generation of lean thinking is really gaining efficiency through Industry 4.0 connectivity, bridging the digital divide, understanding how we can get our equipment talking, and working more closely together in an asynchronous fashion.”

Naturally, this is all going to be a bit intimidating for small- to medium-sized manufacturers, and thus they need to better understand what is in it for them, the ROI (return on investment), and the value creation.

Overall, the partnership between CESMII and SME offers a new opportunity to bring workforce development and technology to the marketplace. Going forward, they will help bring technology to manufacturing and make sure it is applied in a way so that efficiency and cost are improved.

At the end of the day if we want smart manufacturing to work, we need the entire ecosystem to embrace Industry 4.0.

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