When manufacturers need help in planning automated systems, these two organizations have aligned resources to educate and find talent.

There’s been a lot of lip service lately to smart manufacturing and “Industry 4.0.” But without the help of professional organizations, many system integrators and manufacturers can find it difficult to locate the skilled engineering and technical people needed to implement modern automation systems.

SME, previously known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers from 1969 to 2013, and CESMII – The Smart Manufacturing Institute, have joined forces to drive smart manufacturing faster and further by aligning their resources and educating the industry, helping companies boot productivity, build a strong talent pipeline and reduce manufacturers’ carbon footprint.

“The past decade has revealed an unprecedented flattening and even decline in our manufacturing productivity by worker,” said Robert Willig, CEO, SME. “Together, CESMII and SME will optimize our strengths and resources to accelerate the transformation and democratization of the smart manufacturing ecosystem and jumpstart productivity.”

CESMII and SME are combining their networks and resources to advance smart manufacturing adoption and address the “digital divide” by connecting manufacturers to technical knowledge. These efforts will especially help small and medium-size companies—a large part of the supply network—to overcome the cost and complexity of automation and digitization that has constrained productivity and growth initiatives.

“The prospect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution catalyzing the revitalization of our manufacturing productivity in the U.S. is real, but still aspirational, and demands a unified effort to accelerate the evolution of this entire ecosystem,” said John Dyck, CEO, CESMII. “We couldn’t be happier to join with SME on this important mission to combine and align efforts with the best interest of the employers and educators in mind.”


A well thought-out teaming of organizations

“So, in our conversations in the past 6-12 months with SME, it became clear that we had a very significantly aligned vision for the future—their passion for and their efforts around smart manufacturing are significant,” said Dyck in an exclusive FE interview. “SME has an incredible engine around creating great content and bringing that content to market in a way that’s digestible and consumable—and we don’t. We’re a young institute with phenomenal members, ideas and capabilities, but we don’t have access to those types of capabilities. So, it was kind of a match made in heaven from our perspective.”

When asked if SME and CESMII have any common members together, Jeannine Kunz, VP, Tooling U-SME, said yes. She pointed out that the two organizations had been working together for the last nine months, and every time they talked, they learned from each other more ways that they could effectively serve their members, and especially those they shared in common.

“Manufacturers are faced with so many things, certainly labor being one,” said Kunz. “So it’s upon organizations like CESMII and SME to work hard behind the scenes to align our efforts so that those common customers and members are served with a more unified vision and solution—rather than the two organizations having to address this separately.”

“That’s a really important point,” said Dyck. “One of the things we very quickly aligned around was the idea that there are a lot of organizations that are making a lot of noise in [preparing people for Industry 4.0/smart manufacturing], but we have two large strategically positioned—and both not-for-profit—organizations that have these complementary capabilities. Aligning and trying to create a center of gravity that consolidates and tries to be a beacon of consistency and quality and of clarity, would be much better than having our two organizations to continue to do what we’re doing separately and apart from one another.”

One of the first initiatives set up by the two organizations is a special group called the smart manufacturing executive council. Food manufacturers are getting involved.

Dyck followed up, “We launched it two weeks ago at our event and had highly strategic conversations with several of the largest food manufacturers in the country, including General Mills and Conagra and Tyson Foods—and some that you’ve never heard of.”

Dyck noted a particular goal of the two organizations is to assure that the voices of small and medium manufacturing organizations are also heard. “We’ve been getting the word out with the core members with what both SME and CESMII are bringing to the table. We’ve been thrilled to see unanimous support for this.”


Education and training

Educational and training programs are sorely needed for today’s operations teams as they need to be ready for fast-paced technology changes—and this has been a problem for manufacturers in general, said Kunz. She pointed out what seems like a never-ending litany of problems:

  • Manufacturers have been having problems finding people for decades—so this is nothing new
  • Manufacturers tend not to spend as much money on training their employees as other occupations, and this has been telling.
  • Then COVID-19 hit, and plants were really short on help
  • Millions of people quit their jobs and did not return to work.
  • To be competitive, manufacturers need to adopt smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0, but employees are not adequately prepared
  • Educational issues to get people ready for technology can be traced back to high school where students are not participating in STEM-related subjects.

Kunz said the role of SME and CESMII is to go back as far as high school to see where the gaps are in preparing people for smart manufacturing/Industry 4.0 roles; then the two organizations can help in planning curricula for secondary education. “We’re going to look at where the gaps are in education, what makes sense for small businesses; what makes sense for a high-school student,” said Kunz.


Disruptive technologies will drive education and training

When asked what disruptive technology in particular will drive the move toward Industry 4.0 and further education, Dyck said without a doubt. “interoperability,” which is key to digital transformation of plants, but several automation projects have not gone so well in the recent past. “At the very heart of recognizing what manufacturers are facing today, when it comes to digital transformation, it’s interoperability. I’m sure you’ve read with some sense of shock and awe that the number of successful digital transformation projects range 4 to 11% of all digital transformation projects. That came from McKinsey and the Amazon executive manufacturing executive team,” said Dyck.

Dyck, who’s spent time at Rockwell, GE and Activplant, a startup company 15 years ago, said that in the past, due to lack of interoperability among devices and a high degree of complexity, creating heterogeneous automation systems was difficult, and the cost for manufacturing systems was absolutely difficult to sustain.

“The idea of interoperability and openness (borrowing from what the enterprise IT folks have been doing well for 20 years now) and bringing those developments and design principles into the manufacturing operations world around interoperability and plug-and-play will change the game for how manufacturing systems are developed and sustained,” said Dyck.

“We talk about democratization of smart manufacturing; we believe the only way we can actually accomplish democratization is to reduce the cost and complexity significantly so even small and medium manufacturers can afford it,” said Dyck.

One way to reduce cost is not to reinvent the wheel, and Dyck said that data modeling is the way to proceed—where CESMII has been active. Over the years, engineers have spent 20% of their time in ideating a solution and 80% of their time in coding. The idea of a data model is to develop the code for a generic device—say a robot—and then the same code can be used over and over again in developing an automation system. The data model defines the device and the type of data that can be retrieved for analytical purposes. The concept removes a lot of the complexity of coding from the system design.

OPC UA has been a key part of creating the data model. “In fact, what we call the standardized information model—the smart manufacturing profile—is actually based on the OPC UA Specification Part 5,” said Dyck. “It was a very little known portion of their specification, but it was the only open standard specification for information modeling. So we used that and have built our profile design around that…We’re taking the work that has been done so far and making it available. I think we’re actually demonstrating the idea of interoperability for the first time ever.”


Toward the future

“I don’t think there is a more important strategic initiative facing manufacturers in the coming years than the ability to drive the integration between the historic lean (manufacturing)/continuous improvement and the idea of Industry 4.0.,” said Dyck. “We have to bring these two domains together to improve our productivity, and that’s a huge initiative for SME and CESMII.”

People may think automation and digitization will kill jobs, but it means that people will need to prepare for these new tech jobs, and SME has played a role in certifying technical people for some time, said Kunz. People need to understand that this is really about innovation, evolution and change. “But that doesn’t mean your job is going away,” said Kunz.

For more information:

SME can be found at www.sme.org. CESMII’s web site is www.cesmii.org. Also, the OPC Foundation can be found at www.opcfoundation.org.

“We couldn’t be happier to join with SME on this important mission to combine and align efforts with the best interest of the employers and educators in mind.”

– John Dyck, CEO, CESMII

“Manufacturers are faced with so many things, certainly labor being one. So it’s upon organizations like CESMII and SME to work hard behind the scenes to align our efforts so that those common customers and members are served with a more unified vision and solution—rather than the two organizations having to address this separately.”

–    Jeannine Kunz, VP, Tooling U-SME