In the most recent episode of our Better Together Podcast we welcome John Dyck, CEO of CESMII – The Smart Manufacturing Institute, a post he has held since June of 2018. CESMII is a Manufacturing USA Institute chartered with transforming the US manufacturing market and increasing global competitiveness through the democratization of Smart Manufacturing technologies, knowledge, and business practices.

Join Mr. Dyck and Paper360° Editorial Director Jan Bottiglieri as they discuss some of the innovative ways that CESMII is working to make that happen–and what it may mean not only for the leading companies in the pulp and paper industry, but for our critical small- and medium-sized operations as well, on both the manufacturing and supplier side.

Mr. Dyck will also be the keynote speaker for the upcoming TAPPICon 2023 in Atlanta, GA, April 22-26. “We are at an inflection point,” he says. “The ecosystem is beginning to partner and collaborate to solve some of these big problems. (At TAPPICon), I’ll be excited to articulate that in some tangible ways.”

John Dyck Keynotes TAPPICon 2023

John Dyck was appointed CEO of CESMII—The Smart Manufacturing Institute, in June of 2018. CESMII is a Manufacturing USA Institute chartered with transforming the US manufacturing market and increasing global competitiveness through the democratization of Smart Manufacturing technologies, knowledge, and business practices.

He brings a highly pragmatic perspective to CESMII, and a crisp focus on outcomes that will benefit the nation’s energy and economic security by sharing existing resources and co-investing to accelerate development and commercial deployment of innovative technologies. He was recognized by the Society of Manufacturing Engineering (SME) in 2020 as one of “30 Leaders Transforming Manufacturing in the USA.”

Dyck will be giving the TAPPICon 2023 Keynote Presentation on Monday, April 24, at 9:00 a.m. For complete program information, full- or single-day registration, and other events, visit

CESMII CEO John Dyck discusses how digital tools can help the pulp, paper, tissue, and packaging industries step into the future of manufacturing

As CEO of CESMII, The Smart Manufacturing Institute, John Dyck knows the disruptive power of Smart Manufacturing: he’s seen it work across a range of industries. CESMII’s charter is to transform the US manufacturing market through the democratization of Smart Manufacturing technologies, knowledge, and business practices. It’s a mission Dyck is passionate about. He exudes optimism about a future that will see US industries like ours increase their global competitiveness and thrive.

I had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with John Dyck for an episode of the Paper360° podcast, Better Together: Conversations with Innovative Leaders (see sidebar). The article here scratches the surface of our conversation and what Dyck will share with industry professionals when he serves as keynote speaker for TAPPICon 2023. With clarity and insight, Dyck explains why our industries are on the cusp of transformative development—and how Smart Manufacturing will help savvy companies take that next leap forward.

Bottiglieri: Smart manufacturing, the Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0—these topics have become central to our industry. So how would you define smart manufacturing?

Dyck: Among all the challenges and struggles that we faced as a society during the pandemic, it did bring to light the fundamental importance of these capabilities—how important it is to invest in these areas and in people, processes, and technologies that will help make us more competitive. So, smart manufacturing is a broad umbrella for these disruptive and transformative capabilities.

Smart manufacturing is essentially the “mindset DNA” that says that digitizing our capabilities and equipping our workers with better, digitally-oriented tools is going to help us understand our manufacturing and supply chain constraints. It’s going to help us address them in much more agile and responsive ways. In many ways it’s similar to what quality and the “lean,” continuous improvement movement did three or four decades ago. Smart manufacturing, we believe, represents that “next step forward”: a mindset that’s all about equipping people, digitizing processes, and using technology to advance our competitiveness as a nation.

I remember back in the 1990s when those new management ideas were seen as the “next step”—and how they not only transformed the way people managed, but the way they thought about managing. You see a similar evolution with digital technologies?

Exactly. It needs to be that comprehensive. In this industry, the idea of “pilot purgatory” has become an unfortunate byword. We need to move the entire ecosystem forward in ways that advance the cause of digitization and smart manufacturing.

In most cases, it’s about leveraging the information that already exists for a lot of manufacturing operations—but it’s on paper somewhere. It’s about trying to simplify the workflows on the shop floor that require operators to write something down. There are inherent risks and errors in that. There is an incredible untapped level of productivity gain simply by using bias-free, human-free reporting, which is digital reporting on your manufacturing assets.

Particularly in this industry, we’ve got so much domain expertise and so many years of experience walking out of our plants every single day. Unless that expertise is captured, it’s lost forever. With the workforce challenges we see today—the incredible churn and turnover of workers—we have no choice but to make the “time to value” for a new employee as quick as possible. But we also need to provide work that new workers will enjoy and will be able to involve themselves in.

Digitization impacts every part of the organization. We think automation and digitization are about data collection, but it’s about much more than that. It’s about enabling the worker. It’s about connecting human resources with what’s happening on the shop floor. It’s about making sure you’re providing contemporary, even fun tools to help workers engage in the process of innovation, to help drive the productivity gain we’re looking for.

For pulp and paper makers, where do you see the biggest opportunities in smart manufacturing?

Well, there’s no silver bullet. Historically, in enterprise industries like pulp and paper, smart manufacturing creates a level of cost and complexity that only the biggest organizations, and the largest operations within them, can afford to deploy. What that means is, even for large organizations, the smaller operations generally don’t benefit from the kind of incredibly deep subject matter expertise and investment that the larger mills enjoy.

Think about the small and medium manufacturers in the supply network for these big organizations. I was presenting with a Procter & Gamble supply chain executive recently and they shared that, of the tens of thousands of suppliers in their manufacturing supply network, something like 90 percent are small or medium manufacturers, and very few of them have access to these smart manufacturing capabilities.

That’s why our focus at CESMII is on accelerating the democratization of smart manufacturing—working as an ecosystem to reduce cost and complexity so that not just the large manufacturers, but the small and mid-size manufacturers in the space, as well as the small and mid-size plants or operations within large corporations, can invest in and see the benefits that come from these initiatives. What is essential for this industry—and literally for every industry—is to engage: help us move this ecosystem forward, past our proprietary legacy, past our data silos and our stovepipe architectures, in ways that are much more collaborative, contemporary, and engaging for workers on the frontline.