Manufacturing Thought Leadership Summit Discusses Digitalization and Innovation

Manufacturing in America—an event bringing together vendors, academia, end users of controls and automation. Siemens Industry, collaborating with its local distributor Electro-Matic, held a trade show/seminar series/thought leadership summit at the Marriott Renaissance Center Detroit March 22-23. The show has a distinct automotive industry feel, as you might expect, even though Detroit, and indeed all of Michigan, is reforming itself along high tech lines with less reliance on traditional automotive.

There was certainly a lot of thought leadership opportunity at the event. There was the Siemens Industry President of Digital Factory. There was the Governor of the State of Michigan.

ThunderChickens FIRST Robotics Team

And then, there was the group of high school students competing in the FIRST Robotics competition known as the ThunderChickens—Engineering A Better Way To Cross The Road. The picture shows a model of their robot. Such passion. Such creativity. The mechanical guy pointed to the control module. “It limits me to 6 motors,” he said. “Last year we only had one, but this year I could have used many more.”

Six motors!! What I’d have given as a kid building stuff to have one! Oh well, they were great.

Raj Batra President Siemens Digital FactoryRaj Batra, President of Digital Factory for Siemens, said the focus is on digitalization. Digital Twin is a piece of digitalization. This is the digital representation of a physical thing—product, machine, or component. Siemens brought all this together through the 2007 investment in acquiring UGS to form Siemens PLM. “Companies thought it was hype back then, now we know it drives value,” said Batra. “If you are a pure automation company how do you accomplish all this without a design component? You can’t have the digital twin. Meanwhile, a CAE company that doesn’t have automation and control do manufacturing—what do you get?” Batra added challenging the competition.

Batra continued, “We are close to a new era of autonomous manufacturing. And there is the growth of IIoT, we call Mindsphere. This all means manufacturing is no longer a black box to the enterprise. Indeed, it is strategic to the enterprise.”

Paul Maloche, vp sales and marketing Fori Automation, manufacturers of automated guided vehicles, discussed the methods by which collaboration with suppliers (in this case with Siemens) leads to innovation. Fori was diversifying from reliance on building machines for automotive applications, and evaluated the aerospace industry. The Siemens rep came in and said they could help get them into that market. But Fori would have to convert to Siemens control. The Fori team replied, “OK.” This led to development of automated guided vehicle technology and products. The partnership opened doors. Fori won several orders in aerospace market for the new AGVs with Siemens control.

Alistair Orchard, Siemens PLMAlistair Orchard, Siemens PLM, riffing off a space movie, began his talk, “Detroit, we have a problem.” All the old business models of trying to ship jobs overseas has not worked. We need to make stuff to be successful as a society. “So much of what we do has not changed in 50 years in manufacturing,” he noted, “but digitalization can change everything. Additive manufacturing can lead to mass customization due to 3D printing using the digital twin. You can try things out, find problems in design or manufacturing. You can use predictive analytics at design stage. Digital enterprise is about manufacturing close to the customer.”

Governor Rick SnyderGovernor Rick Snyder, Michigan, touted his manufacturing background as former operations head at Gateway Computers. “As governor,” he said, “it’s about how you can build an ecosystem and platform for success. Long term, success needs talent. His philosophy contains the idea that we shouldn’t tell students what they should study, but let them know where opportunities are and how to prepare for them. The private sector needs to tell government what they need in the way of talent.”

Michigan has grown more manufacturing jobs than anywhere else in the country. Not only manufacturing, though, Michigan is also a center of industrial design. But the economy not only needs designers and engineers, but also people in skilled trades. “We need to promote that as a profession. We must break the silos that said your opportunities are limited to your initial career choice.”

Michigan has invested a lot in students, especially in FIRST Robotics, where Michigan teams have risen to the top. The state has also started a computer science competition in cyber security.

How are you innovating and making the world better?

Josh LinknerJosh Linkner, CEO Detroit Venture Partners, gave the keynote address on innovation. I’ll leave you with his Five Obsessions of Innovators.

1. Curiosity—ask open ended questions
2. Crave what’s next—future orientation
3. Defy tradition—use Judo flip to turn idea on its head
4. Get scrappy—grit, determination, tenacity
5. Adapt fast

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