Three US State Governments Boost Manufacturing

The meaning lies in the name—The United States of America. Not only are observers from outside the country often confused by some of the nuances of our government, but an unfortunately large number of Americans also don’t really know the complexities behind our many layered governments.

The US government has many manufacturing initiatives sponsored by several federal departments. State governments also boost the economies within their boundaries including initiative to support manufacturing. While I have written about CESMII, a federal initiative in the past, today’s news combines updates from three US states—New York, Ohio, and Illinois.

So, let’s dive in.

NY MEP Cybersecurity Program Helps Brooklyn-based Pvilion Land $1M Defense Contract

Pvilion, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of solar-powered fabric and rapidly deployable robotic structures, has secured a $1 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) after receiving a DOD Cybersecurity Assistance Grant from FuzeHub and the Advanced Institute for Manufacturing (AIM). (Note: I wrote about Pvilion here.)

The grant, awarded in late 2019, provided Pvilion with risk assessment, policy development, employee training and other tools to fulfill federal cybersecurity requirements. Achieving compliance has become increasingly critical for companies in the supply chain to obtain or renew contracts with the DOD, which began implementing its new cybersecurity provisions in late 2020.

FuzeHub and AIM have since launched the newest iteration of this effort, the NY MEP Cybersecurity Assistance Program, to help manufacturers strengthen their cybersecurity protocols and meet standards in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). 

Small- and medium-sized manufacturers in New York State can join the NY MEP Cybersecurity Assistance Program’s cohort of participating companies — free of charge — to gain access to funding and support. Trainings and workshops are ongoing; nearly 70 companies will be eligible for a risk-assessment grant.

“The stakes for safeguarding information have never been higher. Suppliers not in compliance with the Department of Defense — or unmindful of their status — could lose out on lucrative federal projects,” said FuzeHub Executive Director Elena Garuc. “This program helps companies like Pvilion assess their operations, address any issues, and keep DOD contracts in the capable hands of New York’s manufacturing community.”

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “We’re strengthening New York State’s cybersecurity sector through NYSTAR, our Division of Science, Technology and Innovation, which assists defense-related manufacturers with grant funding, training and assistance through our network of New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers. With help from NYSTAR-supported innovation assets, manufacturers like Brooklyn-based Pvilion have access to more opportunities to secure defense contracts and develop innovative tech-driven solutions for use by the U.S. armed forces.”

Pvilion’s recent contracts with the U.S. Air Force are for furnishing autonomous self-erecting shelter systems and expanding the use of solar energy generation to various squadrons and Wing Commands. The latest contract provides funding to deploy and field-test Pvilion’s new robotic shelter that opens and closes at the push of a button, saving time and resources usually required to set up temporary shelters.

“The cybersecurity grant has proven integral to our ability to serve the U.S. armed forces,” said Pvilion CEO and co-founder Colin Touhey. “Pvilion has benefited greatly from this and other programs offered by FuzeHub, which have kept our company at the forefront of solar fabric technology and military-market innovation.”

The NY MEP Cybersecurity Assistance Program is supported by funding from NYSTAR, Empire State Development’s NYS Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation, with funding from the Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.

The program is one element in a robust innovation infrastructure that NYSTAR supports in communities across the state. AIM and FuzeHub are NYSTAR-supported New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NY MEP) centers, serving small- and mid-sized manufacturers in the Mohawk Valley region and statewide.

Blueprint for Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio

The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), together with more than 100 champions, announced today the launch of “Make It Better: A Blueprint for Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio.”

Bringing together the insights of hundreds of manufacturing CEOs, community leaders, business leaders, academics, workers, students, and nonprofit leaders, the Blueprint offers a vision for the future of manufacturing in the region: one that revitalizes Northeast Ohio as a leader in smart manufacturing, creates thousands of jobs, and transforms the industry.

“Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio has had its ups and downs, but the fact of the matter is the region remains a powerhouse that’s poised for growth,” said Dr. Ethan Karp, President and CEO of MAGNET. “We’ve got all the pieces in place, but to make it happen we’ve got to bridge the talent gap, adopt cutting-edge technologies, and embrace innovation. While no one organization can change the course of our industry, it’s our hope that the stories, expertise, and detailed strategies presented in this Blueprint can show us all what’s possible in Northeast Ohio – and encourage us to work together to build a brighter future.”

Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio constitutes nearly half of the local economy, directly and indirectly supports one million jobs and makes up 38% of the state’s GDP. But it faces persistent challenges: namely, a talent gap and the slow adoption of innovative technologies. In January 2020, almost 60% of manufacturers in the region said they couldn’t find the skilled workers they need to grow – an obstacle that even widespread COVID-19-related layoffs didn’t solve. 

Meanwhile, the Ohio MEP 2020 Manufacturing Survey found that investing in new technologies is near the bottom of the priority list for the vast majority of Northeast Ohio manufacturers.

The Blueprint addresses these and other key issues, grouping its insights and solutions around four key areas: talent, technology transformation, innovation, and leadership. The hope is that stakeholders throughout the region can use the report to guide collaborative efforts to solve these pressing problems.

“Manufacturing is a critical driver of our regional economy.  Accelerating the pace of technological transformation and the growth of manufacturing career engagement will drive more equitable growth throughout our region, putting our region and all of our residents in a better position to prosper,” noted Bill Koehler, CEO of Team NEO. “The Blueprint allows us to pioneer holistic, manufacturing-led workforce solutions, creating a positive force in Northeast Ohio by building pathways to reach diverse and untapped talent.”

In the weeks and months to come, manufacturers and organizations throughout the region will be taking steps to bring the Blueprint to fruition. For instance, the Manufacturing Innovation Council – comprised of many of Northeast Ohio’s leading companies – has identified key action areas to help bring the Blueprint to life. Interested parties can also tap into resources to help with change efforts at makeitbetterohio.org and participate in quarterly champions calls to stay apprised of new ideas.

“Making products that matter is embedded in this region’s DNA given our rich history as a center of industrial innovation that powered America,” said Baiju R. Shah, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and leader of the Cleveland Innovation Project. “Through the Blueprint, we now have the shared vision and commitment to build on that foundation and become the nation’s smart manufacturing capital. We look forward to working together with MAGNET, manufacturing leaders, and many wonderful organizations to realize that vision.”

Added Karp: “The pandemic showed the world Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing potential. After all, we have the manufacturers, big and small. We have the talent. We have the know-how. We have the educational institutions. We have the will. And we have a hundred-year history of bouncing back and getting stronger after every single challenge. This is Northeast Ohio. This is our backbone. This is our heart and soul. We hope that with the help of this Blueprint, we can tap into that – together – and lead the world.

The Blueprint and its partner organizations can be found at makeitbetterohio.org.

Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center Releases New Book Made In Illinois 

The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) announced a new book that is described as a guide and valuable resource to help manufacturing companies become successful competitors on the global stage.

IMEC, which is also celebrating its 25th anniversary serving manufacturers, introduces Made In Illinois: A Modern Playbook for Manufacturers To Compete and WinWithin the book, readers gather insights from leaders from Illinois-based companies such as Motorola, Watchfire Signs, F. N. Smith Corporation, G&W Electric, Header Die and Tool, GAM Enterprises, and Ace Metal Crafts. Some of the subjects covered include the value of customer relationships, defining excellence, and integrating technology for greater process innovation. 

Praising Illinois for having a rich manufacturing tradition that presents many assets and strengths, IMEC President David Boulay explained in the book how the creative process was to examine the essential elements of manufacturing success. 

“Every company aims to leverage leadership and strategy to better focus on customers and align operational performance, workforce talent, and knowledge management,” he wrote. “As efforts such as the US Department of Commerce NIST Baldrige Performance Excellence Program has long demonstrated, these are powerful aspects of business success. We frame these elements into three parts: people, performance, and mindset. Within these categories, we share best practices, insights, lessons learned, and questions to inspire new thoughts.” 

Boulay reminds people how essential manufacturers are to everyday life, creating many items that are used around the world.

“Everything we buy from the store or get ‘magically’ delivered to our doorstep comes from a manufacturer,” Boulay wrote. “It’s a reminder how important our incredibly talented makers are for society. With that, we hope Made in Illinois offers readers new insights, validates tried and true practices, and gives way to new thinking about modern manufacturing and its many unsung heroes across the great state of Illinois.” 

Partnership Enhances Skill Development Through Providing For Undergraduate Degrees

Employers finding ways to encourage employees to boost skills and grow is not a new phenomenon. However, this will only grow further for a while as the employee supply chain restocks and reorients following the pandemic. This is an example.

In order to meet new skills demands and develop the workforce of the future for the automotive industry, InStridetoday announced the launch of a pilot program with leading automotive technology company Magna International to develop strategic education programs for qualified employees to access undergraduate degrees and other learning and development opportunities. The company’s initial education offerings will be available for US-based employees beginning this month.

“We are incredibly excited to work with a global mobility powerhouse such as Magna and are looking forward to serving their employees through our academic partnerships,” said Vivek Sharma, CEO of InStride. “The executive team at Magna have been thoughtful in their strategic design of this pilot education program to ensure that Magna employee-learners have the opportunity to access life-changing credentials and skills.”

With this education initiative, internally known as EPIC (Educational Pathways for Innovative Careers), Magna looks to build on its culture of creating continuous, scalable, lifelong learning opportunities for its employees. One way they expect to achieve this objective is by establishing pathways to learning and educational opportunities using InStride’s strategic enterprise education programs. Magna will draw on relevant education providers from InStride’s leading academic network to address skills needs within their organization and support the career objectives of qualified employees. 

“The mobility industry is transforming rapidly and in need of ever-changing skill sets to meet new demands. As vehicles change, the way we design and build them will be drastically different, requiring employees to expand their knowledge to maintain our company’s competitive advantage,” said Aaron McCarthy, Magna Chief Human Resources Officer.“With the help of this pilot program, we hope to continue moving the company forward for and with our employees as part of our learning culture.”

Executive Order’s Impact On Embedded Device Security

While I am on a cybersecurity marathon today, here is information about a round table discussion I watched last week. Long-time acquaintance and cybersecurity guru Eric Byers drew my attention. And the event was hosted by old friend Greg Hale of ISSSource. To be honest, I’d never heard of Red Balloon. This was the more intriguing of the press releases I received regarding Biden’s Executive Order on security.

Although this reminds me of a comment in the history of JFK’s presidency by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “A Thousand Days”, which I read at university. Kennedy issued an executive order and commiserated with Schlesinger about how nothing really happened because of it. Yep, that’s the way government works. But there is the power of setting the agenda and priorities.

Embedded system cybersecurity provider, Red Balloon Security, and ISSSource.com are teaming up to host a discussion on the effects of industrial security incidents and the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on embedded device security.

With all the ransomware incidents in the news lately, the attention of the industry has focused on the effects on industrial control systems. However, one area that has been overlooked is the critical role embedded devices play. A panel of experts will discuss why embedded devices are critical, what the current state of security is and if the current focus and the executive order are specific enough to drive improvements.

Members of the panel include Ang Cui, Chief Executive at Red Balloon Security and embedded device expert; Eric Byers, Chief Executive at aDolus, software bill of materials (SBoMs) provider for the ICS/OT sector; Ian Crone, former DARPA/I2O Program Manager, and Enrique Salem, Managing Director at Bain Capital Ventures and former Chief Executive of Symantec. The panel will be moderated by Gregory Hale, Editor and Founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (ISSSource.com). 

The webcast will be June 30 at 4 p.m. eastern time. Click here to register for the event.

End Users Lack Awareness of Major Cyber Attacks

This survey reveals that most end users in the industry lack awareness of many basic cybersecurity issues. I told the marketing person, “I’m hardly surprised.” But a little data is useful confirmation. Take a hint (although readers of this blog are probably not the problem on either side of the issue).

The news release follows. Note that the many superlatives come from Armin marketing, not me or independent studies.

Armis, the leading unified asset visibility and security platform provider, today released new data uncovering the lack of knowledge and general awareness of major cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and an understanding of security hygiene. The survey of over 2,000 respondents from across the United States found that end users are not paying attention to the major cybersecurity attacks plaguing operational technology and critical infrastructure across the country, signaling the importance of businesses prioritizing a focus on security as employees return to the office. In the past year, 65,000 ransomware attacks occurred in the United States. In other words, approximately 7 attacks per hour, a rate that is expected to continue to rise. As the U.S. looks at its vulnerable industries, the responsibility is falling on businesses to ensure that they are keeping the organization and employees safe and secure.

From the Colonial Pipeline attack shutting down services, to the Florida Water Facility hack endangering the water supply, to the ransomware attack on JBS, which could raise meat prices and also restrict access to necessary nutrients in developing countries — the impact of cyber attacks on our critical infrastructure has been evident. We’ve also seen ransomware hit healthcare in a major way, with attacks on Scripps Health’s technology systems and a chain of Las Vegas hospitals. Despite the spotlight on these attacks, the data shows that many consumers are simply not taking notice — and the responsibility of security falls on the businesses themselves.

As the risk of attack continues to rise, and businesses move toward a hybrid in-office/work from home model, it is imperative that businesses are considering security and ensuring the proper policies and protections are in place. Thinking critically about security early on, and weaving it into your company’s everyday practices, can be the difference-maker as employees return to the office.

“The attacks on our critical infrastructure are clear evidence of the need for cybersecurity and assurance to all our utility providers and players,” said Curtis Simpson, CISO at Armis. “It is also an unfortunate example of the huge vulnerability of an aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet. Organizations must be able to know what they have, track behavior, identify threats, and immediately take action to protect the safety and security of their operations. This data shows that there is less consumer attention on these attacks as we might expect, and so that responsibility falls to businesses to shore up their defenses.”

Key Findings of the Survey include:

● Education and Awareness Of Cyberattacks Is Still Lacking: Despite these major attacks making headlines on the national stage, respondents showed a lack of awareness of these attacks and their impact on consumers and businesses. Over 21% of respondents have not even heard about the cyberattack on the largest U.S. fuel pipeline, and almost half (45%) of working Americans did not hear about the attempted tampering of Florida’s water supply.

● The Severity Of The Attacks Is Not Sticking: Despite the complete shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline following the attack, and the halting of production at JBS, consumers don’t see the lasting effects of these attacks. 24% of respondents believe that the Colonial Pipeline attack will not have any long-lasting effects on the U.S. fuel industry.

● Healthcare Could be The Next Frontier For Hackers: According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Armis, 63% of healthcare delivery organizations have experienced a security incident related to unmanaged and IoT devices over the past two years. Yet today’s data shows that when it comes to device security, over 60% of healthcare employees believe that their personal devices do not pose any security threat to their organization. What’s more, 26% said that their companies do not have any policies in place to secure both work and personal devices.

● Employees are Putting Businesses at Risk Through Devices: As COVID restrictions begin to lighten, enterprises are starting to talk about the return to the office, but as we go back, businesses need to be thinking about overall enterprise security, especially as employees have expressed their intention to continue some potentially risky habits. The data shows that over 71% of employees intend to bring their WFH devices back to the office, with over 82% of that group being IT professionals, whose main job function is to ensure the security of the organization. Despite the risks prevalent, 54% don’t believe their personal devices pose any security risk/threat to their organization.

Methodology

Censuswide conducted the survey on behalf of Armis of more than 2,000 professionals in various industries from across the United States in May 2021.

Armis is the leading unified asset visibility and security platform designed to address the new threat landscape that connected devices create. Fortune 1000 companies trust our real-time and continuous protection to see with full context all managed, unmanaged, and IoT devices, including medical devices (IoMT), operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS). Armis provides passive and unparalleled cybersecurity asset management, risk management, and automated enforcement. Armis is a privately held company and headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

Rockwell Automation To Expand Industrial Cloud Software Offering With Acquisition Of Plex Systems

Funny how things go. I recently sat in my favorite local direct trade coffee house, maybe under the influence of caffeine, contemplating industrial software and MES market. The market is ripe for further consolidation, I thought. I rested in that thought for a while, then let it go. Later I was contemplating Rockwell Automation’s software situation recognizing its move partnering with PTC ThingWorx for IoT, but how it probably needed to make a move to build momentum for its manufacturing software (MES).

This morning I do a quick scan of LinkedIn and spot this press release. This is a good move. I had some in-depth interviews with Plex within the past couple of years. Good company and good idea, but I didn’t see how it was ever going to really grow.

I think Rockwell’s new software executive team should do well with this acquisition. (And as an independent blogger/analyst guy, I’m not paid to say that.)

Rockwell Automation, the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and digital transformation, and Plex Systems, the leading cloud-native smart manufacturing platform operating at scale, today announced that Rockwell has entered into an agreement to acquire Plex for $2.22 billion in cash.

Plex offers the only single-instance, multi-tenant SaaS manufacturing platform operating at scale, including advanced manufacturing execution systems, quality, and supply chain management capabilities. It has over 700 customers and manages more than 8 billion transactions per day. Plex’s software capabilities will be further differentiated by Rockwell’s global market access, complementary industry expertise, and ability to turn real-time data into actionable insights.

“This acquisition will accelerate our strategy to bring the Connected Enterprise to life, driving faster time to value for our customers as they increasingly adopt cloud solutions to improve resilience, agility, and sustainability in their operations,” said Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation. “Combining Plex’s cutting-edge cloud technology with Rockwell’s existing software portfolio and domain expertise will add customer value and create more ways to win. The acquisition will also accelerate our software revenue growth and strengthen our annual recurring revenue streams.”

A growing dilemma for manufacturers is the urgent need to increase production and improve resilience, while driving efficiency and compliance. Companies are increasingly seeking to upgrade their production systems with modern, cloud-based manufacturing execution systems that are easy to implement, use, and maintain. Plex’s platform helps customers to connect, automate, track, and analyze their operations and connected supply chains.

“Rockwell believes in the power of data and technology to transform manufacturing and industrial operations,” said Brian Shepherd, senior vice president, Software and Control, for Rockwell Automation. “Together with the advanced asset maintenance and management capabilities provided by our recent Fiix acquisition, Rockwell will have a strong portfolio of cloud-native solutions for our customers’ production systems upon completion of the Plex acquisition.”

“Plex has always been more than a company,” said Bill Berutti, CEO of Plex. “We have been a leader in the movement to smart manufacturing and a trusted partner to more than 700 manufacturing companies around the globe. Joining forces with Rockwell is great for our customers, our partners, and our employees as we move to expand our reach and impact and accelerate our mission to bring manufacturing to the cloud.”

Plex will be reported as part of Rockwell’s Software and Control operating segment which provides leading hardware and software offerings for the design, operation, and maintenance of production automation and management systems. As a part of the acquisition, Rockwell will welcome more than 500 highly engaged new employees.

The acquisition will be financed with a combination of cash and short-term and long-term debt. Subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review, the acquisition is expected to close in Rockwell’s fiscal fourth quarter.

Proprietary Software Is An Evolutionary DeadEnd

The thing that gets everyone working together, each person doing their own self-interested thing, makes the whole better. This was Matt Mullenweg, WordPress founder and CEO of Automattic, on his podcast Distributed discussing distribute work and open source software.

WordPress.org is an open source content management tool. WordPress.com is a for-profit company that sells tools and services for WordPress. Automattic owns both and other companies (having acquired Tumblr last year). WordPress powers about 38% of the world’s Websites including this one.

Mullenweg’s podcast shares his experiences with distributed work (the only office is the Tumblr one it acquired with that company). Automattic gets the benefit of talented people no matter where they reside. And, the asynchronous work and other policies it’s adopted has created a loyalty where turnover is very low.

Back to open source.

The IT companies discovered long ago the immense benefits of open standards, open APIs, and open source. Microsoft, HPE, Dell Technologies, and many others have put a lot of their code into open source. They allow employees to work on open source projects. Why? Just as Mullenweg said, the community makes everything better. Can you build a company with a technological foundation on open source? Check out Red Hat. Or, WordPress.com.

Interviews and posts over the past few months point to a momentum in the industrial market, always a technological laggard, toward open standards and open source. I, for one, hope it not only continues, but grows. End users are finally getting enough clout to get their voices heard by suppliers.

Check out the Open Process Automation Forum work. And the advances made by the Linux Foundation. And the Industrial Internet Consortium. We are getting close to the end users’ desired state of interoperability.

This will not be bad for the proprietary vendors–at least those who can adapt and think ahead. Customer lock-in only works for a while until the customer finally feels it’s been gouged too much and bites the bullet for the pain of change. The end game for the benefit of the market and for society is more efficient and productive end user manufacturers. Sometimes we forget that.