Investing in Manufacturing in America

  • Calix Continues 24-Year Leadership in US Rural Broadband by Expanding Strategy To Include American Manufacturing, Ensuring Full Participation in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program
  • Calix and its strategic manufacturing solutions provider, Jabil, join with government leaders, including US Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, to unveil the details of its strategy to meet Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements by manufacturing critical broadband hardware systems from the unique US-built Calix software and cloud platform at Jabil’s facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan

The Biden Administration and the US Congress have provided funds for investing in manufacturing in America. This news comes as a result of some of that investment. It links the goal of providing broadband access for all Americans with another goal of building American manufacturing.

Calix Inc. affirmed its commitment to “Build America, Buy America” (BABA) for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program during a special event held at a manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, operated by Jabil Inc. This commitment includes expanding a manufacturing services agreement with Jabil at its Michigan facility. Calix was joined by government leaders United States Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

Calix was founded in the United States (US) 24 years ago with an exclusive focus on enabling rural broadband service providers (BSPs). Over the past 12 years, Calix has invested $1.2 billion to build the only end-to-end software and cloud broadband platform, further establishing the company as the leading technology partner to rural BSPs across the US. Calix has more than 1,300 active US customers and nearly 100 percent serve rural markets, where they are leading the way to close the digital divide. The decision to move manufacturing to the US will ensure that Calix customers can leverage the BEAD program to meet this objective—and it will create new, high-value manufacturing jobs nationwide by building on decades of US-led innovation across Calix Cloud®, software, and systems.

With an initial investment from Calix of $4 million to $6 million and an ongoing spend for operations of $10 million to $15 million per year, Calix manufacturing solutions providers will hire workers in manufacturing, operations, engineering, quality assurance, and administrative roles as they ramp US production of Calix optical solutions—a first step in the company’s BABA initiative. The ongoing collaboration with these manufacturers will create more than 100 American jobs, with additional jobs planned as Calix customers participate in the BEAD program over the next five to 10 years.

Calix has longstanding partnerships with three manufacturing solutions providers: a five-year partnership with Jabil, an eight-year partnership with Gemtek, and a 10-year partnership with Hisense Broadband. The manufacturing services agreements between Calix and these providers reflect the following:

  • Jabil will produce optical network terminals (ONTs) and optical line terminals (OLTs) in Michigan
  • Gemtek will produce ONTs at its California facility
  • Hisense Broadband will produce optical modules at its New Jersey facility

Quotes from leaders involved:

“We founded Calix 24 years ago in the US by focusing on and partnering with US rural broadband providers as they innovated to close the digital divide,” said Calix Chairman Carl Russo. “Cooperatives, tribal and community-owned, family and community run, and private equity-backed local broadband providers are the lifeblood of rural America, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with federal and state leaders on broadband programs that help them expand the great work that they do every day. In doing so, they have created tremendous value for underserved communities across the US as our America-led software and cloud innovation in broadband has enabled even the smallest BSP to thrive and provide the essential broadband services that enable economic growth, education, health, and safety. Calix, our customers, and our partners are tremendously thankful to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Commerce Department for their leadership in ensuring that we can deliver world-class broadband and life-enhancing managed services to every citizen and local business. More importantly, they are doing it through a program that will help us meet this objective through Calix America-led software and cloud innovation while contributing to America’s manufacturing renaissance.”

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and commitment to ‘Made in America’ is driving a resurgence in manufacturing across the country,” said US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Today’s announcement is more evidence that we can close the digital divide and connect everyone in America to high-speed internet networks built by American workers with American-made equipment.”

“The ‘Internet for All’ initiative is not just a connectivity program; it’s a jobs program—for the people who build the networks and for the people who make the equipment those networks need,” said US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “If network equipment can be made in America, it should be made in America. Companies like Calix are stepping up and answering that call.”

“Jabil is excited to join Calix in supporting the BEAD program while bridging the digital divide to bring critical broadband access to those who need it most,” said Jabil Executive Vice President of Operations Gerald “JJ” Creadon. “As a global manufacturing solutions provider, we have a presence in 30 countries and more than 100 facilities, yet Jabil was founded less than 30 miles from this state-of-the-art factory in Auburn Hills. We are extremely proud to ramp production of Calix’s industry-leading platforms here in Michigan, incorporating the latest automation and process technologies to accelerate the delivery of Calix’s industry-leading broadband-access equipment.”

Technology Market Cycles

My career spans three technology/market cycles. I’ve seen the excitement of new companies, new technology adaptations, new markets three times. All as user and marketing/sales and writer/influencer. 

I got involved thanks to a boss with the IT world in the late 70s. At the same time I started playing around with PCs—a Timex Sinclair that I wrote games and education aids for my wife’s 3rd grade class and a Radio Shack TRS-80 that I began setting my dad’s accounting business on. This was before 1980. The deep dive into automation for machinery came in the mid-80s. I’ve followed these passions ever since.

There were large and stimulating media around all three markets. Remember all the products in PC Magazine and its siblings in the 80s and 90s? When I switched to media in 1998 at Control Engineering, it also was packed with new products as many new companies sprang up with a new take on control platforms or software.

Then I experienced the consolidation and maturity of all three markets. IT magazines…gone. PC magazines…gone (maybe a couple on the web). Automation and control magazines are half the size of 15 years ago…and maybe even less. I saw it coming in 2013 when I left Automation World and struck out as an independent writer in the space. 

The MacBook Air M2 I’m writing this on is faster and has more memory than the MacBook Air I had a decade ago. But really, it’s still the MacBook Air. Excitement in the PC industry has not been PCs but mobile phones that are really computing devices. There exist a few thriving companies in the industrial market right now—mostly software companies.

There is still innovation in each of the spaces. Certainly all the excitement of playing around with the tech is gone.

What is the next big question for each of these technology markets? Or, what big question will generate an entirely new technology market? Remember, the real reason humanity has developed new technology has been to solve a problem to help humanity (well, aside from gaining an advantage in war).

One interesting thing remains—sustainability. We made so many products enabling production and manufacturing that fouled the soil and atmosphere. Now engineers are taking the technology and using it to clean up the mess. I’ve had interesting conversations with Honeywell and Rockwell Automation and ABB. And even Siemens on the topic. As we forge into a world looking for cleaner energy than fossil fuels, theses companies will supply the technology to help entrepreneurs develop and market solutions.

On that subject, check out this podcast from HPE’s Michael Bird on new energy sources. Perhaps here is a place to apply all that creativity.

PTC Announces CEO Succession

Here is a bit of news in our rapidly maturing market. I don’t know that it necessarily means anything and I don’t know any of the people, but I do find it interesting that no long term PTC executives were promoted. That job goes to the CEO of a recently acquired company.  I guess we can try to read the tea leaves about what that means for the future direction of the company—and what’s important. In a maturing market, the new CEO has a background in finance and most recently running the service operations.

PTC today announced that Neil Barua, President of PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management business, will succeed James Heppelmann as Chief Executive Officer of PTC at the time of the Company’s annual shareholder meeting in February 2024. At that time, Mr. Heppelmann will step down as CEO and retire, concluding a distinguished 26 years of service at the Company, including 13 years as CEO. Effective immediately, Mr. Heppelmann is appointed Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Barua is appointed CEO-elect and to PTC’s Board of Directors.

The CEO transition is the culmination of the Board’s comprehensive succession planning process to ensure leadership continuity and to position PTC for continued growth. Mr. Heppelmann and Mr. Barua will work closely together through February 2024 to ensure an orderly transition of responsibilities.

Here are the obligatory statements from the major players.

Bob Schechter, who has served as Chairman of PTC’s Board of Directors for the last eight years, said, “Neil is the ideal person to lead PTC in its next chapter. He’s a seasoned technology executive with a proven track record of growing software businesses and supporting industrial companies with their digital transformation journeys. He combines this with a strong financial acumen, a customer-first mindset, and a leadership style that empowers employees. The Board and I have great confidence that PTC has a bright future ahead with Neil serving as CEO alongside the rest of the Company’s experienced leadership team.”

Mr. Schechter continued, “Throughout his tenure as CEO, Jim has demonstrated unwavering commitment to PTC, and his positive impact on the Company cannot be overstated. His visionary leadership has helped transform PTC into the category leader in the product lifecycle management market and has driven record financial performance for shareholders. The Board sincerely thanks Jim for all his contributions to date, and we look forward to our continued work together.”

Mr. Heppelmann said, “I’m immensely proud of all that PTC has accomplished during my 26 years with the Company, including these last 13 as CEO. PTC has become a premier digital transformation partner to our customers, with the most differentiated software portfolio in our industry. I’m confident that PTC has never been in a better position to deliver value to our customers and our shareholders as we begin this next chapter. Having worked closely with Neil since the ServiceMax acquisition, I can attest first-hand to his focus on our customers’ and employees’ success, his understanding of PTC’s market opportunities for the entire software portfolio, and his principles of financial and operational discipline. I’m confident that Neil, along with our proven executive leadership team, will keep PTC on a path of sustained growth and success.”

Mr. Barua said, “It’s an honor to be named the next CEO of PTC, and I greatly appreciate the confidence the Board has placed in me. PTC is a terrific company with great customers, talented employees, and the strongest product portfolio in our industry. The Company has been performing exceptionally well, and we’ll build on this success as we enter our next chapter. I look forward to working with Jim and our executive team during this transition and deepening my relationships with our customers, employees, partners, and shareholders.”

Barua’s Experience

Mr. Barua has an extensive background in the technology industry and a proven track record of growing businesses. Mr. Barua is the former Chief Executive Officer of ServiceMax, a recognized leader in cloud-native, product-centric field service management software, which PTC acquired in January 2023. Following the acquisition, Mr. Barua led PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management business until his appointment as CEO-elect. Previously, Mr. Barua served as an operating partner at Silver Lake, a global leader in technology investing. Earlier in his career, Mr. Barua was CEO of IPC Systems, a global provider of specialized technology solutions for the financial services community. Mr. Barua holds a B.S. in Finance & Economics from the NYU Stern School of Business.

Board Changes

In connection with the announced leadership changes, Janice Chaffin, Chair of the Corporate Governance Committee of the Board, will serve as Lead Independent Director. Bob Schechter, previously Chairman of the Board, remains on the Board as an Independent Director.

Manufacturing Trends Noticed at Hannover

My Website traffic dropped significantly during the week of Hannover Messe in April. As an independent thinker/writer, I cannot afford such a trip unless I can find a sponsor. There were none this year. I do enjoy Hannover. It’s an intense few days walking about 10 miles a day.

I did view it from afar through press releases and other websites and correspondence. Two analyst firms that I trust sent me their thoughts on trends seen at the show. It is important to note that both are European (does England count as European?) and one is German. There is a decided emphasis that way that might be missed in the US. They have a few different issues. Interact Analysis and IoT Analytics each had several analysts in attendance. The links are to their reports for greater depth about companies covered. I should note that I have worked with IoT Analytics in the past but have nothing going on with them now.

Interact Analysis, analysts Blake Griffin, Brianna Jackson, Tim Dawson

Over the years, Hannover Messe has evolved to include an ever-broadening range of products and companies. Despite the wide range of technologies on display, an emphasis on energy efficiency and flexibility emerged as the central theme of the 2023 show. As more sustainability-conscious legislation, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act and the EU’s Eco-Design Initiatives, are being enacted, industrial automation technology is being pushed to evolve to support these efforts. Additionally, we continue to see increasing emphasis placed upon flexibility within intralogistics. Both of these trends were on prominent display throughout the fairground. In this insight, we aim to highlight the products on display that we believe most clearly represent the current status quo within the industrial automation markets we cover.

Against the Backdrop of High-Electricity Prices Across Europe Energy Efficiency Technology is Paramount


While motor drives are inherently an energy efficiency device, new models are pushing this idea even further. Nearly all drive vendors that exhibited at Hannover Messe were displaying models of their drives which provide additional efficiencies to the system through features like regeneration, harmonic mitigation and electronic bypass. 

Motor Vendors – IE4 & IE5 Technology:

2023 is a big year for the low voltage motor market, particularly in Europe. In July of this year, the EU Eco-design Initiative will mandate that motors between 75kw and 200kw carry an efficiency level of IE4 at minimum. This represents the first time IE4 efficiency levels will be required in any region. In preparation for this legislation, many vendors of motors had their high-efficiency capabilities on display at Hannover Messe.

Despite the standard not being properly defined yet, many vendors were going beyond IE4 to show their IE5 capabilities. 

Battery Manufacturing and Recycling – Festo

According to the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, Europe comprised 41% of new investment in lithium-ion battery production in 2021. However, legislation from other regions, such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, posed a threat to European industries, with the US act incentivizing European manufacturers to expand their operations within the US. Europe’s answer to this is the Net-Zero Industry Act, which aims to push the EU to produce more of its technology domestically and localize supply chains. As a result, battery manufacturing in Europe is expected to see increased investment in order for the continent to remain competitive globally.

Smart Conveyance Technology

Alongside energy efficiency, Interact Analysis has also provided substantial commentary about new entrants shaking up the supplier landscape for smart conveyance technology (here). 

Final Thoughts

The focus for Hannover Messe has shifted over the years to incorporate a broader range of technologies, and it can be difficult to find common themes across products as a result. However, flexibility, energy efficiency and sustainability were clearly identifiable in the products on display across the industrial automation halls. This perhaps speaks to the strengths of these trends across Europe. While energy prices and supply chain woes remain a concern, you can expect continued emphasis to be placed on solutions like the ones we observed at Hannover Messe 2023.

IoT Analytics

1. Modularity is becoming the top theme for future manufacturing

Almost all exhibitors somehow highlighted the need for modularity and interchangeability.

2. Hardware platforms are consolidating

The lines between PLCs, IPCs, gateways, and other hardware devices are further fading as powerful multi-purpose chips such as the new Intel 13th gen Raptorlake CPUs become the go-to compute platform across devices. At the same time, hardware devices become smaller while integrating more functionality inside that separate devices (e.g., I/O master functionality) used to be handle. Another notable, recent change is the addition of AI acceleration across the hardware stack so that companies can run AI interference (mostly for vision use cases at this point).

3. Decoupling of hardware and software is gaining momentum

To the surprise of many at the fair, the world’s leading industrial automation vendor Siemens announced a “virtual PLC” software offering that is completely decoupled from proprietary hardware. This announcement marks a paradigm shift for industrial automation as it allows Siemens control software to basically run on any third-party (standard) hardware. Siemens is not the first to announce such an offering (e.g., Schneider Electric, BoschRexroth, Beckhoff, and Codesys have done so before), but it shows that the market leader is further opening up and getting ready for a truly software-defined automation stack.

4. More and more IT technologies are coming to OT

There is a push toward using an IT-style approach (e.g., low-code, integrated development environments and containerization) to configure/engineer/deploy OT applications and control logic.

5. The industrial metaverse is starting to take shape

HMI 2023 saw a revival of the “industrial metaverse.” While it had become quiet regarding the usage of the term leading up to the fair, a number of companies presented their vision of the industrial metaverse, including Microsoft, Siemens, CapGemini, SAP, and Schneider Electric. We noted that the visions were clearly not aligned, with some putting augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) into the center, whereas others clearly excluded AR/VR. In all cases, the industrial metaverse was, to a large degree, a new marketing term for an existing set of technologies. The most common denominator was the fact that digital twins played a key role for all companies, with some saying that the industrial metaverse is the next step in that journey.

6. There is a strong push toward sustainability

At last year’s Hannover Messe (2022), we highlighted how sustainability had entered the fair as a key theme. This year, we noticed a lot more “meat to the bone.” We came across a considerable number of solutions to help companies track their carbon footprint, driven in part by new ESG regulations such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

7. Generative AI is being implemented in manufacturing

With generative AI unarguably the #1 buzz in tech right now, the first applications in manufacturing were visible at the fair.

8. Interoperability focus is shifting from assets to data

Discussions at the fair showed how specific asset connectivity technologies such as OPC-UA, IO-Link, or MQTT have become or are in the process of becoming global interoperability standards. With such standards establishing themselves, at the same time as AI and data are taking a much bigger role in many digital transformation initiatives, the focus is shifting away from standards to connect assets toward data format standards and architectures.

9. DataOps is maturing

Making data interoperable is one side of the coin, whereas ensuring manageability in day-to-day operations is the other. Therefore, unsurprisingly, we noted a lot of interest for vendors (often start-ups/scale-ups) that promised to manage and optimize OT data streams. These vendors target the severe need for high-quality data without spending too much time on preparing/cleaning the data.

10. Wireless connectivity on the shopfloor is becoming a reality

Shopfloor control operations are traditionally performed using wired/tethered connectivity between sensors/actuators, IO devices, controllers, and other compute platforms. However, HMI 2023 revealed that wireless may be becoming a viable alternative in some cases.

Meeting A New IT Company

[Updated 5/23/23]

An invitation came my way to talk with Alwyn Joseph, Chief Revenue Officer for FPT-USA. OK, I said, just what is that company? In brief, FPT is an information technology and services company based in Vietnam. This from a recent press release:

FPT Software is a global technology and IT services provider headquartered in Vietnam, with more than $632.5 million in revenue and 25,500 employees in 28 countries. As a pioneer in digital transformation, the company delivers world-class services in Smart factories, Digital platforms, RPA, AI, IoT, Cloud, AR/VR, BPO, and more. It has served 1000+ customers worldwide, a hundred of which are Fortune Global 500 companies in Automotive, Banking and Finance, Logistics & Transportation, Utilities, and more.

Joseph emphasized the company is more than just services, it is a technology company. It’s the second-largest ISP in Vietnam. The largest profit comes from work in the Americas. The leadership is intensely interested in helping people and even has developed a university with 100K students. They get intern work at FPT while in school. In fact, he added, the purpose of the company—it was founded to help community and nation building, invest in young people. It has brought many families out of poverty, creating healthy community.

I applaud the approach to projects—they start with the business outcome in mind. Too many engineers start with the engineering problem in mind and miss the big picture—why. He says they approach digital transformation initiatives to “think big, start smart, and scale very fast – with initial focus on 6-month projects, not 3-5 years.”

The latest news concerned the company positioned as a “Contender” in The Forrester Wave: Cloud Migration And Managed Service Partners In Asia Pacific, Q4 2022.

The report researched, analyzed, and scored the 14 most significant services providers across 27 criteria covering the current offering, strategy, and market presence. It shows that FPT Software received the highest score possible in the execution roadmap criterion. According to Forrester, “FPT Software has an impressive future roadmap and evidence that it has successfully delivered on its previous intentions.”

Additionally, the report stated that the company “supports delivery with its Japanese-inspired Digital Kaizen method and a cohesive, well-structured set of in-house developed tools… including the [platform CloudSuite] for multi-cloud management, monitoring, and cost optimization across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)”.

It is always interesting to become acquainted with a new (to me) company.

The End Of Print Computer Magazines

John Gruber writing at Daring Fireball refers to Harry McCracken’s blog post about the end of print production of Maximum PC and MacLife. This signals the end of an era. I learned a tremendous amount of computer science and practical computing from Byte back in the day. Just as I had a notebook filled with trade press articles on project management and similar topics. In my market, I read in my latest Industry Week magazine (now quarterly) ironically the Innovation Issue that it was ending its print edition. A friend oversaw the end of print for several magazines. It’s a definite trend in technology markets.

Harry McCracken was a respected magazine editor who early on made the jump to digital only. I did that in 2013 moving from Automation World to The Manufacturing Connection. While covering IT companies, I met many IT and computer writers who also wound up as digital columnists.

I’ve been digital for a long time. But I miss the good print magazines.

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