Skip to content

30 Visionaries Merging the Cyber and Physical Worlds

Ilene Wolff
By Ilene Wolff Contributing Editor, SME Media

Today, manufacturing leaders from all corners of the world, are working with academics and government-funded organizations to tackle the challenges that come with any revolution in making.

GE, which has deep roots in aviation, consumer products, energy, healthcare and transportation, is triangulating the issue of becoming a “digital industrial company” from several fronts. Its executives have their eyes on the prizes—which range from sustainability and productivity to competitiveness and new market development.

For others, and not just manufacturers but also the long list of companies supplying materials and parts and selling resulting products, survivability is at stake. The Internet of Things is transforming manufacturing to such a degree that becoming obsolete is a real threat to those who hesitate to jump on board.

The people presented in this list of Who’s Who in Smart Manufacturing will no doubt change society for the better. Running efficient, lean, safe, responsive, coordinated and sometimes shared shops and factories can contribute to gains in jobs and US national security, as well as medical advances, for example.

As you’ll see on the following pages, they are working on myriad issues, including:

  • developing and supporting markets for secure and connected machines among manufacturers of OEM machinery and robotics;
  • making data-driven manufacturing attainable for all US industries through cloud-based, open-architecture software;
  • monitoring and evaluating manufacturing performance during the production process;
  • helping small and medium shops monitor machine tools and work orders in real-time,
  • using sensors, remote monitoring, prognostics and intelligent decision support tools to request maintenance ahead of breakdowns;
  • promoting an internationally approved standard for motion control;
  • using cloud computing and machine learning with management software to help manufacturers increase quality and profits and cut carbon emissions.
  • making more durable parts that are lighter and less costly to produce via additive manufacturing;
  • providing steady, secure connectivity, and
  • establishing an online marketplace that brings the sharing economy to manufacturing.

Without further ado, Smart Manufacturing introduces 30 visionaries you need to know:

Dean Bartles

Chief Manufacturing Officer, UI LABS, Executive Director, DMDII, Chicago, IL

Bartles, who holds a doctorate in advanced manufacturing systems, joined the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute after a 30-year career at General Dynamics. DMDII is a federally funded program that encourages factories to increase efficiency and cost-competitiveness by employing digital practices.

Stephan Biller

Chief Manufacturing Specialist, GE, Albany, NY

Biller joined GE to develop a strategy for advanced manufacturing after doing similar work for General Motors. At GE, he’s working to bolster performance and increase productivity by identifying, shaping and executing technology programs for the company’s manufacturing systems and its supply chain.

Bryce Barnes

Senior Manager, Machine and Robot Segment, Cisco IoT, New York

Barnes is advancing Cisco’s Internet of Things initiative within the company’s factory of the future vision, and developing and supporting markets for secure and connected machines among manufacturers of OEM machinery and robotics. Barnes’ vision is to enable bringing data, communications, process, and control together in one design operation.

Carl Bass

President & Chief Executive Officer, Autodesk, San Francisco, CA

Bass has served in multiple high-level positions at Autodesk and oversaw the transition of its digital tools from 2D to 3D. Through new product development and acquisitions, Autodesk has expanded its portfolio of products to more than 100, including AutoCAD and multiple model-based designs, simulation and lifecycle management applications used by millions.

Sujeet Chand

Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, WI

Chand is helping drive business growth for Rockwell Automation through its global technology strategy and technical innovation. Under his leadership, Rockwell helps customers become more sustainable and productive using the company’s digital tools. He also leads Rockwell’s R&D and industrial standards development in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Jim Davis

Vice Provost, IT & Chief Academic Technology Officer, UCLA, Los Angeles, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition

Davis has overall responsibility for UCLA’s digital presence and for various university partnerships, including the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition. In the SMLC, higher education, government, industry and organization leaders collaborate to make data-driven manufacturing attainable for all United States industries through a cloud-based, open-architecture platform.

Dave Edstrom

Chief Technology Officer, Memex, Ashburn, VA

A longtime leader in the computer industry and more recently in manufacturing, Edstrom suggested an open, royalty-free standard to get information from machinery to applications that would improve productivity. He worked with David Patterson at UC  Berkeley (see separate entry) to develop MTConnect. Its introduction in 2006 made interoperability for manufacturing a reality around the globe. Memex is an Industrial Internet of Things technology platform provider that delivers real-time manufacturing productivity analytics.

Karen Kerr

Senior Managing Director, Advanced Manufacturing, GE Ventures, Chicago, IL

Kerr, who holds a doctorate in physical chemistry, is responsible for a team that develops partnerships and makes investments in advanced manufacturing. She has been working  in venture investing and the development of technology-based businesses for longer than 20 years.

Thomas F. Edgar

Chairman, Chemical Engineering University of Texas Austin, Texas, Co-founder, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition

In addition to administrative duties and research on process modeling, control and optimization, Edgar is the director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the Texas-Wisconsin-California Control Consortium, an industry-education research group. He co-founded the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition.

Franz Gruber

Chief Executive Officer, Forcam, Ravensburg, Germany

Gruber founded Forcam, a company that provides software used in the automotive industry and elsewhere for monitoring and evaluating manufacturing performance during the production process. Forcam’s software is based on MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-freestandard that facilitates machine tool connectivity.

Jeff Immelt

Chief Executive Officer, GE, Fairfield, CT

Immelt is building a digital industrial company— and helping to explain to Americans in an ongoing marketing campaign what that concept means. While GE is itself a digital manufacturer, using technology such as 3D printing for production parts, it’s also developing manufacturing technology for the marketplace, through GE Ventures and its own R&D.

Dennis O. Little

Vice President of Production, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, CO

Little leads Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Digital Tapestry initiative, an effort that includes end-to-end digital practices for a product’s life cycle, collaborative development in a virtual reality environment, and 3D printing for production.

Scott Hibbard

Vice President of Technology, Bosch Rexroth, Chicago, IL

Hibbard joined Bosch Rexroth, a company that helps automate manufacturing, 36 years ago. He chairs the MTConnect Technology Committee and is on the board of SERCOS NorthAmerica, an organization that promotes an internationally approved standard for motion control.

Jay Lee

Professor, Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, Founding Director, National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative, Research Center on Intelligent Maintenance Systems

Lee, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering, runs the NSF center focused on developing ways to make machines improve performance and predict failures. The idea is to request maintenance ahead of breakdowns. Involved are sensors, remote monitoring, prognostics and intelligent decision support tools.

David McPhail

President & Chief Executive Officer, Memex, Toronto, Canada

At Memex and other business ventures, McPhail helped build businesses that solve tangible issues facing North American manufacturers. His ventures have contributed to efficiency in manufacturing operations and to the sustainability of manufacturing jobs. “I have not taken a paycheck from a company that I have not had an ownership stake in since 1998,” he noted.

Greg Morris

Additive Technologies Leader, GE Aviation, Cincinnati, OH

Morris helped bring metal additive manufacturing from the design studio to the production floor, a critical step for the company’s LEAP engine. (The engine is scheduled to be in service this year.) Additive manufacturing has the potential to make more durable parts that are lighter and less costly to produce. It also reduces the time from design to production.

Keith Nosbusch

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, WI

Nosbusch leads a connected company that makes tools for other factories to implement digital manufacturing. Under his leadership, Rockwell entered a partnership with Cisco to deliver solutions and guidance on steady, secure connectivity using Rockwell’s automation and control systems with its partner’s networking products and services.

Drura Parrish

Founder & Chief Executive Officer, MakeTime, Lexington, KY

In 2014, Parrish founded MakeTime, an online marketplace that brings the sharing economy to manufacturing through the sale and purchase of machine time by the hour. MakeTime represented more than 4 million hours of capacity on CNC machines and over $2.5 billion in demand from buyers during its first eight months of operations.

Joel Neidig

Engineer & Lead IT Developer, ITAMCO, South Bend, IN

For longer than a decade, Neidig developed software for manufacturing technology, including the first iOS and Android-compatible applications for MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free standard to facilitate machine tool connectivity. In addition, he developed more than 65 manufacturing applications for the App Store and Google Play, which have been downloaded more than 350,000 times.

Brian Papke

President, Mazak Florence, KY

Mazak unveiled its iSMART Factory under Papke’s leadership in 2014. The iSMART Factory uses fully digitally integrated advanced manufacturing to achieve free-flow data-sharing for process control, plant monitoring and increased efficiency. The factory is designed to be nimble, with fast changeovers and production in small lot sizes, with a greater mix of components.

Jason Prater

Vice President of Development, Plex Systems, Troy, MI

Prater leads a team of developers whose cloud-based enterprise resource planning software for manufacturing undergoes continuous improvement without the need for discrete updates. Prater brings a focus on operation performance to Plex from his experience as a materials manager at a Plex customer.

William Sobel

Chief Strategy Officer, System Insights, San Francisco, CA

Prior to founding System Insights, Sobel helped write MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free standard to facilitate machine tool connectivity. System Insights offers industrial operations management software that uses cloud computing and machine learning to help manufacturers increase quality and profits while reducing their environmental footprint.

David A. Patterson

Professor, Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, CA

At an Association for Manufacturing Technology conference, keynoter Dave Edstrom (see separate entry) suggested the creation of an open, royalty-free standard to get information from machinery to applications that would improve productivity. Edstrom and AMT leadership subsequently visited Patterson at UC Berkeley. Patterson enlisted help from colleagues, including William Sobel (see separate entry), and MTConnect was born in 2006.

Denise Swink

Chief Executive Officer, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, Germantown, MD

Swink worked in government and the private sector on manufacturing productivity and efficiency, with an emphasis on technology advancement and adoption. To promote industry, she formed and led partnerships with private, government and academic entities to foster innovation, make plans a reality, and monitor effectiveness.

Pete Tecos

Executive Vice President, 5ME, Cincinnati, OH

Tecos joined 5ME, which offers a suite of fully configurable machine-to-machine production management software, less than three years ago. He previously worked for 20 years in sales and sales management, and for longer than five years in controls engineering. The 5ME applications are MTConnect-compliant and asset agnostic, even for legacy machines.

Florian Weigmann

Managing Director, AXOOM, Karlsruhe, Germany

Weigmann leads the Trumpf spinoff, which offers small and medium-size companies IT solutions that can network all partners in the value chain. This lets the partners’ machinery work together. The applications cover the entire value chain, from taking an order from a customer to invoicing.

Dave Wickelhaus

Machining Systems Engineer, TechSolve, Cincinnati, OH

At TechSolve, Wickelhaus is responsible for co-developing the software applications ShopViz, and its earlier version MiniViz, for small and medium shops to monitor machine tools and work orders in real-time. The applications are based on MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free standard to facilitate machine tool connectivity.

Detlef Zuehlke

Professor of Industrial Automation, Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Director of Human-Machine Interaction, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Chief Executive Officer, SmartFactoryKL, Mannheim, Germany

Zuehlke, who holds a doctorate in robotics programming, founded the SmartFactoryKL, a  demonstration and research center that focuses on smart factory systems. Its members are from global industries, education and research. His research interests include human-machine interaction in manufacturing as well as control structures and wireless technology in industry.

Jim Wetzel

Technical Director, General Mills, Minneapolis, MN, Board Chairman, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition

At General Mills, Wetzel, a certified project manager, is responsible for optimizing the existing asset base in Manufacturing Plants. The SMLC is comprised of higher education, government, industry and organization leaders working to make data-driven manufacturing attainable for all US industries through a cloud-based, open-architecture platform.

Deborah L. Wince-Smith

President & Chief Executive Officer, Council on Competitiveness, Washington, DC

Wince-Smith is an administrative leader for the Council on Competitiveness, a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to make the United States more competitive globally by promoting its ideas and policies to government and others. The council’s National Innovation Initiative influenced the America Competes Act, enacted by President George W. Bush and reauthorized by President Barack Obama.

  • View All Articles
  • Connect With Us

Related Articles

Webinars, White Papers and More!

SME's Manufacturing Resource Center keeps you updated on all of the latest industry trends and information. Access unlimited FREE webinars, white papers, eBooks, case studies and reports now!