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The Future of Smart Manufacturing

Satish Bukkapatnam
By Satish T.S. Bukkapatnam, PhD, FSME Rockwell International, Professor, Texas A&M University

On June 22-23, SME hosted a Smart Manufacturing Working Group meeting at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) followed by an international workshop on Smart Manufacturing for the Factory of the Future.

The meeting and subsequent workshop were convened to better define smart manufacturing and to develop a roadmap for addressing key issues and findings related to smart manufacturing as well as these three topics:

  1. Definition and scope of smart manufacturing;
  2. Identification of key barriers and challenges surrounding adoption;
  3. Workforce development.

Each of these areas of interest was assigned a facilitator and attendees of the Smart Manufacturing Working Group were broken into three teams, with each team rotating through the three topic areas, allowing everyone to voice their thoughts on each area.

The workshop, which was jointly supported by Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (Paris) and SME, originated from a recently established TEES-ENSAM joint research cluster in materials and manufacturing to define and develop plans for international excellence in advanced manufacturing; to discuss and explore industry needs in the emerging manufacturing research and education; and to explore collaboration opportunities in research and education in smart manufacturing.

In this context, both Texas A&M and ENSAM have a long history of faculty-to-faculty collaboration and significant similarities of the evolution trajectory, culture and traditions. Both institutions have strong commitments and engagements to the industry, especially manufacturing and materials programs.

The workshop was kicked off with a panel discussion led by Jeff Abell, PhD, FSME, GM (Detroit). Panelists included: Binil Starley, PhD, North Carolina State (Raleigh, NC); Sudarsan Rachuri, PhD, U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII DOE; Washington, DC); Dean Bartles, PhD, FSME, National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA; Cleveland); Dennis Thompson, Equus Partners (Fremont, CA); and myself.

The panel discussion centered on industry and engineering education and the need for better alignment. In particular, the necessity for engineering education programs to continuously solicit input from industry. Several examples of co-op programs and intense internships (integrated with manufacturing programs) were also discussed.

The workshop brought together 30 experts worldwide from academia, industry and government and offered presentations from Texas A&M faculty, CESMII, ITEAM, SME, Airbus (Toulouse, France) and STIL (Lausanne, Switzerland). As technical directors of the TEES-ENSAM initiative, Professor Mohamed El Mansori and I provided opening remarks and an overview of our transatlantic partnership in smart manufacturing. This was followed by technical presentations from U.S. and France-based experts who discussed case studies and their current IoT and smart manufacturing.

The speakers and panelists consistently emphasized a rethink of “big data” into “smart data” paradigm, and the need for effective harnessing of recent advances in measurement and inspection to ensure quality. A theme emerged regarding how data is created from diverse sources within manufacturing environments (machines, experimental testbeds, IT, infrastructure and computational models) and can occur at multiple times and disparate locations (e.g., atomic-microgeometric structures of the materials, through the process, machines, shop floor and enterprise-wide levels of a manufacturing system).

Integration of data from many disparate sources and platforms poses a challenge. Smart technologies can be employed to enhance connectivity and coordination through the product lifecycle including supply chain to enhance productivity and streamline the manufacturing process.

Our discussions related to the workforce emphasized that a concerted global effort is imperative to addressing the need for qualified workers within the U.S. and worldwide. There also needs to be more focus on R&D innovations and workforce development initiatives targeted specifically toward smart manufacturing methodologies.

Ultimately, we believe our collaboration has contributed to the emergence of a technical definition of smart manufacturing, as well as identification of various transatlantic R&D and education partnerships in smart manufacturing. Innovation and disruption of the status quo by employing smart technologies are crucial for the resurgence and sustained growth of U.S. and global manufacturing. Visit to learn more about SME’s smart manufacturing efforts.

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