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CESMII seeks to raise competitive standing of U.S. manufacturing

Brett Brune
By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing

Democratization of smart manufacturing is another pillar of institute’s current plan

LOS ANGELES — The institutes that make up Manufacturing USA need to move at the speed of business, considering that the endeavor represents the U.S. government’s biggest investment in the digitization of manufacturing to date.

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CESMII CEO John Dyck: “We are at risk of falling behind both Europe and Asia in terms of our smart manufacturing digital transformation journey” in the U.S.

John Dyck, who became the CEO of the institute called CESMII (the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute) in mid-2018, knows this better than anyone. And he has acted to right his ship in the larger organization’s 14-vessel armada, which is intended to ensure U.S. manufacturing at least remains competitive in the world.

CESMII in the last 16 months strengthened its focus beyond R&D to “innovating more aggressively with the manufacturing communities and creating value for the manufacturing ecosystem,” he said in an interview with Smart Manufacturing magazine. 

“We are at risk of falling behind both Europe and Asia in terms of our smart manufacturing digital transformation journey” in the U.S., Dyck said. “Most folks would agree that Industry 4.0 across Europe and initiatives like Made in China 2025 in Asia have really galvanized manufacturers in Europe and Asia to invest and work on their transformation strategies. We don’t have that here.”

The fact that Industry 4.0 is led by committee is something Dyck would like people to see as a chink in Europe’s armor.

“They have 140 organizations that … essentially have to come to a consensus on what they want to do and how they want to solve manufacturing issues,” he said. “We are an agile, bright group of thought leaders from across this industry. Our membership makes us an incredibly unique organization. We’re here with the brightest minds in the industry. Not just CESMII, but the extension of our membership and people that are passionate about driving this industry forward. We represent an unbelievable collection of technology, of cultural transformation, of education/workforce development capabilities that has the potential to dramatically drive this industry forward across this country.”

Job One for CESMII, he added, is to “convince manufacturers across the country to get additional support from the federal government. We’re working on some very creative things with some of our biggest manufacturing members to stand up on a very visible soapbox and tell the country, ‘Listen, we have to get going! We can’t afford not to invest. We can’t afford to fall behind’.”  

IT/OT convergence is a good example of the stagnation Dyck sees in the U.S.

He recalled complaints 11 years ago that continuing to talk about IT/OT convergence was beating a dead horse. “And here we are today with essentially no progress,” he said. “We bring to the table a nuanced understanding of why is it that we’re still stuck in this place. Why is it that the large vendors in this space are acquiring company after company after company and not really winning in this space?

“We’re not seeing a big uptake of smart manufacturing, digital transformation projects beyond the pilot phase. Why is that? Well, these vendors can bring their domain experts to the table to solve a difficult use case, but when they attempt to scale that to the broader plant, or to the enterprise, they quickly run into the same headwinds that have stymied their efforts in the past two decades. The cost and complexity of these manufacturing solutions is still prohibitive, leaving the industry in a state of pilot purgatory.”

So long as “two very, very distinct sets of ecosystems around how technology is purchased and implemented and sustained” stay afloat, IT/OT convergence will just not happen, Dyck said. They both need to go away—allowing for a completely new idea.

 ‘National learning infrastructure’ coming

The “very visible soapbox” Dyck spoke about is CESMII’s work to create “a national learning infrastructure that’s focused on driving competitiveness and tying manufacturing and smart manufacturing to the long-term competitiveness of manufacturing organizations,” said Mike Yost, outreach advisor at CESMII.

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Mike Yost, outreach advisor at CESMII: “People know how to get things done in manufacturing. But how to talk about that in terms of business value? We’re not quite as good at doing that.”

He anticipates executives from large manufacturers based in the U.S. joining with small manufacturers, tech powerhouses like Microsoft and Amazon and “senior political personnel” to “communicate with one voice to the country: ‘We are absolutely at risk of falling behind unless we drive forward. Smart manufacturing is vital for this country’.”

In the coming weeks, CESMII is set to put out a project call for education and awareness tools, assets and programs to “help move people through the process,” Yost said. “People know how to get things done in manufacturing. But how to talk about that in terms of business value? We’re not quite as good at doing that.”

Business leaders are “starting to perk up and look for places where they can get help” figuring out how to scale smart manufacturing initiatives, he said. And CESMII stands to fill the void, providing the voice that tells trustworthy stories and explains value propositions in plain language.

CESMII members will also work on defining smart manufacturing. “’Smart manufacturing’ is broad enough that people get it,” Yost said. “But it’s also broad enough that people make up their own definition of what it is. People will slap a ‘smart manufacturing’ label on something, but by whose standard are they defining what ‘smart’ is? So there’s a lot of work to be done from an education/workforce perspective.”

Democratization ‘really important’

Another pillar of CESMII’s current plan: The democratization of smart manufacturing.

 “Democratization is a really important word from our standpoint,” Dyck said. “There are three business strategies under the umbrella of democratization: the democratization of technology, the democratization of knowledge (the education/workforce development piece) and the democratization of how we innovate.”

The industry needs to move from an environment in which “every vendor and every integrator and every manufacturer tends to rely only on themselves and not want to share, to a vendor-agnostic, IP-protected environment for these organizations to get together and work in a much more collaborative way than we have in the past,” Dyck said.

CESMII sees the need to “take what’s generally available to the wealthier end of the manufacturing spectrum and make it available to the masses,” he said. “So, under this theme of democratization, we worked through the board of directors to approve a new membership model that allows small, creative, highly innovative, disruptive vendors and small manufacturers and small integrators to really get involved,” capturing the innovation that happens inside their walls.

Beneficiaries of that move include the small and medium manufacturers, but it also enables the application vendors of all sizes—like Atollogy, Emerson, Savigent, Syspro and ThinkIQ—to engage with that market segment in ways not possible before.

Among the benefits to membership is access to the CESMII Smart Manufacturing Platform (SMP), which “has been a centerpiece of CESMII’s Technology Roadmap since the institute’s inception,” Dyck noted. Since the software was publicly demonstrated at the end of the summer, CESMII members have been able to “see the CESMII Smart Manufacturing Platform taking shape and better envision the value it will bring them today and with future capabilities.”

The SMP is, the organization said, “central to CESMII’s efforts to drive national manufacturing competitiveness by democratizing smart manufacturing technologies, knowledge and innovation, making them available to everyone in the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem.” [Scroll down to read a takeout on the SMP.]  

CESMII works to double membership

Prior to Dyck joining CESMII from Rockwell Automation, CESMII had close to 100 members. Today, it has “well over 100” members and is shooting for 200 by the end of 2020, Dyck said.

Members pay between $4,000 and $50,00 a year, depending on their size.

CESMII will work “aggressively to bring the right balance to our membership to ensure, No. 1, that we’ve got the right brands across all industries. We’re not just discrete. We’re not just hybrid. We’re not just continuous process.  And we’re not just Fortune 1,000. We have to span the spectrum of every manufacturer, all sizes across all industries,” Dyck said.

It will be important to bring in application vendors, academia and more machine builders and systems integrators—"because this is all about an ecosystem play,” he added.

CESMII’s members will get insights from the likes of Oak Ridge National Labs, where Dyck and CESMII CTO Haresh Malkani spent a day in September strategizing about ways to handle site-wide data-collection and -management issues around additive manufacturing.

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CESMII CTO Haresh Malkani, right, met with Tony Schmitz, joint faculty for mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering at Oak Ridge National Labs, at the lab’s manufacturing demonstration facility in Knoxville, Tenn., in September to strategize about ways to democratize the value of smart manufacturing, particularly for small-to-medium enterprises.

“They have manufacturing assets throughout their beautiful facility, but they’re all islands of information,” Dyck said. “And every vendor represented there has their own solution for that piece of equipment, but there’s nothing that ties them all together. So, at the end of the day, they’ve got a huge investment in software, but they still can’t solve problems. At least they can’t solve the problem that extends beyond that island of productivity, that island of information, that island of production.”

Energy focus now assumed

Energy efficiency does not come up often in a CESMII interview these days. And the organization takes pains to not mention its full name: It uses the tagline “the Smart Manufacturing Institute” and describes its work as “enabling frictionless movement of information—raw and contextualized data—between real-time operations and the people and systems that create value in and across manufacturing organizations.”

Dyck said CESMII does have “a very direct focus on measuring energy intensity, measuring energy consumption, measuring energy quality, and attacking that in the most effective, intelligent, digital way possible”—but that “the broader and more strategic opportunity is to focus on manufacturing effectiveness. How well are we managing our assets? How effective are those assets? Can we predict failure and avoid failure? Can we reduce scrap? Can we create an assembly line with better throughput? These are all indirect but powerful forces that enable us to provide energy productivity gains. So it’s about understanding how we can create the most effective product strategy with the lest energy possible.”

Energy is “a baseline thing in everything we do,” he added. “We’re about making manufacturing more competitive.  And the immediate byproduct of that is energy productivity.”

Still, pressed on the issue, he allows: “We’re absolutely trying to rebrand to say, ‘This is where smart manufacturing happens’.”

Experienced leaders on board

CESMII has 20 employees, and Dyck plans to hire a few more this and next year, he said.

Some of the hires will be heads of regional operations throughout the U.S., “to support the scale out of those operations and support our business development activities, making sure that we can continue to engage small manufacturers, large manufacturers, the right vendors,” said Dyck, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. “And Mike (Yost) will be hiring a few additional folks to help drive the education/workforce development piece.”

To “effectively engage industry and drive value for manufacturing of all sizes,” CESMII has focused on adding accomplished veterans to its staff, Yost said.

He noted that the recent hires, including Dyck, came from industry: “John filled his leadership team with industry domain experts. If you look at his senior staff, between the CTO, himself, the COO and me, you’re talking about everybody having 30-35+-year industry experience. So at the top of the organization, you’re talking several hundred years of industry experience, partnered with the main contact between UCLA and the institute, Jim Davis, who is widely considered in academic circles to be the father of smart manufacturing.”

Last spring, UCLA was named as CESMII’s program and administrative home, engaging directly with the U.S. Dept of Energy to execute the operational elements of the institute, which is expected to be completely self-sufficient and sustainable by 2023. The previous host was the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition.

As CEO, Dyck needed to “make sure we have the best and the brightest in the industry, if not the world, here at the institute so we can, in a very nuanced but very strategic way, solve the right problems,” he said. “We don’t have a billion dollars like a Siemens or a Rockwell or an SAP or a Microsoft. What we do have is $140-150 million, five years and a compelling strategy and business model that enables them—along with the rest of this ecosystem—to engage with us here and do some really strategic and important things for this country.”  

With SMP, institute seeks to standardize how data is collected, stored, contextualized

CESMII in September worked to make manufacturers in the U.S. aware of its Smart Manufacturing Platform (SMP)—and quoted Greg Colvin, a technical fellow at Honeywell Aerospace, in a press release as saying, “CESMII’s goal of providing a platform enabling efficient data management across manufacturing facilities, equipment and business operation systems will accelerate U.S. manufacturers’ adoption of Industry 4.0.”

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CESMII CEO John Dyck, left, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, right, review Atollogy’s artificial intelligence solution, enabled by CESMII’s Smart Manufacturing Platform—at WET Design, the site of the mayor’s Oct. 15 Manufacturing Summit. Dyck spoke at the summit about CESMII’s creation of an affinity group for small-to-medium enterprises to ensure that their perspectives, requirements and needs are reflected in the institute’s work.

Data management issues are “pervasive,” he said, predicting that having access to CESMII’s software to help solve those challenges “will provide competitive advantages to CESMII members and U.S. Industry.”

CESMII CEO John Dyck said in a September interview in Los Angeles that his organization’s goal is for the software to “become a de facto industry standard for how data is collected and stored and contextualized—so that what today is at the core of every manufacturing solution and is different for every vendor will become harmonized or standardized.”

Today, all of the “hundreds and hundreds of IoT platforms and great software vendors out in the marketplace… have a very proprietary way of connecting to platform data sources, storing that data and contextualizing that data,” Dyck said. “Every one is radically different.”

CESMII is “trying to create a kind of crowd-sourced environment that manufacturers can accept,” rather than offer open-source software, he said. That’s because many manufacturers are reluctant “to take open-source software and use it to run their plants.”

The free Smart Manufacturing Platform is available now to CESMII members, in a prerelease mode.

“So,” Dyck said, “for the first time ever, we have our Smart Manufacturing Platform in the marketplace available in a limited set of circumstances for our projects and for our members. That’s a really big deal for us” because CESMII is giving manufacturers “really contemporary, strategic technologies” they can use in mission-critical manufacturing settings to help solve vexing issues.

For example, under one project CESMII already funded, ArcelorMittal will use the software to create a “zero-defect steel output” from a specific sculpting process at one of its steel mills—by “collecting all of the data from hundreds of sensors and control systems and using some sophisticated software on the platform to … build the physics-based models for the process, and then use the data to predict where you’re going to deviate before you’re actually deviating from acceptable thresholds,” he said.

Microsoft was one of several CESMII member companies that spoke out when CESMII trumpeted its SMP.

"Openness and interoperability are critical to the success of industrial IoT, and we are committed advancing the industry through the Open Manufacturing Platform,” Sam George, corporate VP for Azure IoT at Microsoft, said in prepared remarks. “CESMII and their efforts to build a Smart Manufacturing Platform align well with our strategy, and we are excited to partner with them to simplify the customer journey in manufacturing.”

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