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SOUTHTEC Shows the Way for Manufacturing and Digital Transformation

Bruce Morey
By Bruce Morey Senior Technical Editor, SME Media

Once again showing that industry is bouncing back, SOUTHTEC, a Manufacturing Technology Series event, was held Oct. 26-28 2021, at Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, South Carolina. SOUTHTEC Is part of the four-event Manufacturing Technology Series sponsored by SME and AMT. The event featured an integrated solution center with a complete Industry 4.0 platform exhibit, individual technology exhibits and company booths, keynote presentations, and panel discussions.

The SOUTHTEC show featured a forum for lectures, presentations, and panel discussions.

SOUTHTEC featured 253 exhibiting companies who met face to face with attendees in the hall that featured 49,950 ft.² of exhibit space. SME estimates that 75 percent have these attendees have a role in purchasing decisions. Conference management reported 2120 attendees and speakers plus 1400 exhibitor staff and 144 students attended the three-day event.

In its presentations and learning opportunities SOUTHTEC focused on providing small and medium manufacturers (SMMs) the knowledge and resources they need to navigate today’s evolving technology landscape and rapidly shifting post-pandemic environment. Among the key factors for SMMs’ survival in the coming decade will be adjusting for the impact of a changing supply chain and successfully addressing the labor shortage through both attracting new talent and training existing workers on modern technology. Their future growth is also dependent on successfully integrating smart and digital technologies – the industrial digital transformation.

“Too often, SMM owners and workers may perceive these issues as too big, too complex, or too costly for them to address,” said Robert Willig, executive director and CEO of SME. “But as the majority of manufacturers in the United States are classified as ‘small businesses,’ the industry’s success relies on making low-cost, high-efficiency solutions for manufacturing’s transformation available across the board, not just to its biggest players.”

Digital Transformation for SMMs

Willig said that perhaps no aspect of manufacturing will be as important to the industry’s future as digital transformation. SOUTHTEC featured an Integrated Solutions Center, hosted by Advanced Manufacturing International Inc. (AMI), that demonstrated a $3,000 option that begins to integrate smart manufacturing technologies into existing manufacturing operations. A price point ideal for SMMs.

SME and AMT also hosted a special panel of experts on Wednesday, October 27 at the SOUTHTEC event. It featured moderator Stephan Biller, CEO & President, Advanced Manufacturing International Inc. (AMI); Chris Mercurio, Connected Industry Consultant, Bosch Rexroth; Dean Phillips, Innovation Strategist & Sales Engineer, LINK Systems; Vincent Barre, Head, Customer experience Engineering (CxE), Enterprise Quality, Johnson & Johnson; Jim Plousis, Senior Director, External Quality & Supplier Quality, Johnson & Johnson.

An integrated IIoT solution was demonstrated by Advanced Manufacturing International Inc. at SOUTHTEC. (Provided by SME/ Bruce Morey)

The key take-away from the panel may have been said best by Biller, “Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something very sophisticated when you can start simple. Start simple and start now is critical. And start cheap.”

He went on to say that although it may have seemed that the digital transformation in the past was over promised, “this time it’s for real.” The reason for this is digital technologies are coming down in price even as the workforce is becoming more tech savvy.

Another important comment came from Mercurio, who said “The people side is the most critical for digital transformation. [A] technology solution is what we think of, but [digital transformation] is as much a ‘people’ change as it is a technology change.” Team effort is vital, and digital transformation needs people who are willing to learn, a group of professionals with a diverse set of skills that can work together. Mercurio compares a digital transformation to a lean transformation in that a company needs to approach it wholistically.

Phillips also stressed the human element digital transformations. “One of the most difficult problems we have right now is educating people [in the workforce].” He also stressed the need for a champion or ally in the company who can advocate not only for companywide solution but for solutions within different departments. “We often think data is more important than people,” said Phillips. “Often situations that need correction are known, but until an organization starts to collect data and use it, those situations are not visible enough to correct. You need data to drive decisions.”

The same keynotes were provided at each of the MT series events. A summary article of each can be found at

To listen to recorded versions of these keynotes download the SME Events App from your smart phone’s app store.

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