Episode 95

Smart Manufacturing for All


August 31st, 2022

46 mins 21 secs

Season 2

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. 

In episode 17 of the podcast (@AugmentedPod), the topic is: Smart Manufacturing for All. Our guest is John Dyck, CEO at CESMII, the Smart Manufacturing Institute.

After listening to this episode, check out CESMII as well as John Dyck's social profile:

  • CESMII: (@CESMII_SM) https://www.cesmii.org/ 
  • John Dyck: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsdyck/ 

In this conversation, we talked about  democratizing smart manufacturing, the history and ambition of CESMII (2016-), bridging the skills gap in small and medium enterprises which constitute 98% of manufacturing. We discuss how the integration of advanced sensors, data, platforms and controls to radically impact manufacturing performance. We then have the hard discussion of why the US is (arguably) a laggard? John shares the 7 characteristics of future-proofing (interoperability, openness, sustainability, security, etc.). We hear about two coming initiatives: Smart Manufacturing Executive Council & Smart Manufacturing Innovation Platform. We then turn to the future outlook over the next decade.

Trond's takeaway: US manufacturing is a bit of a conundrum. How can it both be the driver of the international economy and a laggard in terms of productivity and innovation, all at the same time? Can it all be explained by scale--both scale in multinationals and scale in SMEs? Whatever the case may be, future proofing manufacturing, which CESMII is up to, seems like a great idea. The influx of smart manufacturing technologies will, over time, transform industry as a whole, but it will not happen automatically.

Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at Augmentedpodcast.co or in your preferred podcast player, and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 8 on Work of the Future, episode 5 Plug-and-play Industrial Tech, or episode 9 The Fourth Industrial Revolution post-COVID-19. Augmented--the industry 4.0 podcast.


TROND: Augmented reveals the stories behind a new era of industrial operations where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers.

In Episode 17 of the podcast, the topic is Smart Manufacturing for All. Our guest is John Dyck, CEO at CESMII, the Smart Manufacturing Institute.

In this conversation, we talked about democratizing smart manufacturing, the history, and ambition of CESMII, bridging the skills gap in small and medium enterprises, which constitute 98% of manufacturing. We discuss how the integration of advanced sensors, data, platforms, and controls radically impact manufacturing performance. We then have the hard discussion of why the U.S. is, arguably, a laggard. John shares the seven characteristics of future-proofing. And we hear about two coming initiatives: Smart Manufacturing Executive Council & Smart Manufacturing Innovation Platform. We then turn to the future outlook over the next decade.

Augmented is a podcast for leaders hosted by futurist, Trond Arne Undheim, presented by Tulip.co, the manufacturing app platform and associated with MFG.works, the manufacturing upskilling community launched at the World Economic Forum. Each episode dives deep into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time, every Wednesday.

Augmented — the Industry 4.0 podcast.

John, how are you today?

JOHN: I'm well, Trond. How are you?

TROND: I'm doing well. I'm looking forward to talking about smart manufacturing. What brought you to this topic, John? We'll get into your background. But I'm just curious.

JOHN: This is my favorite topic, as you probably know. So I appreciate the chance to pontificate a little. I've been at this nexus between IT and OT for the last two decades of my career or more and found over these past two decades that this is one of the most complex pieces of manufacturing period, this sort of unique challenge between the world of operations and the world of IT.

And the work I did at MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association) on the board and as the chairman of the board exposed me to a lot of the great vendors in this ecosystem. And through that work, I found that most of them struggle with the same things. We're all struggling in different ways.

And so the opportunity to take one step back and look at this from a national and a global perspective and try to find ways to address these challenges became a very unique opportunity for me and one that I've enjoyed immensely. And so just the prospect of making a real difference in addressing these challenges as a nation and as an ecosystem has been just a privilege and one that I get really excited about.

TROND: So, John, you mentioned your background. So you've worked in both startups...I think you were raising money for a startup called Activplant, but also, you have worked in large manufacturing for GE and Rockwell, so the big guys, I guess, in a U.S. context for sure. When this institution, C-E-S-M-I-I, CESMII, got started, what was its main objective, and what was the reason why this institution got launched? I guess back in 2016, which is not an enormous amount of time back. Give us a little sense of who took this initiative. And what is the core mission of this organization right now?

JOHN: So Manufacturing USA is the umbrella organization under which these institutes, CESMII being one of them, were created. There are a total of 15 of these institutes, all funded with the exact same business model and funding model, and each of them having a different lens on the specific manufacturing problem that they're addressing. And ours, as the Smart Manufacturing Institute, is directly focused on creating a more competitive manufacturing environment by addressing innovation and research challenges that inhibit manufacturers from doing what they need to do in this fourth industrial revolution.

So our mandate is to cut the cost of implementing smart manufacturing by 50%. Our mandate is to drive energy productivity, energy efficiency. Fundamentally, the agency that funds CESMII is the Department of Energy, which means that our overarching objective is to drive energy productivity as a basic metric.

But we also believe that whether that's a direct challenge meaning addressing energy, performance energy efficiency directly, or an indirect outcome from a more efficient process, or a more effective supply chain, whatever that manufacturing initiative is, that we'll create a better product, a better process that will have direct and indirect impact on energy productivity, which is the connection back to our agency and the source of the funding that we have to accomplish these really important goals.

TROND: And one of the really big identified gaps, also it seems, is this discrepancy between the big and the small industry players. So small and medium enterprises famously in every country is basically...the most of industry is consisting of these smaller players. They're not necessarily startups. They're not necessarily on this growth track to become unicorns. But they are smaller entities, and they have these resource constraints.

Give me a sense of what you're doing to tackle that, to help them out, and to equip them for this new era. And maybe you could also just address...you called smart manufacturing industry 4.0, but I've noticed that that's not a term that one uses much. Smart manufacturing is kind of what you've opted for. So maybe just address that and then get to the small and medium-sized.

JOHN: This is, I think, one of the really important observations that we try to make and the connections that we try to make to say that the status quo, the state of the industry today, Trond, is the result of three or four decades of what we did during the third industrial revolution. We began talking about the fourth industrial revolution many years ago. But we can't just turn that light switch on and assume that overnight everything we do now, despite the cultures we've created, the technologies we've created, the ways of doing things we've created, is now all of a sudden just new and exciting and different, and it's going to create that next wave of productivity.

So when I talk about smart manufacturing and equating it with the fourth industrial revolution, it's truly the characteristics and the behaviors that we anticipate more so than what we're seeing. Because the critical mass of vendors and systems integrators, application and software products in this marketplace still resemble more of industry 3.0 than they do industry 4.0. And it's part of our vision to characterize those two only in the context of trying to accelerate the movement towards industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. Because it's that that holds out the promise of the value creation that we've been promised for ten decades but really aren't seeing. So that's the way we see the industry 4.0 versus the other concepts that we talk about.

Digital transformation is another important term. All of that happens in the context of some initiative in a manufacturing operation to improve. We've been improving for three or four decades. What's different today? Well, it's not just relabeling [laughs] your portfolio to be industry 4.0 compliant. So anyway, that's a pet topic of ours just to help as a national conversation, as a set of thinking and thought leader organizations and individuals to put the spotlight on that and ensure that we're doing the things that we can to accelerate the adoption, and the behaviors, and the characterizations of what it really means to be industry 4.0. So to your point --

TROND: Yeah, I was just curious. The term revolution anyway is interesting in a U.S. context [laughter] and in any society. So it implies a lot of things, but it also certainly implies a speed that perhaps isn't necessarily happening. So there's all this talk now about how things are speeding up. But as you point out, even if they have some revolutionary characteristics, at the edge, there are some other things that need to happen that aren't necessarily going to happen at the speed of what you might imagine when you use the word revolution. It's not going to turn over like a switch.

JOHN: That's exactly right. Well said, Trond. Manufacturing and bleeding edge never come together in the same sentence, and so it takes time for...and more so on the OT side than the IT side. Right out of the IT world, we have industrial IoT platforms. We have augmented reality. We have powerful AI machine learning tools. But what is the true adoption on the plant floor? Well, that's where the behaviors, and the cultures, and the characteristics of how we've always done things and the reluctance to adopt new things really comes in.

And it's as much a part of the vendor and systems integration ecosystem as it is on the manufacturing side. And that's, again, this whole thing becomes...to drive (I really don't think it's a revolution to your point.) an evolution or accelerate the evolution towards Industry 4.0 requires the ecosystem to get engaged and to recognize these really important things have to change. Does that make sense?

TROND: Yes. A lot of them have to change. And then to these small and medium enterprises, so I've seen a statistic that even in the U.S., it's around 98% of manufacturing. That is an enormous challenge, even for an association like yours. How do you reach that many?

JOHN: Here's an interesting epiphany I had shortly after I came to CESMII and was working through exactly this challenge: how does an organization like ours access and understand the challenges they face and then look at the ecosystem that's there and available to serve them? The epiphany I had was that in my entire career with both big global corporations like Rockwell Automation and General Electric and specifically even the startup organization that I helped raise VC for and venture capital funding for and build and ultimately see acquired; I had never been in a small and medium manufacturing plant environment.

The entire ecosystem is focused on large brands, recognized brands, and enterprises that have the potential for multisite rollouts, multisite implementation. And so the business models, the marketing models, the sales, the go-to-market, the cost of sales, everything in this ecosystem is designed towards the large enterprises called the Fortune 1000 that represent the types of characteristics that any startup, any Global Fortune 500 organization is going to go pursue.

Which then says or leaves us with a really important conversation to say, how can the small and medium manufacturing organizations become part of this dialogue? How can we engage them? What does an ecosystem look like that's there to serve these organizations? And where an implementation organization like a good systems integrator can actually make money engaging in this way.

And so that's where the needs of that ecosystem and our specific capabilities come together. The notion that democratization which is going to help the big manufacturers, and the big vendors, and the big integrators, and the big machine builders, the same things that we can do to cut the cost of deploying smart manufacturing for them, will enormously increase the accessibility of smart manufacturing capabilities for the small and medium manufacturers. And so that's where typically --

TROND: John, let's talk specifics. Let's talk specifics. So smart manufacturing, you said, and I'm assuming it's not just a community effort. You're intervening at the level also of providing a certain set of tools also. So if we talk about sensors, and data, and platforms, and control systems, these are all impacting manufacturing performance.

To what extent can an association like yours actually get involved at that level? Is it purely on the standardization front, sort of recommending different approaches? Or is it even going deeper into layers of technology and providing more than just recommendations?

JOHN: So the short answer is it depends on the domain, and the area of networking, and sensors and controls. Those are areas where longer-term research and investment to drive innovation to reduce the cost of connecting things becomes really important. And that's one of the threads or one of the investment paths that we pursue through what we call roadmap projects where there are longer, larger in terms of financial scope and further out impacts. We're hoping we'll have a dramatic impact on the cost of connecting machines and sensors and variable-frequency drives and motion systems or whatever sort of data source you have in an operation. So that's one track.

The other piece which gets to the actual creation of technologies is more on the data contextualization, data collection, data ingestion side. And you mentioned the word standards. Well, standards are important, and where there are standards that we can embrace and advocate for, we're absolutely doing that.

Part of the OPC Foundation and the standards that they're driving, MQTT and Sparkplug, becomes a really important area as well. And the work that MTConnect is doing to solve many of the same challenges that we believe we need to solve more broadly for a subset of machine classes more in a CNC machine tool side. But this effort, smart manufacturing, is happening today, and it's accelerating today. And we can't wait for standards to be agreed on, created, and achieve critical mass.

So we are investing in a thin but vital layer of technologies that we can drill into if you'd like as a not-for-profit, not to compete in the marketplace but to create a de facto standard for how some of these really important challenges can be addressed, and how as a standard develops and we fund the deployment of these innovations in the marketplace and kind of an innovation environment versus a production environment. Not that they don't turn into production environments, but they start as an innovation project to start and prove out and either fail quickly or scale up into a production environment.

So this idea of a de facto standard is a really important idea for us. That's our objective. And that's what we believe we can build and are building is critical mass adoption for really important ideas. And we're getting support from a lot of the great thought leaders in the space but also from a lot of the great organizations and bodies like, as I mentioned, the OPC Foundation, The Industrial Internet Consortium, the German platform industry 4.0 group responsible in Germany for industry 4.0.

We're working towards and aligning around the same principles and ideas, again, to help create a harmonized view of these foundational technologies that will allow us to accomplish the dramatic reduction of the cost of connecting and extracting information from and contextualizing that information. And then making it available in ways that are far more consistent and compelling for the application vendor.

The bar or the threshold at which an application developer can actually step into the space and do something is in a pretty high space. If you kind of look back, and I know this analogy is probably a little overused, but what it took to build applications for devices and phones, smart devices, and smartphones before Apple and Android became commonplace meant that you had to build the entire stack every single time. And that's where the industry is today. When you sit down in front of a product, you're starting from scratch every time, regardless of the fact that you've created an information model for that paper-converting machine 100 times in 20 different technology stacks.

When I start this project, it's a blank slate. It's a blank sheet of paper every single time. Is that value-add? Is that going to help? No. And yet it requires a tremendous amount of domain expertise to build that. So the notion of standardizing these things, abstracting them from any individual to technology stack, standardizing on them, making them available in the marketplace for others to use that's where democratization begins to happen.

TROND: So what you are about to create is an innovation platform for smart manufacturing. Will that be available then to everybody in the U.S. marketplace? Or is it actually completely open for all of the industry, wherever they reside? And what are the practical steps that you would have to take as a manufacturer if you even just wanted to look into some of the things you were building and maybe plug in with it?

JOHN: So we're not about to build, just a minor detail there. We've been working on this for a couple of years. And we have a growing set of these implementations in the marketplace through the funded projects that we were proud to be able to bring to the marketplace. So the funding, and right now within the scope of what we're doing here as an institute, the funds that we deploy as projects, these grants, essentially mean that we spend these grants, these funds in the U.S. only.

So in the context of what we do here, the smart manufacturing innovation platform, the creation of these profiles, the creation of the apps on top of the platform by our vendor ecosystem and domain experts in this ecosystem those are largely here and exclusively here in the U.S, I should say. So from that perspective, deployments that we have control over in terms of funding are uniquely here in the U.S. What happens beyond that in terms of where they're deployed and how they're deployed, we know we live in a global manufacturing environment. And as our members who want to deploy these capabilities outside of the U.S., those are all absolutely acceptable deployments of these technologies.

TROND: But, John, so all of these deployments are they funded projects so that they're always within involvement of grant money, or is some part of this platform actually literally plug and play?

JOHN: So there are several threads. The projects that we fund are obviously one thread. There's another thread that says any member of ours can use any implementation of our platform or can use our platform and any of the vendors that are here as a proof of concept or pilot, typically lasting 3,4,5,6 months for free of charge. What happens then that leads to the third component is after your pilot, there's one of two things that's going to happen. The system will be decommissioned, and you ideally, well, I shouldn't say ideally...you fail fast, the system is decommissioned, and folks move on.

Ideally, the pilot was a success. And that generates a financial transaction for the parties involved in that. And that organization moves towards a production rollout of these capabilities. So CESMII's role then diminishes and steps away.

But this notion of a pilot actually came from a conversation with one of our great members here at Procter & Gamble. They talk about innovation triage and the complexity of just innovating within a large corporate environment like Procter & Gamble. The fact that just to stand up the infrastructure to invite a vendor, several vendors in to stand up their systems costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and takes months and months and months just to get started.

This notion that we can provision this platform in minutes, bring our vendor partner technologies to bear in minutes allows them to execute what they call innovation triage. And it really accelerates the rate at which they can innovate within their corporation, but it's that same idea that we translate back down to small and medium manufacturing, right? The notion that you don't have to have a server. You don't have to sustain a server. You don't have to buy a server to try smart manufacturing in a small and medium manufacturing environment.

If you've got five sensors from amazon.com and lightly industrialized Raspberry Pi, you have the means to begin the smart manufacturing journey. What do you do with that data? Well, there are great partner organizations like Tulip, like Microsoft Excel, even Microsoft Power BI that represent compelling democratized contemporary low-cost solutions that they can actually sustain.

Because this isn't just about the cost of acquiring and implementing these systems, as you know. This is also about sustaining them. Do I have the staff, the domain expertise as a small and medium manufacturer to sustain the stuff that somebody else may have given me or implemented here for me? And so that's just as an important requirement for these organizations as the original acquisition and implementation challenges.

TROND: It's so important what you're talking about here, John, because there's an additional concept which is not so pleasant called pilot purgatory. And this has been identified in factories worldwide. It's identified in any software development. But with OT, as you pointed out, with more operational technologies, with additional complications, it is so easy to just get started with something and then get stuck and then decide or maybe not decide just sort of it just happens that it never scales up to production value and production operations.

And it seems like some of the approaches you're putting on the table here really help that situation. Because, as you mentioned, hundreds of thousands of dollars, that's not a great investment for a smaller company if it leads to a never-ending kind of stop and start experimenting but never really can be implemented on the true production line.

JOHN: Yeah. Spot on, Trond. The numbers that we're seeing now...I think McKenzie released a report a couple of months ago talking about, I think, somewhere between 70% and 80% of all projects in this domain not succeeding, which means they either failed or only moderately succeeded. And I think that's where the term pilot purgatory comes in.

I talk almost every chance I get about the notion that the first couple of decades of the third industrial revolution resulted in islands of automation. And we began building islands of information as software became a little more commonplace in the late '80s and '90s. And then the OTs here in the last decade, we've been building islands of innovation, this pilot purgatory.

The assumption was...and I get back to the journey between where we thought industry 3.0 or the third industrial revolution became the fourth industrial revolution. The idea was that, man, we're just going to implement some of these great new capabilities and prove them out and scale them up. Well, it gets back to the fact that even these pilots, these great innovative tools, were implemented with these old ideas in these closed data siloed ways and characterizations.

And so yeah, everybody's excited. The CEO has visibility to this new digital transformation pilot that he just authorized or she just authorized. And a lot of smart people are involved, and a lot of domain experts involved. The vendors throw cash at this thing, and the systems integrators, implementers, throw cash at this thing. And even if they're successful, and broadly, as an individual proof of concept, there are points of light that say, we accomplished some really important things.

The success is not there, or the success isn't seeing that scaled out, and those are the really nuanced pieces that we're trying to address through this notion of the innovation platform and profiles. The notion that interoperability and openness is what's going to drive scale, the notion that you don't have the same stovepipe legacy application getting at the same set of data from the same data sources on the shop floor for every unique application, and that there are much more contemporary ways of building standardized data structures that every application can build on and drive interoperability through.

TROND: Yeah, you talk about this as the characteristics of future-proofing. So you mentioned interoperability, and I guess openness which is a far wider concept. Like openness can mean several things. And then sustainability and security were some other of your future-proofing characteristics. Can you line up some of those for us just to give some context to what can be done? If you are a factory owner, if you're a small and medium-sized enterprise, and you want to take this advice right now and implement.

JOHN: Yeah, we've tried as an association, as a consortia, Trond, it's not just CESMII staff like myself who are paid full-time to be here that are focused on identifying and developing strategies for the challenges that we believe will help manufacturing in the U.S. It's organizations that are members here and thought leaders from across the industry that help us identify these really fundamental challenges and opportunities.

And so, as an institute, we've landed on what we call the smart manufacturing first principles. There are seven first principles that we believe characterize the modern contemporary industry 4.0 compliant, if you will, strategy. And just to list them off quickly, because we have definitions and we have content that flushes out these ideas, sort of in order of solve and order of importance for us, interoperability and openness is the first one. Sustainable and energy efficient is the second one, security, scalability, resilient and orchestrated, flat and real-time, and proactive and semi-autonomous.

And so these we believe are the characteristics of solutions, technologies, capabilities that will move us from this world of pilot purgatory and where we've come from as an ecosystem in this third industrial revolution and prepare us for a future-proof strategy whether I'm a small and medium manufacturer that just cares about this one instance of this problem I need to solve, or whether I'm a Fortune 10 manufacturing organization that understands that the mess that we've created over the last 25 years has got to make way for a better future.

That I'm not going to reinvest in a future...not that I can rip and replace anything I've got, but I've got to invest in capabilities moving forward that represent a better, more sustainable, more interoperable future for my organization. That's the only way we're going to create this next wave of productivity that is held out for us as a promise of this new era.

TROND: John, you have alluded to this, and you call it the mess that we've created over the last 25 years. We have talked about the problems of lack of interoperability and other issues. This is not an easy discussion and certainly not in your official capacity. But why is the U.S. a laggard? Because, to be honest, these are not problems that every country has, to a degree, they are but specifically, the U.S. and its manufacturing sector has been lagging. And there is data there, and I think you agree with this. Why is this happening? And are any of these initiatives going to be able to address that short term?

JOHN: So this is probably the most important question that we as a nation need to address, and it's a multifaceted, complex question. And I think the answer is a multifaceted, complex response as well. And we probably don't have time to drill into this in detail, but I'll respond at least at a 30,000 foot-level. Even this morning, I saw a friend of mine sent me a link about China being called out today officially as being a leader in this digital transformation initiative globally, as you've just alluded to.

So, from our perspective, there are a couple of important...and like I said, really understanding why this is the case is the only way we're going to be able to move forward and accelerate the adoption of this initiative. But there are a number of reasons. The reason I think China is ahead is in part cultural, but it's also in part the fact that they don't have much of the legacy that we've built. Most of their manufacturing operations as they've scaled up over the last decade, two decades, really since the World Trade Organization accepted China's entry in this domain, their growth into manufacturing systems has been much, much more recent than ours.

And so they don't have this complex legacy that we do. There are other cultural implications for how the Chinese manufacturing environment adopts technologies. And there's much more of a top-down culture there. Certain leaders drive these activities and invest in these ways. Much of the ecosystem follows. So that's, I'll say, one perspective on how China becomes the leader in this domain very quickly.

Europe is also ahead of the U.S. And I think there are some important reasons why that's the case as well. And a part of it is that they have a very strong cultural connection to the way government funds and is integrated with both the learning and academic ecosystem there in most of Europe as well as with the manufacturing companies themselves. It seems to have become part of their DNA to accept that the federal government can bring these initiatives to the marketplace and then funds the education of every part of their ecosystem to drive these capabilities into their manufacturing marketplace.

We, on the other hand, are a much more American society. We are individualistic. The notion that the government should tell manufacturers what to do is not a well-accepted, [laughs] well-adopted idea here in the U.S. And that's been a strength for many manufacturers, and for many, many years.

The best analogy that I can come up with right now in terms of where we are and where we need to go and CESMII's role in all of this, and the federal government's role in all of this, which I think brings a healthy blend of who we are as a nation and how we work and how we do things here together with a future that's a little more also compatible with these notions of adopting and driving technology forward at scale, is the reality that in 1956, President Eisenhower convinced Congress to fund the U.S. Interstate Highways and Defense Act to build a network of interstate highways, a highway network across this country to facilitate much more efficient flow of people and goods across this country.

Apparently, as a soldier, many decades before, he had to travel from San Diego to Virginia in a military convoy that took him 31 days to cross the country [laughs], which is a slight aside. It was apparently the catalyst that drove the passion he had to solve this problem. And that's the role that I think we can play today, creating a digital highway, if you will, a digital catalyst to bring our supply chains together in a much more contemporary and real-time way and to bring our information systems into a modern industry 4.0 compliant environment.

And that's setting those, creating those definitions, defining those characteristics, and then providing the means whereby we can accelerate this ecosystem to move forward. I think that's the right balance between our sense of individualism and how we do things here in the U.S. versus adopting these capabilities at scale.

TROND: That's such a thoughtful answer to my question, which I was a little afraid of asking because it is a painful question. And it goes to the heart, I guess, of what it means to be an American, to be industrial, and to make changes. And there is something here that is very admirable. But I also do feel that the psychology of this nation also really doesn't deeply recognize that many of the greatest accomplishments that have been happening on U.S. soil have had an infrastructure component and a heavy investment from the government when you think about the creation of the internet, the creation of the highway system. You can go even further back, the railways.

All of those things they had components, at least a regulation, where they had massive infrastructure elements to them whether they were privately financed or publicly financed, which is sort of that's sort of not the point. But the point is there were massive investments that couldn't really be justified in an annual budget.

JOHN: That's right.

TROND: You would have to think much, much wider. So instead of enclosing on that end then, John, if you look to the future, and we have said manufacturing is, of course, a global industry also, what are you seeing over this next decade is going to happen to smart manufacturing?

So on U.S. soil, presumably, some amount of infrastructure investment will be made, and part of it will be digital, part of it will be actually equipment or a hybrid thereof that is somewhat smartly connected together. But where's that going to lead us? Is manufacturing now going to pull us into the future? Or will it remain an industry that historically pulls us into the future but will take a backseat to other industries as we move into the next decade?

JOHN: Yeah, that's another big question. We've been talking about smart manufacturing 2030, the idea that smart manufacturing is manufacturing by 2030. And a decade seems like a long time, and for most functions, for most areas of innovation, it is, but manufacturing does kind of run at its own pace. And there is a timeline around which both standardization and technologies and cultures move on the plant floor. And so that's a certain reality. And we were on a trajectory to get there. But ironically, it took a pandemic to truly underscore the value of digital transformation, digital operations, and digital workers, I can certainly say in the U.S. but even more broadly.

So a couple of important data points to back that up. Gartner just recently announced the outcome of an important survey of, I think, close to 500 manufacturing executives here in the U.S. in terms of their strategic perception of digital transformation, smart manufacturing. And I think they specifically called it smart manufacturing.

And it was as close to unanimous as anything they've ever seen; 86% or 87% of manufacturing executives said that now digital transformation, smart manufacturing is the most strategic thing they can invest in. What was it a year ago? It was probably less than half of that. So that speaks to the experience these organizations have gone through. And the reality that as we talk about resilience, some people talk about reshoring, and some of that will happen.

As we talk about a future environment, that's...I shouldn't say disruption-proof but much more capable of dealing with disruption not just within the four walls of the plant or an enterprise but in the supply chain. These capabilities are the things that will separate those that can withstand these types of disruptions from those that can't. And that has been recognized.

And so, as much as these executives are the same ones that are frustrated by pilot purgatory, it's these executives that are saying, "That's the future. We've got to go there." And we're seeing through this pandemic...we hear CESMII are saying the manufacturing thought leaders understand this and are rallying around these ideas more now than ever before to ensure that what we do in the future is consistent with a more thoughtful, more contemporary, future-proof way of investing in digital transformation or smart manufacturing.

TROND: John, these are fascinating times, and you have a very important role. I thank you so much for taking time to appear on my show here today.

JOHN: Trond, I appreciate that. I appreciate the privilege of sharing these thoughts with you. These are profound questions, and answering the easy ones is fun. Answering the hard questions is important. And I appreciate the chance to have this conversation with you today.

TROND: Thanks. Have a great day.

JOHN: You too.

TROND: You have just listened to Episode 17 of the Augmented Podcast with host Trond Arne Undheim. The topic was Smart Manufacturing for All. Our guest is John Dyck, CEO at CESMII, the Smart Manufacturing Institute.

In this conversation, we talked about democratizing smart manufacturing and the history and ambition of CESMII, bridging the skills gap in small and medium enterprises, which constitute 98% of manufacturing. We discuss how the integration of advanced sensors, data, platforms, and controls radically impact manufacturing performance. We then have the hard discussion of why the U.S. arguably is a laggard. We heard about two coming initiatives: the Smart Manufacturing Executive Council & the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Platform. We then turned to the future outlook over the next decade.

My takeaway is that U.S. manufacturing is a bit of a conundrum. How can it both be the driver of the international economy and a laggard in terms of productivity and innovation, all at the same time? Can it all be explained by scale, both scale in multinationals and scale in SMEs? Whatever the case may be, future-proofing manufacturing, which CESMII is up to, seems like a great idea. The influx of smart manufacturing technologies will, over time, transform industry as a whole, but it will not happen automatically.

Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at augmentedpodcast.co or in your preferred podcast player, and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like Episode 8 on Work of the Future, Episode 5 on Plug-and-play Industrial Tech, or Episode 9 on The Fourth Industrial Revolution post-COVID-19.

Augmented — the Industry 4.0 podcast.