Feb. 16, 2022

Manufacturing x Digital

Manufacturing x Digital

Today’s guest is Chandra Brown, CEO, MxD (@ChandraBrownUSA), for episode 58 of Augmented Podcast (@augmentedpod). The topic is: Manufacturing x Digital. Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. Technology is changing rapidly. What’s next in the digital factory? Who is leading the change? What are the key skills to learn? How to stay up to date on manufacturing and industry 4.0? Augmented is a podcast for industrial leaders, process engineers and shop floor operators, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim (@trondau), presented by Tulip, the frontline operations platform.

In this conversation, we talked about manufacturing leadership, how to achieve digital manufacturing success, and fighting the skills and perception gap. We also touched on the activities of Chicago-based manufacturing institute MxD, and the future outlook of the industry.

Trond’s Takeaway

My takeaway is that manufacturing leadership is in good hands with Chicago-based manufacturing institute MxD. Digital manufacturing success takes constant R&D, experimentation, and learning from failure and success. If MxD’s approach took hold, the skills and perception gaps that persist  would start to dissipate. As long as idea exchange continues to accelerate, the future outlook of the industry is bright.

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 30, Rethinking Workforce Learning, 17, Smart Manufacturing for All, or 7, Work of the Future. Hopefully, you'll find something awesome in these or other episodes. If so, do let us know by messaging us, we would love to share your thoughts with other listeners.

The Augmented podcast is created in association with Tulip, the connected frontline operations platform that connects the people, machines, devices, and the systems used in a production or logistics process in a physical location. Tulip is democratizing technology and empowering those closest to operations to solve problems. Tulip is also hiring. You can find Tulip at Tulip.co.

Please share this show with colleagues who care about where industrial tech is heading. 

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5Y1gz66LxYvjJAMnN_f6PQ

See you next time. Augmented--industrial conversations that matter. 


Augmented Season 2: Episode 58

Trond Undheim: [00:00:00] Chandra. How are you today?

Chandra Brown: I am wonderful. Trond how are you? Great to be here. Yeah.

Trond Undheim: Likewise, this is a it's fantastic. I'm so happy to have the queen of manufacturing on the show.

Chandra Brown: Well, I am so happy to talk to your audience about my favorite subject

Trond Undheim: and that's manufacturing for sure.

Chandra Brown: It is. It's something that I don't think gets talked about enough, so I'm super excited to be doing this because I think there is so much happening in this space.

It's amazing.

Trond Undheim: So you've been working on manufacturing issues for a while you feeling government at the us department of commerce and you've been in private sector and now you work for MXD. I'm kind of curious what brought you into manufacture?

Chandra Brown: Yeah. You know, it's a great question because I think one of my jobs is hopefully to be inspiring the next generation of folks and particularly women and other diverse sectors, which we need more of desperately in the manufacturing space.

And I [00:01:00] have to be honest, um, you know, I say I grew up and I knew I was going to be the queen of manufacturing and that was my life ambition. But you know, it wasn't that way. Um, I kind of fell into it and fell in love with it in my twenties, actually, you know, you don't know all the different jobs and things that are out there.

And I realized I'm one of those kinds of tactile people. Right? I like to see something. I like to feel it. I want it to be built. So as much as I love. And it's funny because I run a digital manufacturing Institute now, which a lot is unseen, but I was always really moved by the process of designing something and then seeing that vision come to life.

So, you know, in my past I built everything from boats, you know, to bridges, to street cars. Right. And I can tell you, there's nothing more exciting than the design. We designed the street car. Build it, and then you get to ride on it. Like, I mean, it's the full circle really of life. And so I personally find that really.[00:02:00]

Trond Undheim: Well, I can understand that it took me a while to fully realize the fascination here. And I'm sorry to say, it seems like young people around the world haven't really found this to be true yet. Why do you think that is.

Chandra Brown: Yeah, I think it's X one is exposure. It's so incredible. The factory floors of today.

Right. You know, I was in metal manufacturing. So we did have, you know, welding and fitting about people have the kind of illusion that all manufacturing is dark and difficult. And, oh my gosh. When you look at the factories of today, you know, with the use of robots, And design and you know, some of them are light and airy.

There's, there's so much going on and manufacturing involves so much again, I don't think people realize the scope of what manufacturing jobs and encompass. So one of my favorite things is we have manufacturing day each year in October, and I love it when these local [00:03:00] businesses. Not just the large companies, but we open their doors and show the community.

Look, what's being built in your backyard. Look at these mom and pop shops, for example, and look at the incredible things that they are making the products that you care about that are, you know, in everyday life. So that is something I think we need to do more of is this educating and letting people know it's a great way to make a living in general in the past, as you probably know, Manufacturing was one of the main paths to the middle of.

You know, they are well-paying jobs and they were jobs. Sometimes you didn't have to get a degree and go into debt for, you can immediately go into the workforce and start making enough money to raise a family, to buy a home. And I think those are all still important pieces of this manufacturing

Trond Undheim: puzzle.

Yeah. And we'll get back to this, uh, in a little while when we talk about what's sort of in the future here, because I wonder really. How long it's going to take for people to realize that there's actually [00:04:00] a new golden age, you know, kind of brewing here, which arguably is going to be that again in a way, but let's go to your Institute and what you're up to.

With educating and collaborating all across the United States with a bunch of partners. How did this Institute gets started? It's one of the basically endorsed Institute. So they of the government tell us a little bit about the origin and then w where are you today? What are the exciting projects that you are undertaking right now?

Chandra Brown: Absolutely. So being the CEO of MXD and it's M M times D it stands for Manufacturing times digital, it is a nonprofit. Public private partnership. And for me, it's just so exciting because most of my career was in the private sector, right? As a CEO of working at Oregon Ironworks and the CEO of United street car.

And then as you mentioned, I went into the public side. I worked for the federal government. The one I like to say is the largest [00:05:00] bureaucracy in the world. Very, very different. I was the deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing and commerce, and that was great. I learned so much. The scale and the importance of the government.

And then this job is really bringing that together, the public side and the private side with really one main mission in mind, we want to be the place where innovative manufacturers like they go to forge their future. And we're really trying to equip us factories with all the things they need, the digital tools, the cybersecurity, the workforce expertise.

We want them to be able to build every part better than. We'll be able to do it using the digital tools and the future of where industry Ford auto, the industrial revolution we all like to talk about is going. So it's a fantastic job, you know, I love what I do. And to talk a little bit about the history a long time ago, I sat there.

Um, there was a us manufacturing council and the us manufacturing council, and so many [00:06:00] other stakeholders. All these people came together and they looked at what in the United States is. How are we upgrading and uplifting this manufacturing base? And this is before I will add the pandemic, I think has made everyone a lot more knowledgeable about the importance of manufacturing and especially locally, and especially with the supply chain issues.

Right? So I feel we're much more empowered now. And these days, people weren't talking about it as much, you know, a decade ago. And they looked at what was being done on the international stage. So there's some great models Fraunhofer in Germany, things that were being done in the UK and Singapore and the us really hasn't done as much on the public private partnership side.

So this idea was built that that's one of the ways that we can help the manufacturing community here. And that's kind of the inception, if you will, of these manufacturing institutes.

Trond Undheim: Yeah. And then what happened was that these institutes. And, and each has kind of a different profile. So was it clear from the outset that digital, [00:07:00] and also, I understand there's a very big kind of shop floor that you have a very big exhibition space.

So a lot of it is, is bringing people together. Was that at the outset, what your Institute was charged.

Chandra Brown: So it was basically a competition, right? So nothing is set. Uh, you know, anything we do with the government is ultimately competed. So I can't say that there was like the absolute blueprint of this is how you're going to do it.

In fact, all of the institutes are actually fairly different right now. We've we've grown. We were the second Institute. The first one was additive manufacturing. America makes in Youngstown, Ohio. The second. Now there's 16 of these they're called Manufacturing, really innovation institutes across the United States.

Each of us has a really unique topic. There's everything from robotics to bio materials, energy. And actually, I want to call that out. That's actually another big difference between the instant. Some are sponsored by [00:08:00] department of defense. The majority are, but there are several department of energy sponsored manufacturing institutes, and one at commerce.

The department of commerce has one manufacturing. So if you think about it, even with our sponsoring agencies that sets you up differently, you know, contractually and otherwise, the DOE institutes probably are a little more heavy. Sure research, the DOD ones as a large consumer right. Of, of products is farther along on a very applied R and D, but we're all similar, right?

We all have the same mission, but each of us has a different topic, obviously I'm biased. Right. So I would say that my topic is. The important one, I will say sometimes it's difficult because we're probably the broadest, you know, if you think about additive materials or composites, right. Or something specific, lightweight metals is one of the institutes.

That's pretty specific. Like, you know what you're doing? The digital space is huge. Right? So we are taking on a lot. But I [00:09:00] think it's absolutely critical to the future of manufacturing. So I think that's a big difference and I will add just one other point in here that we brought recently designated as the national center for cybersecurity and manufacturing by DOD.

So when you talk about this digital space, we all realize all this data moving around. We also have to secure that. So now we have kind of another mission on top, which is a very important one as well, which is securing the data and the manufactured.

Trond Undheim: So tell me a little then about some of the projects, because I think you have something like 85 R and D projects going on almost all across America.

There's about 300 partners for this type of activity. Give me some examples of, of these research projects. So you said cybersecurity, what are some of the areas that really is a big focal point this year or the.

Chandra Brown: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that question, because it's really unique. This is a really cool thing about our model and I would love, like, I want [00:10:00] to reach everyone out there because we put over $120 million right out into the ecosystem and over 85 of these applied R and D projects, which includes cyber and workforce and regular, like.

And I'm going to give you some examples and kind of explain, and also

Trond Undheim: maybe how you can get ahold of some of those millions in the sense that I'm assuming these partners don't just contribute for free. There's a, I'm sure a contribution they make, but there's also a way to get some of that funding. So I'm curious that you just give some examples of the kind of lighthouse projects that people have gotten in.


Chandra Brown: absolutely. So basically we have members, you know, if you're a member and if you're a small business, it's $500 to be a member at MXD. So, you know, very dribble, right. We're trying, obviously, if you're a larger, multi-national at much higher fee, but we have mostly small businesses that are members. And then obviously a bunch of the larger operations are also members.

You know, the [00:11:00] Boeing's the roles, but, you know, we have Microsoft and at T and T. Siemens. And there's a lot of companies that are in our ecosystem. And then we also have over, I think we're up to over like 40 universities, right? So that's the academic side. So I just want to describe an ideal project and I'll give you a really specific example and we put RFQ is out.

So we take in a whole bunch of data and we do a three year going, hopefully sometime to five strategic plan on where we're going to end. So that's the start. We talked to all these manufacturers, what is your biggest problems? What is your most urgent needs? And we look at that and we put money, you know, money, mostly that comes from DOD and the federal government.

And we will put an RFQ out on our website. So it's open to the public. Anyone can go see, you can go there. Now I'm looking to see what projects we're going to be funding. And usually we have around 30 active a year. Right? So like different projects in different levels. The scoping to actually putting it out.

So the example I will give, like what's the [00:12:00] ideal project and I'm really proud of this one. We did a supply chain risk alert, and this was started years ago before the pandemic. So again, we were, we were very pristine I guess, and I think it's continuing, you know, we have. Phases and some of our projects as they move forward.

So what this is, this project basically used all different sources of data, you know, weather, data, risk, data, transportation, data logistics, and it's using AI, artificial intelligence and algorithms. So you can get advanced notice of a supply chain disruption, right? So putting all these things together and using AI to help you predict that's what we want.

We don't want to react. We want to be proactive. Um, this project, it was Microsoft Dow. I think everyone knows the other chemical company. It Tamco, which is a small business and Indiana. And then two universities Rochester Institute of technology and Indiana university Purdue university. So, [00:13:00] you know, you think about that here's two different universities, here's Microsoft or style, a couple of big companies, a small company, and they all come together, you know, on this project that we fund.

So of course they're contributing, you know, their time and their energy and they're a member, but you know, we're funding this project and what's great is we're getting these real life users. Small business Dow the big business. They actually get to test it to use it like that. That's part of the practical side.

You know, we want most of the outcomes from our projects to really help impact the whole, you know, us manufacturing chain.

Trond Undheim: So the idea here is it's not just a research project. You take it a little further. You do a lot of testing.

Chandra Brown: Absolutely. And that's why we have are fantastic. I love it. Our future factory floor, you mentioned before it's a 22,000 square foot facility.

And I like to say, yeah, what are we doing? We're making kind of the digital thread come alive and an applications that from some of our own projects, you can see them on the [00:14:00] floor. So we have, you know, old world war two equipment, right. And we can show you how you can retrofit, you know, 60 year old drill press.

How can you make that digital? You can go there and see it. We can show you a mini assembly line and how we do it paperless. So again, for, with low cost solutions that people can implement, as we try to get them to move along this digital path, you know, this is how it works. And sometimes it's using things like X-Box cameras, right.

And lights and sound. Videos that are portrayed right down in front of you. So it makes it easier for you to be able to build something. We have a cyber security wall in the factory, which I love. So we will hack ourselves. Right? We don't want any small business. I mean, they're probably getting hacked enough, right?

That you can't disrupt your business sometimes when you're learning. So that's why we have this great space. You know, we're headquartered in Chicago, it's on goose island and it's fantastic. People come in there and we show them, this is how you're going to be hacked. This is what has. If [00:15:00] someone puts the USB report, this is how many vulnerabilities you have on a factory floor, which are thousands and thousands of much more than most people realize.

So, you know, they get to see that, right. They get to see, you know, a Siemens digital twin and like how that works. We're right now, starting up soon, a 5g test bed. So, you know, you'll be able to test what's the different uses of 5g in the factory. So it's really great. Um, and it's inspiring. The students come through lots of students, but lots of companies, big businesses and small boards of directors that need to learn more about, you know, what's happening in industry Ford auto, the digital space, the cyberspace.

So it's a big part of how, you know, we're educating and showcasing some of these future techniques. So

Trond Undheim: then my question, because I saw a statistic here 12,000 guests a year that was pre pandemic. How has the pandemic been like, I mean, I'm assuming that you've shut down a lot of the physical activity for now.

Are you basically just keeping [00:16:00] the space warm for better times and how have you sort of transitioned to a lot of digital activity?

Chandra Brown: So actually. And we've pretty much been open. We are, you know, a DOD Institute. And honestly, at the very beginning of the pandemic, we had our 3d printers and additive work, working, making face shields for local hospitals around the country.

So we turned our resources and again, I would really want to give credit to the manufacturing community. People have already forgotten, you know, what happens at the time we didn't have PPE. We scoured our own right factories for PPE. We donated them to hospitals and first responders. So we at MXD we're making face masks, right?

Like, you know, immediately.

Trond Undheim: So it became an actual factory instead of a demo floor.

Chandra Brown: Yeah. And a small scale. I mean, again, we converted what we could, so we do have printers and other things that we used, everything that we had, you know, to help do our part, if you will. But yeah, we're, we're not in general.

We're not obviously a working active factory, you know, kicking out tens of thousands of parts. [00:17:00] But the team was, was doing that work. And again, as a digital Institute, it really actually was pretty seamless for us. We already did a lot of webinars. Again, it's funny because not everybody does it, but like at the time we had already done, you know, webinars, we had a lot of technology.

The ability for our team to work remote was already in place. But we just kicked it up a whole nother notch, I guess. In fact, we did a whole virtual tour that you can go into kind of a 3d experience on our website. That was a big thing we did during the pandemic. Since people weren't able to visit as much in person, we also did a ton of lessons learned for the community.

Again, I like to practice what I preach, right. Lead by example. So we set up a really state-of-the-art when you come in, you know, especially at the time you have the temperature, you know, gauges that would monitor you, made sure the airflow is good. We changed, we have partitions, you know, in between the social distance, there was a lot of investment.

So I'm pretty proud like today that we have a single transmission of COVID at MXD. And of [00:18:00] course, you know, we give our team the most. Flexibility, meaning, you know, immediately not that many people are required to be in the office. That's a handful of people, but we leave it up to them and said, it's a choice issue if they'd want to come in.

And as you know, probably some people with challenging times at home with lots of kids that are things, it's a safe space where they can come and work and, you know, have coffee. But at the same time, many of our people stayed home, you know, and completely stayed home and can work fully remote, especially, you know, we really want to take care of people that have.

Childcare issues and health issues. And so I'm proud to say that we do a hundred percent flexible working at Amex.

Trond Undheim: Generally, I'm just curious. So you have a pretty large team, meaning, you know, when you say a project, there's a project manager, there's almost like a team around the project, so they're not just sort of setting up calls.

They're actually pretty active in, in shaping these projects. Yep.

Chandra Brown: The, again, I hesitate like all the projects. So different Trond so let me give you another example of one, just cause I think it's, this is [00:19:00] important. Let's talk about a workforce one. So you're right. The team, we have project managers and we have engineers and sometimes we're actually making things like a cyber box that we're going to demonstrate on the floor.

Right? So, but every project is different. Some projects are reports, right. Or guides to help other companies. So there's all sorts of different types of projects. One that I love is the jobs taxonomy. So talk about workforce. You know, I'm a big person, you'd have to define something and then you can figure out how to fix it.

We have a huge pipeline issue. Everybody talks about this and as an X person in the metals business, it was welders right. And machinists and fitters. And we still have that need. So that is not. But at MXD, I always talk to people we're focused more on the future pipeline that we don't want to have that same problem.

We're trying to get to it in advance. Be again, a little more proactive, the need for the digital technology and manufacturing and cyber trained workforce is growing. [00:20:00] Financially. And so this digital revolution of really what it is, it's creating so many attractive, like well paying jobs really for the next gen of manufacturing workers.

So one of the things that we've done is this jobs taxonomy, right? So MXD and manpower group. You know, great company has done a ton of work in this area. We released a digital workforce taxonomy, and I would say it's actually groundbreaking what we did and the analyzed 165 new data centric Manufacturing.

Right. And what does that mean? Well, let's be, let's be simple, right? It's roles like a collaborative robotics technician, a predictive maintenance systems specialist. Another one that I was using an example, a digital ethicist, like whose companies are thinking that you're going to need that. So it's like, right.

So, you know, we have to talk about these roles and we have a workforce playbook on include job role descriptions, the educational [00:21:00] requirements for each role. Universities have started to use this, to inform curriculum development. Dow. I mentioned them before. One of our partners, they use it when they staffed their digital operations center.

So people like, think about a small business could have just come there and take out a job description or get help with that. So that's something I'm really proud of. And honestly, it's out for free. You don't have to be a member to get this, you know, again, we, we want to help everyone become, educate and help this pipeline.

So it's on our website WWF. I say that, or you can go there. It's really awesome. Um, there's a cybersecurity hiring guide too. Cause again, that's the next thing coming in. We continue to expand on these, you know, as we move forward, can you

Trond Undheim: enlighten me a little bit on how these projects get started?

Chandra? Because you mentioned. The funding initially is from the government, but also the funding that you then disperse through these projects. There must be a combination then of you trying to set some sort of direction for the kinds of projects, but then I'm assuming people have to kind of [00:22:00] apply in, in more of a government style sort of bidding process.

Is that how it, how it works? Do you create these program? And then people bid for various sub projects under these broad guidelines. Am I getting this right? Yeah,

Chandra Brown: that's very close when I talked about our strategic investment plan. So again, people can see, we have, we usually have an executive summary again, open to the public.

We're talking about the areas we're going to be investing in over the next three years. And that's based on the need of the community, the solution providers, the manufacturers, them coming together and saying, these are my problems. These are my issues. You know, this is the things that we need help. So there's a lot of data input, you know, that creates this investment plan.

And then obviously, yeah, we kind of bucket it right in different areas. And maybe even put down some kind of ideas of what we want, whether it's an AI solution, something about predictive maintenance. What are the workforce issues that we want to be working on? I don't actually know the number off the top of my head.

I think there may be 70 projects [00:23:00] listed in the strategic investment plan keeps growing. Right. And so will all of those get funded? No, but you know, we'll start working through those. So one, if you read that you'll have has that. So there might be a group in supply chain, right? A whole bunch of different supply chain projects.

There's a whole bunch of cybersecurity projects. There's all bunch of workforce. As we get different fundings, you know, we start doing those. And then the process in general is through, like I said, we put our RFPs, our queues, like out on the website. And obviously we notify all of our members, you know, these opportunities because they arise that could be rising like every month kind of a different one or a different type, but they're not all the same, obviously.

And so different people are interested and normally our members kind of form teams and then they'll apply.

Trond Undheim: You see, that's interesting because, you know, in, in a sense you kind of have to have a network already know to sort of apply. I was curious about that, cause you said, you know, academia, I understand.

So you have, you know, universities and they are used to this sort of process and then large companies, some are better than others, but you know, if you have an office that deals with this, or [00:24:00] they're used to applying for funding, they at least have the structures theoretically, to pull this off small and medium-sized enterprises, I'm guessing is hard.

Right. Especially if they're not members, I don't understand how they could sort of see these opportunities fast enough. And then I was curious about another group startups, like tech, startups. Do you have those actors also coming into

Chandra Brown: your project? Yep, we do. I would say probably not as high a penetration with the startups usually because they're really focused on their product and yes, I think, you know, I've helped to advise.

Startups and man, they are working and working so hard at getting that done. So we definitely have startups in our community, but not probably as many as some of the other, you know, more traditional ones who know what they need. But what I would say is how they come together. It's a full service shop. So let me, let me put it that way.

How do we reach these people? How did they know? You know, we do so much convenient. That's what public private partnerships do, right? So. Form teams, how would they even know? [00:25:00] Right. What's great is, you know, in fact, we just did our first in-person event in 2022, that was on electric vehicles. Right. And so we're bringing together, there was people from the government, there there's people from most of the major OEMs, you know, in the electric vehicle space, charging station, people, software people, and we bring these people together.

We have a. Gorgeous big facility, lots of meeting rooms and spaces as well. So besides the floor, this is an addition to that, right? We have this great meeting space, so we will host these things and we will host workshops when we can talk about and, and start almost scoping out like. Projects. What's the idea of the projects.

What's the goals that we want to reach. So, you know, people, there are meeting other people and talking to them and, you know, kind of seeing who has different areas. And obviously of all of our members, we have a big database and it talks about, you know, who does what, and we will help facilitate that meeting ingredients.

You can't just do it on their own. Like, that'd be really hard. So we do a [00:26:00] lot of events and things where that can come together and a lot of content, the webinars, other things where you can meet with.

Trond Undheim: That's a good point. I mean, I do get a bunch of emails from various government programs where they're saying, you know, just apply, but unless you have the context around, which, you know, is this going to be worth it for me?

Do I have any chance, like, do I know anyone to apply with, how do I create a project? Like there's a lot of content. That I'm assuming in any program you need, because otherwise you just don't know if is this a real opportunity? Do we have a chance here? So kudos to you for bringing people together. I wanted to move Chandler a little bit to the future of manufacturing.

You alluded to some challenges. First off, it seems like all of these manufacturing institutes were really addressing a deficit at the U S policy level. There was this recognition, I guess, that other actors, Germany, for example, historically, has done a pretty decent job with their manufacturing business.

They have supported them in a very structured way. And then there are some Asian economies that [00:27:00] also have done quite a bit as we move into sort of future of manufacturing. And the U S has all these institutes and technology obviously is a strength in the U S. You know, you mentioned robotics, there's all kinds of, sort of Augmented work practices.

Where are we heading here as an economy, you know, with the manufacturing in the U S and what are some of the things that can be addressed by some of the things that are evolving. So for example, this workforce challenge, do you think. It's going to go away eventually because you know, it's a communication challenge, but if you just open your eyes, these factories are demonstrably getting more interesting.

You're not just saying this. They are interesting. So eventually someone's going to say, there's gotta be an equilibrium here. Like when will people realize, and when will this kind of sea change start to happen? Where people start coming back to this sector.

Chandra Brown: So talking about the future, I think the first one we have to talk about is.

The huge issue that the pandemic has done, right? Like, so a lot of [00:28:00] what I would have predicted, I have to be honest, I think no one understood what was going to happen here, the scope, and it's a huge impact on the manufacturers. Just as much I know it's impacted, you know, the restaurants and the service industry.

I think about these manufacturers who are dealing with it, you know, right now you look at everything from, you know, people that are making the planes, you know, when you hear United and how many people are out, and it's just been a really huge issue. So that has changed a lot of things. And the good news is kind of to your point when we talk about perception and when you talk about workforce and kind of getting into an equilibrium, I think we're far from that.

And I, I like that as a goal to get to in the future. Because the reality is the pandemic has made people more aware, you know, never has a toilet paper shortage made. People want to know where are my toilet paper rolls made? How close are they to me? And I go there and like, that's something, you know, that's a huge change.

How many people [00:29:00] really thought about the supply of where their toilet paper. Yeah, I

Trond Undheim: have to admit that even, you know, having studied just in time production principles and you know, all of these very abstract things in, in various stages of my career, suddenly this is for real well, turns out just in time could be a real big

Chandra Brown: issue.

It's huge. And there's like a lot of good news here. Like besides that the populous is hanging attention, which I love. Cause I've always been passionate. For many, many years, decades, and decades now, but, um, it's great to see it getting kind of looked at by the general public and just pandemic exposed, like the fragility, right.

Of the supply chains. And for manufacturers, it's shown that it's an opaque system, right? Like they don't know where all their parts are coming from and people don't realize the sub tiers of the sub tier. It's up to yours for want of a nail. Right. You know, they have that story that the horse she was lost and the war was lost.

I mean, it's incredible. Like if you drive down to like, and the [00:30:00] United States, 85% plus is made up of small manufacturers, you know, under 50, under 60, and in many, many are under 10 people. Right. They are making. Products that go into all the other, you know, bigger products, whether it's an automobile that you drive or a stove that you cook on.

So I think that this whole supply chain issue has really come to the forefront. And, you know, that's where I said, like our supply chain risk alert, right. And some of the things that we're doing, I think it's, that's a good thing. This is a good thing. We needed to look at this more holistically. We needed to understand where things come from.

We need to understand, you know, critical material. I think a lot of people eyes have been opened. So this is good. And I think this is going to change things again, when we talk about where are people going and what are they going to do? I would also say the other key issue coming out of the pandemic has been like the increased speed of adoption of digital.

Right? Who knew, again, just being really simplistic that [00:31:00] we would all be experts at zoom. Teams, uh, go to meetings and Catholic it's incredible. And how much time we would be spending in front of a camera, looking at ourselves all day long. Right? So this is a huge change. Like people have adopted digital video.

Companies wouldn't have thought that their workforce could go remote, right. So quickly or still be working remote my goodness two years later, no one expected this. So, you know, for us, because we think that moving along the digital space and adopting more of these shots is going to make everyone more competitive, more resilient, you know, more visibility.

So that's been, I'd say another good thing. When we talk about, you know, what's the future of manufactured. I think that's another important area on the workforce side, too. People are starting to see, like you said, there's so many cool things like, you know, you could be helping, you know, make the vaccines or the glass bottles that [00:32:00] vaccines are in that are going to save the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

What you do really has an impact. And I think that's another. And the pandemic shows this hybrid workforce can work and be resilient and you can even increase efficiency of your workers. If you have, you know, the right infrastructure and stuff in place.

Trond Undheim: What about the general sort of clip of innovation that for many years, people have sort of said, Well, either the rhetoric is, you know, the manufacturing industry is just slow.

They're just slow those guys. Or, you know, it's an industry that is not adopting innovation very fast, but others who may be more informed perspective is it's just very complex because you have factories making physical things, the parts have to get there. And generally, you know, the innovation in the sector is complicated.

You're talking about physical. Systems, but with this integration of digital and, and then, you know, so one term is like cyber-physical system. Is there a chance now, given the pandemic, given this digital adoption, [00:33:00] that the speed of innovation in manufacturing is going to pick up. Not just because of the pandemic, but generally we'll, we'll kind of have reached some sort of new clip that will make it even faster and surprise all of us with sort of new and exciting products.

Is that possible, or do you think that we're going to come back out of this and we're going to realize that the sorts of breakthroughs, I guess, that that were happening were really just related to urgency of need and that the rest of the system just still has all of these efficiencies that we were before.

Chandra Brown: So innovation is absolutely going to be moving along at a rapid pace. I mean, we're in a, we're in a revolution, right? That's where it, which means like the speed of change and what we can do with data. Is revolutionizing how things are from, you know, instant customization to all the efficiencies that you see.

It's incredible being able to predict, right? [00:34:00] All these things, as you know, quantum computing at that and 5g the ability to do instantaneous communications. So, so much has changing. That is, that is the. The us is the most innovative country in the world. It always has been like, we do incredible things here and make new products and new applications, new software.

It's, it's wonderful that it's going to continue. It is going to continue faster because for one thing, the people that aren't adopting digital and kind of making some of these changes are going to be falling behind. And the companies that are already doing it right, are showing like how important that is.

And so that is the future. I will say though, my one. Caution. I'm not all optimistic that I absolutely believe we're going to get more products and incredible innovation. They're going to come at a much faster pace than expected. It's going to be amazing. Like healthcare. You look at some of these things, what we've done in terms of medicine, how quickly that all that is changing and do a lot to data and moving this forward.

On the other side, though, my concern is Manufacturing. It's still slow to [00:35:00] adopt. So not to innovate, you know, to your point that I think, you know, we're pretty great at it, but I quickly by, you know, adopting these things, you know, there's expenses to them and we need the workforce. That's trained to be able to do it and use it.

Right. So, you know, adoption has always led. Manufacturing has definitely been behind financial, for example, right. In terms of its adoption of, you know, what's happening in the digital space. So on the good news side, I definitely see it picking up. I think that's what the statistics show is. Like people are adopting faster, you know, thanks to the pandemic, but I wouldn't say it's a revolutionary adoption.

When you think about. And that's one of the folks that we're actually trying to reach the most and I'm extending help the most are the small and medium manufacturers who kind of need to be helped more. And what can we do for example, on the cybersecurity problem? It's so critical. So we're about to roll out a cybersecurity marketplace and our website where, you know, anyone can go.

Small businesses can kind of do easy, simple, self-assessments easy, simple, you [00:36:00] know, solutions for them. We have to make it easy for them as cost-effective and as simple, as easy for them to adopt these practices that are ultimately going to make them better and to do this investment. So that's a big focus of us going for.

Trond Undheim: The general you've been alluding to cybersecurity a few times. It seems like at least for your Institute, a massive priority, what are overall apart from I've understood hiring, you know, it's new types of skillsets, especially in manufacturing. So applying, not just digital, but digital into manufacturing and then the cyber security perspective.

So you're securing physical systems that are, you know, they're just coming online. The new thing, which is wonderful, but then suddenly you get all of these new security challenges. What is sort of the agenda for cybersecurity in manufacturing in the years ahead? What are the elements that you will be working on?

Chandra Brown: I would say the start of the elements are so many, so right. There's a lot of pieces here to [00:37:00] break it down in some big groups. I would say, you know, one of the first things is, and I know the system pricing, but it's a way. You know, the uplifting of what is the problem, how comprehensive is the problem.

Unfortunately, when you look at the news, I think a lot of it is on the bigger issues when the gas pipeline, right, is being anything with the energy infrastructure, you know, and most small businesses, they're not talking about the ransomware. That's not the story of the day. Right? And there are a lots of small businesses that have gone out of business due to cybersecurity issues.

Whether it's a hacking, whether it's a ransomware, I forget what some of the latest numbers I've seen, but it's shocking on how many small manufacturers in particular cause manufacturing. Remember one of the reasons why we care so much about it is it's the most targeted sector, you know, because if you think about it in terms of intellectual property, Right.

And I can't remember the last numbers, like 80% of international poverty comes from manufacturing companies like that's who are creating, you [00:38:00] know, these ideas and these innovations. So they're highly targeted. It's a highly targeted sector. And so that is like a step one, just making people aware right.

Of that fact, especially on the small unit. Uh, businesses, but I would tell you even our largest, all my multinational members, the big companies, they care about it too, because your vulnerability you're as weak as your supply chain. We're doing a great project with rolls Royce and working with their supply chain on the cyber side.

Because again, even if the big companies have. Things wrapped insecurity or the Lockheed Martins of the world. Do a great job here. Still. They have a supply chain issue. That's going to be where their vulnerabilities come in at. So everybody cares about it. So, so that's one then I would say the next after you increase awareness.

You have to have two things, you know, once people understand the problem and you define it and they know it's there, which can, I'm telling you is still an issue that is not been fixed then it's, how are you actually fixing it? And that's a combination of [00:39:00] people in technology, right? So the numbers are.

Insane about how many cybersecurity experts are needed. And there's already, it's like a negative hiring right now, meaning already a deficit. So people thought the welding and fitters and machinists was going to be a deficit. I would say this is an even bigger looming deficit with people that are trained on the cyber side.

In fact, that's one of our big things we're doing is it's funny. You were just talking about it like a cybersecurity for manufacturing, operational technology. So various. Cybersecurity for the OT environment and a floor. We have a class in that's like the, one of the first program of its kind that we've rolled out, uh, with some partners.

And it's a really incredible thing that we're trying to get more people educated on, but then it's also, as you said, like the technology and, you know, all these folks have to be almost every company needs to self-assess in some sense, figure out what they have, you know, what are the biggest vulnerability?

Some things are easy. You know, everyone talks about multi-factor authentication, you know, MFA and the, the side. And that's [00:40:00] not a difficult thing, you know, but how many people, even consumers are really using that and doing that. So I think there's, there's so much that can be done. And, and I will add for anyone that's working with the federal government, you know, you might've heard DOD.

You know, been obviously very focused on this issue. It's very important to them as well. And they have a cybersecurity, they call it CMMC cyber security, maturity model certification, and that's in a few years going to be required for all DOD contracts. Right. Because they're there. What about China?

They're worried about the hacking Russians. So, you know, we know that this is coming, this is part of why we're doing our cyber marketplace and an assessment that will help you get prepared for CMMC and you know, other requirements and standards that are going to start coming down the line for these manufacturers.

So there's a lot going on in this space. So awareness the people side and the technology and having that key.

Trond Undheim: Well, I'm seeing a common thread here. I don't know if you agree, but you know, because when you talk about [00:41:00] supply chain and the responsibility of the larger companies to their own supply chain and how they're sort of taking that seriously, because it's an ecosystem and, you know, you're only as strong as the weakest link, kind of a theory that applies equally to cybersecurity generally, I guess, in manufacturing, as it does to.

All of the supply chain issues, basically, you know, even just getting the products, but certainly securing them all along this process. And I guess it, it applies to sort of transparency, but I would assume that the workforce issue you're talking about, which is keeping workers. Agile enough that they can pick up on all of these new skills and new processes that will have to be implemented in the coming months.

Not years, these are very interlinked challenges. So cyber is a technology, but it's also a workforce and training. And supply chain, you know, seems like something we never really needed to think about. We just had a supply chain expert, and, you know, you were buying certain things [00:42:00] along the way that is now a strategic area for the company.

Chandra Brown: I totally agree with you. And I think it's absolutely critical. And again, even when you look at cybersecurity, what is your number one vulnerability. It's the people like, well, how is the problem going to happen? It's through your workforce. So it's like both sides of the coin. It's not just that I need the educated workforce.

It's like, you need to educate all your workers because they're your primary, um, vector path, if you will, for the first problem. Right. Who clicks on that phishing attack? You know, it's funny.

Trond Undheim: It's of course. Yeah, exactly. Sometimes it's even the best of us that, that do that. So lastly, I just wanted to, yeah.

You know, what's like one of your biggest challenges that are still sort of ongoing. And what, one of your big, biggest sort of expectations or hopes as we go into kind of this, uh, hopefully eventually a post pandemic cycle of manifest.

Chandra Brown: I think, you know, one of the biggest issues that again, we continue to worry about, as, you know, you can look at the pandemic is an opportunity, right?

And so the challenge, I always [00:43:00] continue to talk about it that I worry about. And I talked to my team about this all the time is, you know, speed, right. And that return on investment and how we can get more people moving down and adopting kind of more on how we get more low cost solutions, you know, in the hands of people faster.

So I think. Speed challenge. Like the speed of innovation writer is the speed of protection. Keeping up to it as the speed of production and efficiencies, keeping up with it. That's a big concern and that takes a whole ecosystem, like all of the village, right. Working together to try to fix that. So I'm always very concerned about that.

In terms of the optimistic side, again, one of the great things, and I just think it's easy to forget about this, but I kind of alluded to it earlier. Is that the way that manufacturers are collaborating these days? The fact that, you know, I think we're a little over six years old, right? Six, seven years old.

And now they're 16 institutes. Right. And we [00:44:00] were too, and I'm not sure how many more they'll be, but the reality is. That's a big change. And the fact that we're looking at collaborations, my huge talk about why I'm very bullish on public private partnerships. And there's lots of great ones out there. And lots of nonprofits doing incredible work is one.

You need the diversity, so you need to bring together diverse groups. We'll give you more robust solutions. Period. Like that's a, that's been a proven thing. And so that's why I feel really passionate about like, what we do in this, bringing together of people in this ecosystem is because that's where I'm bullish.

And you saw it when all, again, going back to when manufacturers, just everybody, they, they never made PPE in their life. Like we're like, here's the. Secure facial design, right? There's kids on their 3d printers who are printing out masks and stuff for people. I mean, that shows you the power of this community, right?

When they come together, they will get to this. The, the speed that that vaccines were developed is incredible. So that's the very optimistic side I have is that [00:45:00] when you collaborate and this means, as I said, diversity, you have to have these diverse viewpoints coming together. We are going to get some really great solutions quicker than that.

I feel good.

Trond Undheim: Hm. Well, it's a fascinating landscape that you operate in Chandra. It's a wonderful thing to be bringing people together and innovating and contributing to the success of the United States. So manufacturing nation. So you have an exciting job.

Chandra Brown: I do. Luckily I love my job and I have an incredible team.

So it's not one person. It takes, you know, so many of us and all the institutes are doing great. And thank you for highlighting us and letting us share our story because I, I wish it was out there more.

Trond Undheim: Yeah. Well, thank you for coming on the show. I hope that we can, you know, in some small measure, at least by the word to new folks that can get involved and contribute to your programs.

Chandra Brown: Fantastic. I love it. It's such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Trond Undheim: You're welcome. It was wonderful. Thanks.

Chandra Brown Profile Photo

Chandra Brown

CEO of MxD

Chandra Brown is passionate about U.S. manufacturing. As CEO of MxD, the nation’s digital manufacturing and cybersecurity institute, Chandra uses that passion and her more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing to help American manufacturers seize the potential offered by new and emerging digital technologies.

In her role at MxD, Chandra oversees all technology investment, partner relationships and project execution for the more than $120 million dollar portfolio of advanced manufacturing technology, cybersecurity and workforce development research, development, and demonstration.

Her journey to MxD started in Portland in the private sector at a small to medium size metal manufacturing company called Oregon Iron Work, where she worked for over 19 years, also becoming the CEO of United Streetcar where the 1st modern streetcar in the United States in over 60 years was built.

While at Oregon Iron Works, Chandra was presented with the opportunity to work for the Obama administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, a role that entailed traveling the world promoting U.S.-made products and working on trade barriers.

MxD is an opportunity that brings her experience in both the public and private sector together.