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4 Takeaways from Manufacturing in America 2019

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We had the pleasure of attending the annual Manufacturing in America event in Detroit last week. The event, hosted by Siemens and Electro-Matic, drew almost 4,000 visitors and featured more than 50 vendors with products and solutions in all areas of the manufacturing operations.

The event celebrated the theme of community, collaboration and innovation, and all were present in full force. We were thrilled to connect with some of the best minds in the industry to discuss trends that are shaping the future of manufacturing. While many important industry issues were covered, a few moments stood out for us because of their pertinence to our customers and our understanding of the real value drivers in manufacturing.

1. Digitalization is at the heart of our economic growth.

This was an overarching theme of the event, and emphasized by Ray Batra, CEO of Siemens Digital Factory, in his opening keynote. As Batra put it, digitalization touches all aspects of the manufacturing operation: machines, tools, processes, and people. Batra urged attendees to look closer at all aspects of their organization for ways technology can optimize activities, capture data, and provide insights to guide decision making.

2. Optimize before you digitize and automate.

Before hard-coding processes, it’s important to improve the existing environment. Have you really uncovered all opportunities to streamline operations? These opportunities are often found by those closest to the processes: the frontline employees. Therefore, it is crucial to empower these individuals with the right tools to create ideas, experiment with options, and implement solutions.

As we heard on the show floor from one passerby, “If we have a junky process and we try to automate it, then we will just have automated junk.” Make sure you’re not automating junk.

3. Industry 4.0, IoT, IIoT, AI, ML are all fine—but don’t forget about your people.

We heard several discussions about the need to invest in IoT to gather critical data. Then there were debates about the best technology to leverage that data and drive performance. But we also heard the conversation shift beyond machines and devices to the information that can be gathered from frontline workers.

When you empower frontline employees to contribute observations and ideas, and track performance data, manufacturing operations get a more complete picture. As it turns out, manufacturing is embracing not just IoT but also “IoP” (Internet of People) to align its workforce with the changing manufacturing landscape.

4. The frontline worker of tomorrow must be a problem-solver.

As the manufacturing environment becomes more infused with technology, it is critical that the workforce keep up with new skills. Tomorrow’s frontline workers will need to be able to move between manual and automated environments. But this shift is not just about learning how to operate new machines and systems. It also puts a new demand on critical thinking and problem solving skills.

To get a sense of the excitement and scope of the event, you can view additional event highlights here. We will also be exploring these trends and others in the coming weeks on our blog. If you have questions or want us to delve into other issues, let us know! You can contact us anytime at

Thank you to our friends at Siemens and Electro-Matic for an energetic and transformative couple of days!

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