At the fourth annual [MC]2 Conference, attendees learned the many advantages of building a connected digital manufacturing enterprise. It can address the challenges of agile operations, cost-saving benefits, and risk & compliance. Similar to software, we are moving toward “machine as a service” – where machine builders will be challenged to create technology that has the ability to communicate and integrate seamlessly into a factory.
Keynote speaker Bryce Barnes of Cisco stressed that winning companies will figure out data-driven manufacturing – understanding the value of connecting their assets and understanding the value of data collection and analysis. Using that data would bring much needed transparency and consistency to the shop floor, and the industry as a whole, stated Athulan Vijayaraghavan of System Insights, by monitoring behavior, providing real time awareness and assisting human decision making.

A panel on Industrial Cybersecurity discussed a number of free solutions offered by the U.S. government for manufacturers looking to mitigate their risks or find help in the event of an attack. NIST, the Department of Homeland Security, and sector-specific Coordinating Councils are working together to address these challenges and create standards and best practices that can be widely adopted throughout the manufacturing industry.

According to Fred Proctor, NIST, and Thomas Kurfess, Professor, Georgia Tech, the number of industrial robots used in manufacturing is growing; however, there are challenges in integrating sensors and data. Inexpensive 3D scanners and integrated torque sensors are allowing robots to sense and react to contact with people. NIST is working on ways to measure how well these sensors really perform using standards like MTConnect.

Workforce development was a theme throughout the conference. Jared Evans of MAJiK Systems said that an important facet of attracting new talent to the industry is taking the time to educate students and young professionals on what modern manufacturing is really like. Taking a cue from technology companies, he suggested offering flex time, working from home, skills training, varying roles/responsibilities and in-office perks to retain great employees. 

With extended hours for networking, attendees had ample time to discuss the new ideas on digital manufacturing presented by the expert speakers and build connections that could have a big impact on their business. Join us for the next [MC]2 Conference, April 19-21, 2016, in Dallas, Texas.