Manufacturing ‘lighthouses’ aim to accelerate adoption of Industry 4.0

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Ethan Karp is one of a handful of executives sounding the alarm over Ohio’s slow adoption of smart manufacturing.

Karp, president and CEO of the Cleveland-based Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), estimates that less than 10% of Ohio manufacturers are considering Industry 4.0 technologies — advancements such as the IoT ( Internet of Things), high-powered AI and analytics. systems capable of driving data exchange and decision-making in real time.

Many of these technologies are “affordable and available today,” according to Karp, and have the potential to make factories across the state more efficient, effective, and competitive, but “we’re seeing single-digit adoption rates “.

He hopes a growing list of state-of-the-art manufacturing demonstration sites in northeast Ohio will accelerate that region’s push to 4.0.

Today, eight Northeast Ohio organizations are actively opening their doors to give others first-hand insight into manufacturing transformations large and small. This number is expected to increase to 40 by the end of 2022.

“The number itself, however, is not as important as the fact that these sites are geographically spread across the region,” Karp said. “We have people in Cuyahoga County and Mahoning County, for example, and Columbiana County and hopefully something soon in Tuscarawas County. The thing is, we don’t want you to have to drive two hours to see it.”

Demonstration sites in northeast Ohio were highlighted in the Cleveland Innovation Project’s annual report, released March 8. CIP called these sites “beacons” of smart manufacturing, borrowing the moniker from the World Economic Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network, a collection of now 90 manufacturers around the world said to “shed light on the opportunities available to organizations growing their digital operations.” “.

The global network includes the Procter & Gamble factory in Lima, which reported a 10x increase in speed to market in 2020 and a 5% jump in productivity year-over-year after deploying the advanced robotics, automation, 3D printing and twin digital manufacturing technology at the site. The Cincinnati-based consumer products giant also said the plant has become twice as good as competitors at avoiding stock-outs through investment.

Compared to these larger projects, Karp said the majority of CIP’s advanced manufacturing sites could best be described as “mini beacons”. One company, for example, has attached a sensor that allows it to count a specific part coming off an old manufacturing line. Prior to modernization, the manufacturer was not able to accurately schedule production or even determine when it was best to start and stop equipment.

“So having this data monitoring device improves their operational efficiency, but it also becomes a measure of quality because now they knew exactly how many were in a batch,” he said. “It’s a very simple example. It doesn’t look that sexy, but I can tell you it makes a really big difference. And guess what? They didn’t have to buy the brand new machine to bang to do that.”

Breaking through “vendor promises,” Karp explained, is one of the biggest challenges small and medium-sized manufacturers face in making technology upgrades.

“Seeing it from one of their maker peers, and hearing what they did and why they did it and also how hard or easy it was, is so much more impactful to inspire those business leaders to do the thing that we need the whole region to do in terms of adopting new technologies,” he said.

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