Manufacturing in America 2023: Digitalization, automation, sustainability, productivity
How digital transformation and automation help manufacturing and industry was the focus of the 2023 Manufacturing in America event, in Detroit; the opening session included speakers from Siemens Digital Industries USA, State of Michigan, Automation Alley, Dasher Lawless design-construction-automation firm, and Infinite Acres, an automated vertical farming company.
- Understand how digitalization and automation contribute to record US manufacturing growth.
- Hear how Manufacturing in America 2023 Summit speakers advocate for automation to advance sustainability, productivity and growth in manufacturing, industrial applications, and automated farming.
- Review examples in which a building incorporated various smart technologies.
- Digitalization and automation contribute to record US manufacturing growth, according to Manufacturing in America 2023 Summit speakers.
- Automation, digitalization and innovation are advance sustainability, productivity and growth in manufacturing, industrial applications and automated farming.
Digital transformation and best practices related to the growing digitalization ecosystem of connected, data-driven and automated technologies were among topics of presentations, discussions and thought leaders at the 2023 Manufacturing in America Summit, April 12 and 13 in Detroit, by Siemens and Electro-Matic (a SunSource Co. and value-added distributor of products, including Siemens).
Benefits of digital transformation can include increased energy efficiency and sustainability, process visibility, quality, speed to market, lower costs, easier workflow and supply chain integration, improved safety and other advantages.
MIA Summit speakers, automation technology advocates
To begin the event, Siemens assembled speakers to talk about applying advanced digital, automated technologies for greater efficiency in a variety of implementations.
- Raj Batra, president of Siemens Digital Industries USA and of the Siemens Foundation, an organization designed to help fill skills gap
- Garlin Gilchrist, lieutenant governor of Michigan and two-time technology startup entrepreneur
- Tom Kelly, executive director, CEO, Automation Alley, an automation advocacy and assistance organization for Southeast Michigan
- Christopher Alan, owner, president, Dasher Lawless and AutoParkit, an automated parking business
- Tisha Livingston, CEO and co-founder, Infinite Acres, a vertical, automated, sustainable farming company and FarmTech Society vice president.
Siemens helps with investments in record US manufacturing growth
Batra welcomed everyone back to the first post-pandemic conference after “four long years” and expected about 4,000 people to attend the two-day conference and exhibits.
Manufacturing in America fits what is happening in this country, which includes technological advancement and the global ecosystem of talent to make manufacturing work. Digitalization and automation help get products to market faster, waste less and be more sustainable in that effort, and 100 technology breakout sessions at Manufacturing in America are designed to help, Batra explained.
“We are bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.,” Batra explained with the number of manufacturing locations increasing and $108 billion, a new manufacturing construction spending record in 2022, he explained.
Siemens is among companies helping Telsa with a Texas plant, using digitalization technologies to go from ground breaking to production in two years. In Michigan, electric-vehicle-related battery facilities have sprung up with a mix of federal and state tax incentives and $200 million in private investments. Siemens also is helping with automation used for semiconductor manufacturing.
Henkel in Kentucky is optimizing storage using digital automation, increasing profits.
US manufacturing: 65% plan increasing size; technologies help optimization
About 65% of companies plan to increase their manufacturing footprint as they shift strategies from “just in time to just in case,” trying to avoid a repeat of COVID-era supply chain issues.
Smart companies understand the burdens of hanging on to legacy technologies and are showing pride in digital investments.
Another success story is G-CON cleanroom pods, which are prefabricated cleanrooms used in biotech, pharma and other areas. Control components are used in each pod, with savings of 75% in cost with added savings in in labor and programming, compared to traditional cleanroom installations. Such pods helped to accelerate COVID vaccine development, Batra said.
Digitalization helps early adopters, through scaling, added productivity and efficiency. Digitalization helps manufacturers rethink what they make, how and why.
Digitalization and new US plant motivation include government help and incentives, expansion and modernization, new supply-chain strategies, innovation, customer intimacy, sustainability, competitiveness, business model innovation, talent pipeline, lot size of one and first mover advantages, Batra said.
Talent is attracted to digitally enabled companies; in 7 to 10 short years, we will not have the baby-boom generation in the workplace. Siemens is getting hardware and software into hands of colleges and tech schools, so graduates can hit the ground running. Massive programming efforts are underway in software businesses to make software and hardware it helps easier to use. These are among reasons companies are investing in digital transformation.
Governments, private industries invest in technological innovation
Gilchrist, who worked in several technology companies (a self-described “recovering entrepreneur twice over”), and as software engineer at Microsoft, helping to build SharePoint into the fastest-growing product in the company’s history, now helps advocate for technologies in a government role, saying Michigan Republicans and Democrats alike want what’s best for industry. The state continues to ensure computers and other advanced technologies and innovations can help, he said, adding he grows tired when the uninformed talk about US manufacturing in the past tense.
Manufacturing has accomplished a lot and has a bold, exciting future ahead, where government plays a role, in connected, useful and creative opportunities through government-private cooperation to collaborate to unlock innovation. Michigan has a rich history of strong manufacturing careers and continues with growth in 3D printing, robotics and other areas to help manufacturers grow.
Batra, Kelly advocate for automation investments, productivity growth
Batra and Kelly continued on the theme of building US factories using automation, other advanced technologies and the principles of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing to ensure small and mid-sized manufacturers can prepare for and participate in a more competitive supply chain.
Batra noted US advantage of cheap energy, smart people and automation, especially with digitalization advantages, such as tying machine to artificial intelligence and 3D printing strategies.
Kelly explained Automation Alley formed in 2019 to rebrand Southeast Michigan as high-technology hub. The organization works with governments, educational organizations and companies to reshape how the world perceives eight Detroit-area counties, building communities to re-dominate in manufacturing to apply what’s possible by using advanced technologies. Automation Alley takes care to ensure technologies are applied correctly. An analogy is to not to put smartwatches on horses, Kelly suggested, but build smarter automobiles.
Creating step-change opportunities, Kelly continued, includes adding productivity by using artificial intelligence, collaborative robots, cheap and abundant energy and additive manufacturing.
Automation Alley describes itself as a nonprofit Industry 4.0 knowledge center and home to the World Economic Forum’s US Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The World Economic Forum funded its only center focused on advanced manufacturing in Detroit, though it could have placed it anywhere, Alan said. Detroit area offers 1000 companies with $5 billion in revenue with ability to leverage knowledge to create competitive advantages with strong supply chains.
Automation Alley has 2000 members, up from 750 when it began, Kelly said. Many small manufacturers share resources and enjoy free admission and benefits, like a library.
For example, digital printers were placed at 300 small manufacturers. One placed it in the center of production and challenged employees to use it. One reduced cost from a $99 valve sourced from China to a printed valve for $2.
Integrating those kinds of savings help companies improve the bottom line, Alan said, especially as additive costs plummet. An automaker’s cost to produce the first vehicle is $15 billion, while the second vehicle costs $15,000. Removing cost, risks, and supply chain bottlenecks can help increase profitability more quickly.
Batra asked if skilled labor shortages could short-circuit the manufacturing boom or will innovations from the next generation, many of whom grew up digitally as “gamers,” make up for fewer numbers?
Kelly acknowledged the labor shortages, but said innovations could fill the gap. He cited a flowmeter company where eight people making a carbon fiber flowmeter were applied to other areas, after automation was applied.
Another example is a rethinking of manufacturing capacity enabled by 3D printers. If a company needed to deliver 300 parts overnight, but didn’t have capacity, it could contract unused 3D printers at other firms in other locations and share some margin with those friends to make it happen. Software advances and a distributed model of 3D printing could enable production of a million parts overnight, if needed, Kelly said.
Automation Alley is helping to educate small manufacturers, change cultures, and create paths to remain competitive and relevant. “I think we can excel.”
Automated parking, automated charging, automated boat storage
Christopher Alan, owner, president, CEO, Dasher Lawless and AutoParkit, an automated parking technology company, uses industrial automation in applications people can use. With AutoParkit, users can use a phone app to have the car delivered to a secure room. The self-parking and retrieval technology increases parking density, avoids car damage and creates a secure environment for users: 42% of sexual assault (outside of family members) happens in a parking garage, Alan said. In an old Detroit Free Press building, an AutoParkit application for high-end apartments uses a 30-foot-tall basement that only would fit 32 cars with a conventional parking design and makes room for 110 cars.
Applying the AutoParkit automated storage and retrieval concepts to other areas, Dasher Lawless also has created AutoChargit, advanced electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions; AutoStorit, an automated smart storage application to more efficiently store and retrieve goods; and AutoDockit, an automated boat retrieval system.
A major challenge with upscaling EV use is adequate battery charging availability and asset utilization (most EVs remain plugged in well after charging is complete). Using automated technologies, one charging station can serve 6 to 10 cars instead of one, Alan explained. Instead of using 450 chargers, one installation used 32 chargers to serve 450 cars in an overnight 12-hour period, for $11.5 million in savings. By cycling power instead of cycling cars, 10 ports can connect to one charger, saving 90% on infrastructure.
Advantages of the boat storage application includes saving manatees when removing boats from the water when boats are not in use because copper used in some marine paints is toxic to marine wildlife, Alan noted. In addition, marinas increase usable space and decrease liabilities with faster, lower risk boat retrieval and safer, year-round boat storage. A boat can be put into water in 3-5 minutes rather than wait two weeks for crane reservations during peak times. Projects turn profits in 32 months, he said.
AutoStorit uses the automated retrieval concept to make household storage more compact, efficient and convenient. Traditional parking for 20 cars can be converted to hold 400 storage containers, Alan said.
Profitable, automated, sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free farming
Livingston described how automation helps Infinite Acres profitably produce fresh, locally grown food that tastes great, is wholesome, free of pesticide and herbicides, and is more nutritious without endangering the environment. Infinite Acres has five production farms, two underway and two research facilities (U.S. and Europe).
Challenges with current agriculture include water use (inefficient application for growing and washing), unpredictable (not optimized) rain, sun, temperatures, untapped demand soil destruction with wind floods and cultivation, environmental issues related to pesticides, herbicides and run-off, high transportation costs and large capital investments in equipment that remains idle most of the time. In addition, current produce is optimized for travel rather than for taste and nutrition and plastics are widely used in food transport and storage lifecycles. One-third of U.S. food is wasted, and 45% of the nutrition is lost in the 11-day supply chain from field in California to table in Michigan.
Vertical, automated farms, optimize growing cycles with 95% less water
Infinite Acres, which began in 2015, has five production farms operating and two under construction, is among a handful of automated vertical farm companies. It is the only one, Livingston said, that is profitable. Vertical farms, treated as automated manufacturing stack the produce, optimize lighting and moisture and use 95% less water than traditional farming. In a Hamilton, Ohio, facility, 10 acres of lettuce is grown in 1 acre, with 17-20 more growing cycles possible indoors with optimization using computers, machine vision, artificial intelligence, economical LED lighting, motion control and other automation compared to outdoor lettuce farming. Rather than have robots go to where the crops are, like humans harvest, Infinite Acres adds efficiency by moving the crops to the robots. (photo)
With optimization, lettuce harvest is in 20 days. Vertical farms grow 300 times as much food per square foot than outdoor traditional farming. Vertical farms also save energy by removing steps in the supply chain (photo). Automated systems are underway for tomatoes (dwarf tomatoes can use the same platform as lettuce), cucumbers and a variety of berries and other crops, she said. It’s not lettuce.
She added that 3.1 billion people currently experience daily food insecurity, and the planet is expected to have 10 billion people in 35 years (up from 8 billion people now). Infinite Acres is aiming to impact global food supply with its more efficient processes, Livingston said, changing the way the world eats.
Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEYWORDS: Digitalization, automation applications, Manufacturing in America
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