To help plants adopt smart manufacturing technologies and processes, DOE and CESMII announced their 7th innovation center

by Brianna Crandall — April 18, 2022 — Penn State New Kensington’s Digital Foundry at New Kensington has been named one of four new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers (SMICs) by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with the CESMII — The Smart Manufacturing Institute. The additions bring the number of SMICs to seven, including the Feyen Zylstra (FZ) SMIC announced in February. SMICs are standalone, innovative, value-driven centers that further CESMII’s mission in a hands-on and learning-centric way.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), said in the August 2021 announcement:

Smart manufacturing makes the American manufacturing sector more productive, energy efficient and competitive on a global scale. DOE’s investments in smart manufacturing will accelerate the adoption of these technologies and processes, while developing a highly skilled manufacturing workforce for the future.

The New Kensington campus’ Digital Foundry at New Kensington is slated to open spring 2022. The mission of the Digital Foundry is to drive learning and problem solving through the application of technologies by focusing on education and workforce training; improving manufacturing competitiveness through technology demonstration and assessment projects; and providing networking events to increase digital awareness for workers, businesses, academia, students and the community.

CESMII New Kensington smart manufacturing center

Penn State New Kensington’s Digital Foundry at New Kensington Smart Manufacturing Innovation Center. Image courtesy of CESMII

Sherri McCleary, executive director of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, explained:

The CESMII team, much like the Digital Foundry team, is coming at their mission around smart manufacturing from the perspective of team members who have lived through the challenges and benefits of implementing these technologies in real-world manufacturing environments. We share a common mission to leverage smart manufacturing to bring business value to manufactures of all sizes, and we also speak a common language around the technology and value and believe this will be a very positive relationship focused on results.

According to the announcement, the network of SMICs, including the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, will “allow manufacturers of varying sizes to tap into CESMII’s vast Smart Manufacturing (SM) resources and cultivate the manufacturing workforce of the future.” The focus on workforce development is one that mirrors the goals of the Foundry.

McCleary continued:

As a SMIC, the Digital Foundry will house access to the CESMII Smart Manufacturing Innovation Platform (SMIP). The SMIP will be a CESMII cornerstone for bringing smart manufacturing solutions, learnings and apps that are accessible, affordable and allow manufacturers to implement smart manufacturing by learning from the use cases, technologies and tools already developed across CESMII’s national network of members and other SMICs.

Howard Goldberg, chief operating officer at CESMII, commented:

The Digital Foundry SMIC is an exciting, yet practical blend of innovative new approaches, purpose-built to enable small and mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to leverage Smart Manufacturing. This SMIC brings together a well-appointed facility, domain experts, contemporary SM technologies aimed at reducing cost and complexity, and the training that brings them all together! The Digital Foundry SMIC’s focus on SMMs is strategically important to CESMII, given that SMMs represent over 99% of the manufacturing base in the nation.

McCleary concluded:

We will continue to build on these trainings and opportunities to enhance and add to the offering endorsed by CESMII to prepare the manufacturing workforce at all levels for digital smart manufacturing transformation.

Feyen Zylstra (FZ) SMIC

Marking the 6th SMIC announcement, in February, Feyen Zylstra (FZ) announced that it had been chosen to establish a Smart Manufacturing Innovation Center. Ryan Cahalane, president of Industrial Technology at Feyen Zylstra, remarked:

Our team is thrilled about the opportunity our Innovation Center will offer to small to mid-sized manufacturers (SMM) located in the Midwest. With many SMMs being intimidated by the cost and scope of Smart Manufacturing and supporting technologies, it is our goal to educate how practical solutions and approaches can drive real, achievable results.

Slated to open in Spring 2022, FZ’s Innovation Center will welcome local manufacturers to learn, experience, and interact with smart manufacturing technology through experimental labs, interactive training workshops, and the showcasing of implementation success stories. The Innovation Center will specifically focus on making these principles accessible and understandable for all manufacturers, regardless of size, type of manufacturing, and the products they produce.

John Dyck, chief executive officer at CESMII, stated:

FZ embodies an underrepresented part of the CESMII ecosystem — the systems integrator. Their experience serving multiple industries in factory automation, robotics, manufacturing information systems, and digital transformation consulting services, helps shape the tangible value that manufacturers can harness. They have the ability to guide customers through an often-confusing landscape of vendors while offering packaged solutions. Bringing smart manufacturing solutions to practice is about domain expertise and experience and value creation, but it’s also about contributing to the greater good, and advancing the state of the industry. We’re proud to partner with FZ in this important endeavor, shining the spotlight on these important capabilities.

FZ President Cahalane added:

FZ’s Innovation Center will be the only center in the CESMII network not located in a university setting. FZ’S project experience, methodologies, and daily interactions with manufacturers put us in a unique position to help SMMs address the labor challenges with innovative training workshops to upskill the manufacturing workforce. Beyond driving awareness for manufacturers, FZ is also able to provide guidance and services to help SMMs accelerate their ability to quickly implement more sustainable, resilient smart manufacturing solutions.

For more information about CESMII’s Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers, visit the group’s website.