The smart manufacturing revolution is a catalyst. The opportunity to infuse manufacturing enterprises with advancing information technologies (IT) is bringing together actors that haven’t worked together this fervently before.

How we got here

What’s different today is that smart manufacturing has the opportunity to drive value at the operations level, from the smart, connected “thing” in a work cell or in production, all the way up through enterprise value chains. We’ve talked for decades about the value of digitizing manufacturing, and we’ve leaned into the technological, cultural and organizational barriers in our way. While there’s been progress on all fronts, none has moved forward as fast or as powerfully as the technology.

“‘...much of the value at stake for manufacturers comes from greater agility and flexibility in factories, and from the ability to make the most of workers’ skills.’”

Consider this: Cisco estimate $14.4 trillion of “value at stake” to be realized by 2022, in the “Internet of Everything.” They point to one sector—manufacturing—as the single largest component of that value, representing 27 percent, or $3.8 trillion of the total value at stake. They also note: “much of the value at stake for manufacturers comes from greater agility and flexibility in factories, and from the ability to make the most of workers’ skills.”

So, that’s what’s different today; the focus on threading technology and people into new smart collaborative processes enabling new levels of connectivity with suppliers and customers. And doing this in an open way to enable multi-vendor solutions that can be used by medium and small companies in the entire value chain.

Global trends in manufacturing

This isn’t just happening in the U.S., which recently announced the kickoff of the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute through the U.S. Department of Energy. From Germany, France and the UK to India and China and beyond, government leaders are banking on the opportunities to compete globally and strengthen their economies by strengthening manufacturing with technology.

But perhaps the most exciting change that smart manufacturing drives is a change in business mindset. Smart manufacturing is equal parts smart technologies and smart people. Manufacturers are looking for leaders, young and old and from all lines of business who can bring a 21st-century business mindset and will be their catalyst for change.