By: Jela Trask
Trends including big data, automation, machine-learning and widespread use of sensors are converging to drive the evolution of manufacturing at an ever-increasing pace. Manufacturers must stay connected to innovation or risk getting left behind.
As a state with a legacy of leadership in manufacturing technology advancement, Wisconsin continues to attract attention globally as a hub of innovation. With Foxconn Technology Group’s choice of Wisconsin as the location for a next-generation electronics campus, the pace of adopting new approaches and understanding new trends will only accelerate, and companies will need to keep up if they aim to achieve the operational excellence that is critical for future growth and competitiveness.
For manufacturers seeking to embrace this transformation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation can provide connections to statewide regional, academia and business partners, as well as resources including potential funding sources for capital improvements and introductions to the following strategic initiatives:
The Transformational Productivity Initiative (TPI), a program of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, offers a set of tools and delivery systems to help manufacturers assess and prioritize actions to increase their productivity via basic process improvements and management best practices as well as the integration of automation and digital technologies. In short, TPI helps manufacturers do more with existing resources, through technological advancements as well as eliminating waste and maximizing efficiencies. TPI connects manufacturers to experts and to one another so they can adopt the best practices of the industry. Participants in TPI’s pilot round reported a 38 percent increase in labor productivity, 14 percent increase in total factor productivity and 1.6 percent increase in profit margin.
To help smart manufacturing reach its fullest potential and help Wisconsin manufacturers understand the value of integrating their operations and processes into a connected enterprise, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee launched the Connected Systems Institute (CSI) as a multidisciplinary collaboration with Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, WEDC and other industry leaders. The institute combines the efforts of industry and academia to make discoveries that lead to greater productivity. With physical space that includes testing facilities for companies to perform simulations and emulation of end-to-end systems, CSI is a place where companies can come to test new concepts, solve problems and share ideas.
The Wisconsin Supply Chain Marketplace is an online directory of Wisconsin manufacturers designed to connect buyers with suppliers. In addition to helping buyers find what they’re looking for and helping suppliers land new business, this database helps make the case for Wisconsin’s manufacturing strength by demonstrating the breadth and depth of the sector. By helping to attract new original equipment manufacturers to Wisconsin, it creates new opportunities for the suppliers that exist here, further contributing to the strength of the sector.